Has some surprising results, which we’ll try to explain.
Just 32 percent of military veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan approve of the job Barack Obama is doing as president, according to a new poll from the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. In a related question, only 42 percent of those surveyed said they believe Obama is a “good commander-in-chief of the military.” Forty eight percent said he is not.
Wait, 32 percent think he’s doing a good job? We wonder how they checked to see that their respondents were actual vets and not homeless guys raving about Agent Orange. Because, really, where did they find these folks? Our guess is deep in the rear echelons of service support. There are so few Obama supporters in SF (active or retired) that everbody in the community knows their names. (Nobody in SF has any problem taking an unpopular or contrarian position, and nobody has a problem with a teammate taking such a position. The handful of liberals we served with were always willing to argue their side and defend its positions in a principled manner — probably why none of them wound up in the media industry). In our experience, the combat arms tend to be more conservative (on national power and military subjects) than the military as a whole. Service support arms are more reflective of national demographics.
Veterans were asked a similar question about former President George W. Bush. Sixty-five percent said they felt he was a good commander-in-chief, while 28 percent responded he was not.
Hah. He had his pros and cons like any other politician, but his dedication to “his” wounded Americans since his retirement has been a hell of a thing to see. Of course, if you don’t hang out where vets hang out, you don’t see it, because it’s not a media stunt thing.
The expansive collection of post-war polling asked current and former service members for their opinions on a series of political issues, as well as personal and cultural ones. Forty-seven percent consider themselves independents; 27 percent identified as Republicans, and just 17 percent said they were Democrats.
That sounds about right. Most vets I know are irritated with both parties’ Beltway potentates right now.
Only 44 percent of veterans believe that the war in Iraq “was worth fighting,” while 50 percent believe the opposite. Afghanistan, however, is still considered a more popular war: 53 percent believe it has been worth fighting and 41 percent think otherwise.
Those are not real popular wars. I think Vietnam polls better among its vets. Afghanistan and Iraq have both lost a lot of popularity because of perceived corruption and ingratitude by their national leaders. And unlike the rest of America, every vet can put a name and a face to the idea of “casualty,” which adds a whole other dimension to the question, “Was it worth it?” Was the war in Afghanistan worth a year out of the USA, having a business fail for lack of the deployed boss’s personal attention, the various hardships and hassles, getting shot at? Hell, against that there’s the old guy who came up and thanked us for liberating his valley from the Taliban mullah who’d stolen his farmland, the hostage we plucked out of a hole in the floor of a warlord’s outbuilding, the 300 people who swore out statements against the local mullah’s militia commander, who later (from Gitmo) confessed to over 100 murders — murders he did, mostly, so he could steal people’s property. So, when that’s the equation, the answer is, “Hell, yes.”
But then there’s the faces and the names. The friends who are like an Irish family’s out-of-town cousins — you only see ‘em at funerals. The frantic flight, launching into the gloaming on a three hour slog through complex airspace to get to a funeral home with new award ribbons so a friend can wear them on his last trip. The fiancee who couldn’t be talked out of opening a casket even when we’d checked and swore (1) it was her guy, our friend and (2) she really, really didn’t want this to be the way she remembered him. The guys who didn’t get the commands because they were dead, and the guys who did that always will be unfairly compared to their dead competition. Is it worth it, knowing all that, putting all that in the balance? And where do you put it, how much weight to give to each memory?
We don’t know. We’ll never know. We can’t go back and change or fix it anyway.
While 89 percent of veterans said they would join the military again, only 41 percent believed that the government is doing a good or excellent job “meeting the needs of the current generation of veterans.” (However, 59 percent felt that their personal needs had been met.) Unsurprisingly, 83 percent of veterans oppose reductions in benefits for servicemen and -women — even if not making the cuts leads to budget deficits.
We’d like to see benefits more narrowly targeted to those who need them as a direct consequence of combat or service. But the fact is, there will always be a percentage of people who work the system. If you make it easy for them, and eliminate the consequences of fraud (as the courts, which make their contempt for military service patent, have done), then you’ll get more fraud.
A majority of service members, 58 percent, support women serving in combat roles, and half believe it won’t make “much difference” in military effectiveness. Fifty-four percent of those polled believe that the military is doing enough to prevent sexual assaults among their ranks.
The Washington Post has the poll questions, but very little about the methodology, and a condescending article by Rajiv Chandrasekaran that dwells on the standard media narrative of dysfunctional, emotionally-crippled vets: vets as needy social-services consumers. He does note one interesting finding, amid all the hand-wringing:
The vets hail from families where service in the military is tradition: More than four in 10 have fathers who were in the military, and half have at least one grandparent who was. Almost 40 percent say all or most of their friends have served in the military. By contrast, a national Kaiser Family Foundation poll conducted in December found that 32 percent of U.S. adults had “hardly any” or no friends who have been in the military.
You have to wonder what percentage of media drones would have “hardly any” or no friends who had been in the military. 95%? 99%? At the Post, 100%?
Chandrasekaran is the master of wringing pitiability out of places it really isn’t:
Despite their overwhelming pride and negligible regret, the veterans look back on the necessity of the conflicts with decidedly mixed feelings.
And he buries deep in the story both the bit about vets preferring Bush to Obama, and the even more interesting poll result: vets are less likely than the general population (67% to 80%) to support veterans’ preferences in jobs. (Our position: if an employer wants to offer that, more power to him. If not, no sweat. We personally believe vets make better employees, but it’s a free country, much to the dismay of Rajiv Chandrasekaran and the Washington Post).