53% see Iraq War as a mistake
That's the headline but is this the real story?
Gallup has been polling on this question for 10 years and as recently as 2008, 63% of Americans believed the war a mistake.
That number has now fallen to 53%. That's the lowest percentage of people believing the war was a mistake since late 2004:
The March 7-10 results mark the first time Gallup has asked this question since the full withdrawal of American troops in December 2011. Although majorities or near-majorities have viewed the conflict as a mistake continuously since August 2005, the current 53% is down from the high point of 63% in April 2008.
This week marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. Though the engagement has now come to an end, this seminal event in recent American history still looms large in the national political consciousness. In his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama highlighted the end of the war, stating "a decade of war is now ending" and, more recently, Sen. John McCain confronted now-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as to whether the 2007 Iraq war "surge" was successful.
Americans initially supported the war, with substantial majorities in 2003 saying the U.S. decision to get involved in Iraq was not a mistake. However, attitudes changed relatively quickly, and by the summer of 2004, a majority of Americans called the war a mistake.
Opinions fluctuated somewhat thereafter but, with one exception, since August 2005, a majority has said the war was a mistake each time Gallup has asked the question -- and at several points, more than 60% said so. The last time Gallup asked this question, in August 2010, 55% called the war a mistake.
A majority of Americans also view Vietnam, another major U.S. military engagement of the modern era, as a mistake. The same March survey finds 57% of Americans saying the Vietnam War -- which resulted in the most U.S. casualties of the three recent wars -- was a mistake, but that is down from 69% in November 2000.
On the other hand, a slim majority of Americans (51%) say the war in Afghanistan -- a military engagement still in progress, albeit with a scheduled withdrawal date -- was not a mistake. Still, 44% believe sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake -- the highest on record.
In truth, it would be better to wait a decade and revisit the question. Transient events tend to receive too much emphasis. The test of whether the war was a "mistake" will be what Iraq looks like down the road - whether it falls apart or gets itself together. Right now it doesn't look good, but there are forces at work - more secular, more western-friendly - that have a chance to remake Iraq if given the opportunity.
The same could be said of Egypt, although they are a poorer country with a less educated population. Neither state will look like a western democracy. But they may end up freeer and more secular in nature if people get sick of the religious fanatics currently running both countries.