Iraq, Afghan wars not worth it, veterans say
Poll finds strong military support for Trump, not for foreign conflicts
WASHINGTON – A majority of veterans say they believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military engagement in Syria were not worth it, a new Pew survey found.
The Iraq War “was not worth fighting,” according to 64% of the veterans surveyed, compared with 33% who say it was worth fighting. Fifty-eight percent say the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth it compared with 38% who say it was, according to the Pew Research Center survey released Wednesday.
“Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars,” Pew researchers Ruth Igielnik and Kim Parker wrote in their survey analysis. “And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.”
A smaller percentage of veterans, 55%, say the military campaign in Syria was not worth it compared with 42% who say it was worth it.
The survey was taken before President Donald Trump pulled back on a planned strike in Iran last month, but the findings buttress Trump’s general reluctance to use military force.
Overall, 57% of veterans say they support Trump’s handling of his role as commander in chief of the armed forces. The survey found 41% say they did not approve.
The American public says the ex
act opposite, Pew found. A parallel survey of all adults showed 57% disapprove of Trump’s military leadership, and 41% say they approve.
Researchers cautioned that veterans generally tend to be more conservative: Roughly six in 10 identify themselves as Republican or Republican-leaning, compared with 44% of American adults in general.
Among Republicans, veterans are “particularly enthusiastic about the president’s leadership on military issues,” according to Pew. More than 90% of Republican veterans approve, compared with 81% of Republicans overall.
Veterans were a key voting bloc for Trump in 2016 and feature heavily in his stump speeches and events leading up to 2020.
The president delivered on a pledge to expand veterans’ access to medical care outside Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities. Under legislation he signed last year, more veterans can see non-VA doctors paid for by the VA if they can’t get what they need in a timely way at a VA facility. VA officials estimated as many as 2.1 million veterans will be eligible annually – up from about 560,000.
The Pew survey focused on military policies and found heavy veteran support for three out of four linked to Trump. A majority of veterans support his sending troops to the southern border and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. They also support banning transgender people from serving in the military, by 52% to 46%.
One policy that more veterans disapprove of than approve is Trump’s plan to create a branch of the military called the Space Force. Forty-five percent support the move, compared with 53% who don’t.
Nearly 1,300 veterans and 1,100 members of the general public responded to the surveys, conducted from May 14 to June 3 for veterans and May 14-24 for all adults. The margins of error are plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for veterans and plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the general public.
❚ Nearly 60% of veterans say they trust Trump to make the right decisions about using military force. Roughly a quarter say they don’t trust
“Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.” Ruth Igielnik and Kim Parker
him at all to make the right calls.
❚ A sizable share of veterans – 45% – say Trump hasn’t listened enough to military leaders in making decisions about national security, though half say he has listened to them enough.
❚ Nearly half of veterans say his administration’s policies have made the military stronger; a quarter say they made it weaker. Twenty-eight percent say they haven’t made much difference.
President Trump wanted Americans out of Syria.