Iraq, Afghan wars not worth it, vet­er­ans say

Poll finds strong mil­i­tary sup­port for Trump, not for for­eign con­flicts

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Dono­van Slack

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 ex­act op­po­site, Pew found. A par­al­lel sur

vey 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 2.1mil­lion 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.

Other find­ings:

“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 Pew re­searchers

❚ 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 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.

DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Pres­i­dent Trump wanted Amer­i­cans out of Syria.

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