When I read the results of a BBC World News America/Harris Poll released today that show more than half — 57 percent — of Americans believe Iraq is better off today than it was before the U.S. invasion seven years ago, I couldn’t help but recall what Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid had to say in 2007 about the effort to free more than 40 million people from an oppressive government in Iraq.
On Jan. 30, 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced legislation calling for a phased redeployment of U.S. combat troops in Iraq.
On April 18, 2007, Senator Reid said, “The war is lost” during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
MORE OF THE POLL RESULTS
One in five (19%) say Iraq is much better off and almost two in five (38%) say the country is somewhat better off. One in five U.S. adults (19%) say Iraq is worse off today, and one-quarter (24%) are not at all sure.
Men are more likely than women to say Iraq is better off now (62% versus 51%) and women are more likely to take a “wait and see” approach, saying they are not sure (29% versus 18%). Older Americans are more likely to believe Iraq is better off now than it was before the invasion. Just half of those 18-34 years old (51%) say Iraq is better off today, compared to three in five of those 45-54 (59%) and 55 and older (61%) who say the same.
Although Iraq may be better off, was the war itself worth fighting? Half of Americans (49%) say the war was worth fighting, with 19% saying it was very much worth fighting and 29% saying it was somewhat worth fighting. Two in five Americans (38%) believe the war in Iraq was not at all worth fighting. There is a regional difference on fighting the war. Almost half of those in the Northeast (45%) say the war was not worth fighting while 43% say the opposite. In the South, over half (53%) say the war in Iraq was worth fighting while one-third (33%) say it was not.
Americans are divided on the issue of whether the war in Iraq made America more or less safe. Almost two in five (39%) say the war made America safer while just under that (35%) say the war in Iraq made us less safe and one-quarter (26%) are not at all sure.
There is definitely a gender gap on this issue, as well. Men are more likely to say the war made America safer (44% versus 34%) while women are more likely to say it made the country less safe (39% versus 31%). There is also a regional difference here. Almost half of Southerners (46%) say the war in Iraq made America safer while just one-third of Westerners (32%) say the same.
The history of the Iraq war is still being written and there is still a lot of uncertainty to how the events of the past seven years will be seen. Even as the combat stage of U.S. involvement is over, Americans are not sure what the war meant for both Iraq as well as the United States. The next generation of historians will be the ones to look back and see what the post-Iraq war world looked like.
This BBC World News America/Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between August 19 and 23, 2010 among 2,340 adults (aged 18 and over).