Max Boot, writing in the LA Times, says:
WHEN IT COMES to the future of Iraq, there is a deep disconnect between those who have firsthand knowledge of the situation — Iraqis and U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq — and those whose impressions are shaped by doomsday press coverage and the imperatives of domestic politics.
In support of this, Boot offers the following statistic:
American soldiers are also much more optimistic than American civilians. The Pew Research Center and the Council on Foreign Relations just released a survey of American elites that found that 64% of military officers are confident that we will succeed in establishing a stable democracy in Iraq. The comparable figures for journalists and academics are 33% and 27%, respectively.
I checked out the Pew Research Poll, and while Boot accurately reports the numbers, he misprepresents what they mean. The military officers in the poll are NOT (as Boot’s first paragraph suggests) people "with firsthand knowledge of the situation in Iraq". As the poll’s methodology explains:
The military leaders sample was drawn from a Lexis-Nexis search of retired generals and admirals quoted in American news sources in the past year. Also included was a sample of outstanding officers selected to participate in the Council on Foreign Relations’ Military Fellowship program since 2000.
Interestingly, most of the Pew Research Poll really does not reflect well on Bush’s policies (see graphic at right — call me crazy, but it looks like the military thinks that Bush’s idea of spreading democracy in the Mideast is a bad idea — more so than most other of the polled demographic groups).
Neo-cons will have to look hard (and spin a little) to find some encouraging news from the Pew Research Poll. And that’s what Boot did.