American Public Opinion and Perceptions on the War in Afghanistan

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Mario Germes Ruiz
A00749087 LPL’07
Mtra. Paola Navarrete Hernández
Gobierno y Opinión Pública
ITESM Campus Ciudad de México

12 de Mayo 2010
Introduction to the Current War in Afghanistan
On September 11th, 2001 the American Way of Life changed drastically. The American people were under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist attacks that killed thousands of American citizens. The victims were in their offices and airplanes; they were average Americans carrying out their jobs in what seemed like a regular Tuesday. However, not only had thousands of lives been ended by the biggest terrorist attack on United States (US) soil, but also the foreign policy of the US had a major shift. Before 9/11 it is probable that few Americans had an idea of where Afghanistan was; what the Taliban meant, or the newfound importance Osama Bin Laden had acquired for the US. President Bush, who has had a lukewarm reception in his first months in power suddenly, had millions of fellow Americans rallying around the flag and he the biggest approval rating he ever managed during his presidency. In contrast, just as it was seen in class, the rallying around the flag effect is short lived and by the end of August, 2003 President Bush had approval ratings below the ones he had before 9/11.

Gallup Poll. N=1,079 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3. LV = likely voters. (Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/113980/Gallup-Bush -Approval.aspx on May 9th, 2010)

With this unprecedented popularity (previously showed in the second graphic), President Bush went forward to wage two simultaneous armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (though, at very different times due to the UN’s pressure towards the invasion of Iraq). However, because the focus of this essay is to analyze the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq will not be thoroughly addressed.

The invasion of Afghanistan can be divided in two phases. The first one, began in October 7, 2001 when the US, together with the United Kingdom (UK) and the Northern Alliance (an Afghan umbrella organization that has focused on fighting the Taliban since 1996) launched the military operation, Enduring Freedom. Its main objective was to remove Afghan territory as a safe shelter for Al-Qaeda and its bases of operation for terrorist activities. The stated aims of the invasion were: * To find Osama Bin Laden and other high-ranking Al Qaeda members to be put on trial. * To remove the Taliban regime which supported and gave shelter to Al Qaeda President Bush, still rolling on his high but constantly declining approval ratings, went on with this phase of the operation, even though it was not authorized by the United Nations. The second phase of the invasion began in late December, 2001 when the US together with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which was now established by the UN Security Council in the beginning of 2002 so make Kabul and its surrounding areas a safe place. However, by 2003 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) assumed control of the ISAF. Now the NATO had came into play, the number of troops and countries involved in the war in Afghanistan escalated. Nowadays, there are in Afghanistan military troops from 36 different countries, making a grand total of 102,554 effectives. Though the intensity of the combat faced by the contributing nations varies greatly, the US and UK are the nations sustaining the most substantial casualties in intensive combat operations.

Theoretical Framework

On the Nature and Characteristics of Conflict
Bertrand Russell writes that conflicts may be thought of as having three different kinds of dimensions: perception, feeling and action. Conflict involves the perception that one’s personal interests, needs or values are incompatible with another’s. (Russell, 1953). Conflict also involves feelings, such as anger, fear or sadness. These feelings are obvious to be felt in the population of Afghanistan (and maybe to a lesser...
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