Those Inscrutable Americans

by Clifford D. May

The New York Times reports today:

“Although White House officials said many federal departments had contributed to the [president's most recent speech], its relentless focus on the theme of victory strongly reflected a new voice in the administration: Peter D. Feaver, a Duke University political scientist who joined the N.S.C. staff as a special adviser in June and has closely studied public opinion on the war.

“Dr. Feaver was recruited after he and Duke colleagues presented the administration with an analysis of polls about the Iraq war in 2003 and 2004. They concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believed it would ultimately succeed.”

So Americans will tolerate casualties in a war think we’re going to win but are less willing to tolerate casualties in war they think we’re going to lose. Imagine that! What strange creatures are these Americans!

But there’s more. Feaver’s analysis of the mysterious American psyche is not without its skeptics. The Times adds that Feaver’s finding is “questioned by other political scientists.”

Evidently, those other political scientists agree with the oft-stated analysis of Professors Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that Americans can’t tolerant mounting causalities under any circumstances. For example, “John Mueller, of Ohio State University, said he did not believe that the president’s speech or the victory plan – which he described as “very Feaverish, or Feaveresque” – could produce more than a fleeting improvement in public support for the war, because it was likely to erode further as casualties accumulated.

“‘As the costs go up, support goes down,” he said, citing patterns from the Korean and Vietnam wars.”