(Photo: AP Images / Anja Niedringhaus)
One in three U.S. military veterans think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not worth fighting, a new opinion poll reveals.
The military makes up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population and 10 long years of war have proven to be a strain on America’s brave sons and daughters. From physical injuries, financial burdens and relationship strains, one-third of the post-9/11 veterans said neither war was worth the sacrifices, according to a poll done by the Pew Research Center. This compares to 45 percent of the members of the general public who agree that the sacrifices made overseas were not worth what progress was gained.
The results of the poll were released this week and many news sources published the results under the headline, “Vets See Iraq, Afghan Wars as Wastes.” Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, finds this headline misleading. The main point of the poll, O’Hanlon said, is that the veterans think the wars were “not worth the price.”
“This is much different than saying they were a waste,” O’Hanlon said.
Despite the heavy sacrifices, progress has been made in both countries that allow the citizens there to move toward the goal of self-determination. Without the U.S. military, this progress might not have occurred. The poll reveals that the veterans do have pride in the military and the work it accomplished in the countries.
“Clearly, however, these conflicts have been very hard on the people fighting them, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” O’Hanlon said.
The poll also found that the majority of veterans feel that the United States is too involved in foreign affairs and should instead focus more on issues facing Americans at home.
These findings come during a time of economic hardship. President Obama must find a way to decrease the growing deficit while still maintaining support for the wars. While the president campaigned on the promise to bring the troops in Iraq home by 2011, Obama, now in office, continues to push that deadline back as more concerns are raised about America's security. As of June 30, Iraq is still home to 44,000 troops. Obama still intends to have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of this year.
Obama announced earlier this summer that 10,000 additional troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by the end of the year and 23,000 will come home by next September.
Over the last 10 years, approximately 4,500 U.S. troops have died in Iraq and about 1,700 have died in Afghanistan. Combined war costs over the years are estimated to be more than $1 trillion.
The survey also showed that post-9/11 veterans are more likely than the general population to identify with the political right, as well as more likely to disapprove of Obama's performance as Commander in Chief.
The poll results were based on two surveys conducted between late July and mid-September. One survey polled 1,853 veterans. Of those, 712 had served in the military after 9/11 but are no longer on active duty. Of the 712 post-9/11 veterans, 336 served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The second survey polled 2,003 adults who had not served in the military.