The aftermath. Disenchantment with the outcomes of the intervention
To the extent that public opinion in Europe came to support the war or accept it as a fait accompli after the initiation of the war in March 2003, this support was short-lived (see Table 5.14, columns 5-10). Europeans were quick to conclude that the war had been 'a mistake', 'not the right thing' or 'not worth the costs' (depending on the wording of the question). Majorities among Europeans already felt so in the spring of 2003 after President Bush had, as it turned out somewhat prematurely, declared victory.
If there were any lingering doubts in the first half of 2003, by the fall of 2003, majorities in most European countries had come to the conclusion that, whatever the original arguments and justifications, the negative effects of the war now outweighed any benefits it might have had.
Also, among 22 countries in an international poll46 majorities in eighteen countries felt that after the conflicts involving Afghanistan and Iraq, the world had become 'a more dangerous' rather than a safer place. In 20 countries, it was felt that the US were generally 'too quick to use
Table 5.15 Military intervention of the US and its allies in Iraq justified?
Format of the question:
'Today, would you say that the military intervention of the US and its allies in Iraq was...'?
Source: Eurobarometer, fall 2003.
force', in 19 that the conflicts had done serious damage to the UN. In 12 states, majorities felt that the war had not brought the prospect of more stability and peace in the Middle East any closer. Only in five countries was it generally felt that the transatlantic rift could easily be overcome. In ten countries majorities felt that the war in Iraq had had a negative influence on their general opinion of the US (and pluralities in another ten felt the same way).
In the US, however, it took some more time for this disenchantment to arise. Pluralities of Americans continued to believe that the war was justified and worth the costs (in terms of casualties). By 2004, many Americans too had come to the conclusion, however, that, while one had to see things through in terms of the outcomes, going to war had not been such a good idea.47 This can also be demonstrated by poll data from mid-2006 (Table 5.16). While not majoritarian (yet), the feeling became strong that the negative side-effects had been stronger than the positive ones.
Table 5.16 American views on the impact of the Iraq war (in %)
Source: Gallup, June 9-11, 2006 (N = 1,002).
Format of the questions: 'Do you think each of the following is better off, about the same, or worse off as a result of the war with Iraq?'.