Posted by: danfusco | July 28, 2009

Misperceptions of Iraq.

The article on misperceptions regarding the Iraq War reminded me of a paper I wrote last year. It’s not fantastic and I don’t think anyone wants to read the entire 15 pages, but it discussed the effect of public approval ratings on foreign policy decisions. If anyone is interested I could post it. Basically at the beginning of the Vietnam War, little attention was being paid to our policy in the southeast region of Asia. Johnson effectively exaggerated the Gulf Of Tonkin Incident creating a rally round the flag effect and increasing public approval. He used these high ratings to increase troop efforts and from that point on his escalation of the war correlates with the amount of public approval he had. Similarly, at the front end of the Gulf War nobody supported a war because of Vietnam. A similar rally round the flag effect increased Bush’s ratings to 80% however. In the following months he used different forms of rhetoric to gain authorization, which included expressing his gratitude for public support, explaining the dangerous nature of Hussein and Iraq, and reiterating the need for a large troop effort to end the war quickly. My point in all of this is that public opinion and approval ratings probably would not have stopped the current War in Iraq from happening, but more correct information probably would have decreased his high ratings after 9/11. Similarly to Iraq and Vietnam public opinion does not shape foreign policy but it can affect the initial escalation of war and troop commitment. Johnson and Nixon suffered extreme dissatisfaction from America and were never allowed the resources to succeed. Bush Sr. on the other hand kept approval ratings as high as possible in order to gain the necessary resources and win the war, which was a good decision in my opinion. Initially high approval ratings and a misinformed public allowed George W. to escalate the war to a point of no return. This points out the tactics of government agencies and the job journalists need to perform in order to adequately inform the public on such serious issues. It seems the government has become the media’s number one source, when in reality, the media needs to have less faith in the President so false claims can be ousted and actual facts can be shown to the public eye.

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