Policy and Opinion in the Gulf War
by John Mueller
Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1994. 379 pp. $19.5 (paper).
Reviewed by Daniel Pipes
Middle East Quarterly
Mueller calls the Kuwait War "the mother of all polling events," xiv and backs up this contention with hundreds of surveys on the subject. These telephone polls have their limitations, generated as they were for immediate media use, not systematic academic inquiry. Still, their sheer profusion provides insights not usually possible.
Mueller's main conclusion is that "The opinion dynamic that probably helped Bush most was a growing fatalism about the war." The sense of inevitability he says, fueled the feeling that the fighting might as well be gotten over with. Trouble is, the author displays such immaturity (sarcastically using such phrases "our glorious military," "our gallant, and presumably virginal, men and women in the service") 75 that most readers will find themselves unsure how much to trust his judgment. Indeed, Mueller's hostility to the American war effort significantly detracts from the authority of his conclusions.
Nearly every polling organization in the United States contributed to the 289 tables at the back of the book. Having them all in one place permits the reader completely to bypass Mueller's interpretations and ponder the data for himself. One fascinating poll shows that at the exact end of the war, only 38 percent of Americans thought the war was not a victory if Saddam Husayn remained in power; and that this figure steadily increased to 69 percent one and a half years later. This shift in attitudes goes far to explain why the war, far from helping George Bush's reelection effort, probably ended up hurting it.
Related Topics: Daniel Pipes | September 1994 MEQ
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