Ignorance Is the War Party’s Strength

Poll shows lack of information key to interventionist sentiment

by , May 12, 2014

As the Ukraine "crisis" captured the attention of the US public, a unique poll was taken by a team of political scientists: they wanted to know how many Americans could locate Ukraine on a map – and how this related to their view of what the US reaction ought to be. As the authors stated in a Washington Post article, the result was:

"We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force."

This speaks volumes about the problem anti-interventionists face – and points us toward the solution. The more we can educate people on the basics, the more we strengthen the movement for a noninterventionist foreign policy: it’s just that simple. If there’s a stronger argument for supporting Antiwar.com, then I’d sure like to hear it.

The more information Americans have about the world – and Washington’s role in it – the less willing they are to go along with the latest War Party crusade to "liberate" Lower Hellistan. The political class is perpetually bewailing (and sneering at) – Americans’ disinterest in foreign affairs – even as they make the most of it. Of course, they know perfectly well where Ukraine is: right at the top of their target list.

Moreover, the knowledge factor as a key determinant of public opinion goes way beyond the stark choice of nonintervention versus military force. The researchers found that:

"Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the US to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to US interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance US national security interests; all of these effects are statistically significant at a 95 percent  confidence level. Our results are clear, but also somewhat disconcerting: The less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the US to intervene militarily."

As I’m writing this, I’m tweeting the poll results, and just got a response from one Abdelhakim Abuyasin, in Kuwait, who tweeted back:

"Why are we surprised? Same population elected George Bush …… TWICE."

To which I replied:

"Yes but Americans are still overwhelmingly opposed 2 US intervention. So they’re learning. Progress, my friend! Progress!"

It would be all too easy to write off the American people as hopelessly mired in the militarist mindset, but if we integrate the above cited poll with other recent polls showing most Americans are against US intervention we see not just reason for hope but for genuine optimism. Americans have learned much in the past decade or so: they know we were lied into war in Iraq and they’ve seen where the extended occupation of Afghanistan has led. The War Party is at a real disadvantage these days: even given the clear relationship between knowledge of foreign affairs and the general disinterest in these matters, Americans are still increasingly leery of foreign entanglements. A December 2013 Pew poll on America’s role in the world reiterated this growing sentiment:

"Fifty-two percent say the United States ‘should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.’ Just 38% disagree with the statement. This is the most lopsided balance in favor of the US ‘minding its own business’ in the nearly 50-year history of the measure."

What this means is that, while we haven’t won quite yet, victory is in sight if we can bring these two factors – the knowledge factor and the "mind your own business" bias of the American people – into sync.

Since 1995, we here at the world’s most-visited foreign policy news and opinion site have been educating our readers in the ABCs of Washington’s role in the world – a role we don’t often have occasion to be proud of. And we haven’t been preaching to the choir with endless reiterations of abstract principles: instead, we’ve been applying those principles to the specific circumstances of US intervention in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Ukraine – you name the country and I’ll bet there’s been at least some coverage of it on this site.

That’s why Antiwar.com has become the go to site whenever some ginned up phony "crisis" erupts overseas – because our coverage is comprehensive. You’ll always find the latest and most accurate updates on whatever mischief Uncle Sam is involved in right here – very often before anyone else is even aware of it.

And it isn’t just our news department that’s way ahead of the curve: when the whole world was telling you Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction" for sure, we told you they were lying. When they invaded Afghanistan, we said the occupation would be a quagmire the American people would soon regret. When the "humanitarian" interventionists said "Let’s liberate Libya!" we predicted chaos – and we were right. And, finally, when President Obama decided it was time to go after Syria, we urged the American people to call their congressional representatives and demand they put a stop to this nonsense. Many responded – and that war was scotched.

Not that we take all the credit for that amazing and inspiring mobilization: many different organizations and individuals, working together, helped bring it about. The value we added to this vitally important campaign was in providing common ground for anti-interventionists from across the spectrum – and projecting their voices to a substantial worldwide audience.

We are starting our springtime fundraising drive just as the War Party is busy whipping up yet another "international crisis," this time over Ukraine. Reading the "news" from over there is like traveling in a time machine back to the cold war era. Not only are we treated to headlines touting the alleged Russian "threat" to Europe, but we get the same old bias that reads as if it had been written by some lower-level employee at the State Department – fifty years ago!

That’s why we’re here: to clear the air of war propaganda and filter out the noise so the American people can learn the truth about who is trying to manipulate them into yet another dangerous conflict – and why.

However, there’s just one problem: we can’t do it without your help – that is, your financial help.

While the War Party has virtually unlimited resources, and never has to worry about such mundane matters as paying the bills, we here at Antiwar.com are entirely dependent on your contributions. That’s why we have to stop everything, at this crucial time, and devote a good part of our energies to begging for bucks. It’s no fun, and it takes away time and energy from battling the War Party’s latest lies – but we don’t have any choice in the matter.

You can help us minimize that diversion of scarce time and resources by cutting short this fundraising drive – and the only way to do that is for enough of our readers to send in their tax-deductible donation right now. We don’t want to drag this out – because there’s just too much for us to do! We are at a crucial juncture in which the country can go either way – down the road to more futile, bloody, costly interventions, or down the path to peace.

Which will it be?

Help us help the American people to make the right choice – send that donation today.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

Read more by Justin Raimondo