Regional Issues >> Conflict With
Conflict With Iraq
Concerns About the Demands
and Consequences of War
Majorities are fairly pessimistic about the demands and
consequences of a war with Iraq. Majorities believe that a
war would be long, weapons of mass destruction would be used
against US troops, and that, after invading, US troops would
have to remain in Iraq for an extended period. As a consequence
of war, majorities believe there would be an economic recession,
that oil prices would go up, that the threat of terrorism
against Americans would increase, and that the Mideast would
become more unstable.
Demands of the War Itself
A majority seems to expect that a war with Iraq would be
quite demanding. A modest majority expects a long rather than
a short war. In a late September 2002 CNN/USA Today survey,
54% felt a "war against Iraq" would be a long war,
while 42% felt it would be short. In early September, CBS/New
York Times found 53% saying a conflict with Iraq would be
"a long and costly involvement" as opposed to "a
fairly quick and successful effort," which 41% believed
would be the case. Asked by Pew in August, "What's your
impression of what a war with Iraq would be like? Do you think
it would be a long war or a quick one?" 52% thought it
would be long, while 38% thought it would be quick. Given
three options in an August Time/CNN poll, 49% believed that
a war with Iraq would be "a long war with many casualties
and a US victory"; 30% thought it would be "a quick
war with few casualties and a US victory"; and 15% felt
it would result in "withdrawal without victory."
A stronger majority thinks it likely that Iraq would use
weapons of mass destruction against US troops. In an August
Time/CNN poll, a strong majority (66%) said it is likely that
"weapons of mass destruction will be used against US
troops" in a ground war in Iraq. 
Asked to think about the aftermath of a victorious war, large
majorities assume a long occupation. Pew found an overwhelming
76% saying that "if the United States does remove Saddam
Hussein from power
the US will have to keep military
forces in Iraq in order to maintain civil order there;"
only 15% thought this would not be the case. In a September
Newsweek poll, 55% thought it would be necessary for "a
large number of American soldiers" to stay for at least
several years. 
A majority is quite pessimistic about the potential economic
consequences of the war.
In an August Time/CNN poll 88% said they expected that as
a result of the war oil prices would go up and 55% said they
expected an economic recession. 
Increase in Terrorism
A very strong majority expects that one consequence of an
invasion of Iraq would be an increase in homeland terrorism.
An overwhelming 77% told Time/CNN that "more acts of
terrorism in the United States" were "likely to
occur" "if the US sends ground troops into Iraq"
(August 2002). In the same month, 66% said they thought "an
attack on Iraq would increase the threat of terrorism against
Americans" in a Los Angeles Times poll; only 17% thought
an attack would reduce this threat. 
(This same pattern of pessimistic expectations is present
in Americans' attitudes toward the war on terrorism more generally.
In the Terrorism report, see Military
and Non-Military Means for Addressing Terrorism.) However,
in a mid-September ABC poll, when asked to evaluate taking
action as compared to not taking action against Iraq, 55%
said that not taking military action "would create a
greater risk of further terrorism to this country" (up
from 47% in late August), as compared to 36% saying the greater
risk lies in taking action. It is possible that this positive
response about military action referred to long-term consequences,
while the pessimistic responses to the other questions referred
more to short-term consequences. 
Further, in August a clear majority (58%) believed that a
ground invasion of Iraq would likely result in "less
cooperation from our allies in fighting terrorism" (Time/CNN).
However, the change of emphasis by the Bush administration,
begun in September, toward seeking UN and international support
might modify this belief.
Greater Instability in the Middle East
Pluralities to majorities see military action against Iraq
as tending to destabilize the Middle East further. Asked whether
"greater instability in the Middle East" was "likely
if the US sends ground troops into Iraq,"
an overwhelming 74% thought it likely (not likely, 21%; Time/CNN,
August 2002). 
However when the question raised the prospect that the "military
action against Iraq" might "help to stabilize the
situation in the Middle East" (presumably, again, in
the long run), or have no effect either way, only a plurality
of 40% said that it would "help to destabilize it,"
while 23% said it would be stabilizing, and 20% thought it
would have no effect (Los Angeles Times, August). 
A majority of 58% also thought that "if the US sends
ground troops into Iraq," it is likely that, "weapons
of mass destruction will be used against Israel" as well
as US troops (Time/CNN, August 2002).