Pundits believe that Republicans are winning the battle for America's public opinion on foreign policy with some tough talk on ISIS. But what most people may not realize is that the GOP is more likely to commit ground troops, a plan that most folks won't back.
The site Vox.com reports that the GOP is winning the fight over ISIS, the extreme Islamist group causing so much trouble in Syria and Iraq. CNN reports that Republican candidates have even raised the specter of ISIS members sneaking across the Mexican border into the U.S.A., as a way of tying their Middle East policy to anti-immigration ideas.
But a recent Gallup poll reveals a little more. Democrats, Republicans and Independents all back President Barack Obama's decision to bomb ISIS targets as a means of both disrupting the group and protecting the victims of their attacks. In that poll, 65 percent of GOP members support such a use of force to "degrade and destroy" ISIS from the air. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats concur, as do 55 percent of political independents.
But it's much different story when it comes to a plan to deploy ground troops in Syria and Iraq to deal with ISIS, also known as ISIL. Only 41 percent of Americans think this is a good idea, while 54 percent oppose such a plan.
A solid majority support Obama's decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, and many are hoping we do the same thing in another Middle East country where America's forces are stationed: Afghanistan. And they weren't too thrilled when Obama was thinking about going into Syria last year to get chemical weapons away from Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
When you break it down by political affiliation, there's a partisan divide. Only 30 percent of Democrats want to resend troops to Iraq and countries nearby. In the same Gallup poll, 35 percent of Independents like that idea. When it comes to Republicans, 61 percent are gung ho for another go at Operation Iraqi Freedom.
There's a reason why Republicans seem so willing to reenact an unpopular idea. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll from October, 41 percent of Republicans identified ISIS as the most important concern, while less than half as many Democrats (18 percent) agree.
Gallup went on to note that public support for the "back to Iraq" plan is lower than that of other military adventures of the past few decade, like Libya, Kosovo, Kuwait and other places in the Caribbean, East Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
No doubt, GOP members are counting on a replay of 1990, when support for freeing Kuwait from Iraq was only 23 percent, until Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm got going. Then the public loved President George H. W. Bush's stand, after we won.
What Republicans may be forgetting is that most Americans think going to war in Iraq in the first place back in 2003 was a pretty big mistake (66% agree, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll). It's one they don't want to repeat with an operation that looks just as likely to get us bogged down in an asymmetric war where it's hard to tell the difference between terrorists and civilians.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at email@example.com.