Opinion on Foreign Policy GOVT311 Lecture 19
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) • The public generally pays little attention to international affairs • True in the post-Vietnam era. Following WW II, through Korea and Vietnam, around 50% of people listed foreign affairs as the most important problem. After the end of Vietnam, concern about foreign affairs tends to spike only in response to specific events, such as Iran hostages and the Gulf War.
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) • Public Opinion responds to events and leaders, not the media • The impact of televised pictures on foreign policy is exaggerated • The media reacts to public opinion on foreign policy, but cannot make a news story out of something out of nothing. • There is some evidence of gatekeeping authority, in that stories that are left out of the news have no chance for the public to consider as important (famine in Ethiopia).
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) • Americans place high value on the lives of Americans, and little on foreigners ABC News Poll (Nov. 13-17, N=1,030, MoE +/- 3%) "Would you favor or oppose having U.S. forces take military action against Iraq to force Saddam Hussein from power?“ • Favor 64% Oppose 29% No Opinion 7% "Would you support or oppose a U.S. invasion of Iraq with ground troops?“ • Support 56% Oppose 39% No Opinion 6%
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) • The U.S. public is not increasingly isolationalist, the pubic is simply not willing to lose American lives in areas with no national interest • Somalia – loss of one life sent the U.S. packing from a country with little strategic interest to the U.S.
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) 6. Foreign policy has become less important in judging the performance of the president • Tear this page out of the book. Until Sept. 11, this was true, but we’ve entered into a new period of American politics where foreign policy rivials domestic politics.
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) 7. There is little long-term gain in successful international ventures • The jury is still out on this one. Sept. 11 was fundamentally different than other events since the U.S. took a direct attack, like Pearl Harbor. Leading up to Pearl Harbor, a sizeable percentage of people said we should not go to war with Japan. During WW II, the country rallied behind FDR, but at the close of the war, Truman quickly lost the rally effect. Will the same happen to Bush? History would seem to say yes, though there may never be a true end to the war on terrorism.
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) • There is little long-term loss in support from international failures, as long as the failure does not become massively expensive • As long as American soldiers do not die, American peacekeepers can remain indefinitely (we still have peacekeepers in Bosnia). • Danger is that peacekeepers could be killed or held hostage
Mueller’s Propositions (a post-Sept 11 analysis) • International events tend to linger in the public mind in a haphazard manner. • Not clear: evidence provided is Iraq, which has certainly reemerged in the minds of the public