Polling critic columns of the last year made clear that President George W Bush was well aware of key information from ATIF polls that began during his father's regime at the start of the first Gulf War (1990). With the full involvement of Fred Steeper, pollster for Bush, father and son, both during their campaigns and after their elections, ATIF polls found pretty much all the factors that affect the people's support for the use of military force to stop the heinous behavior of dictators like Saddam Hussein. A key finding was that popular support for any major military action rises to a whopping 80%-90% provided that three bases have been well-covered:
First, non-military or soft action must be taken to stop the heinous behavior of the dictator, and only after that fails can military action begin;
Second, the President obtains the support and endorsement of the UN for removing the dictator's regime;
Third, the President proclaims a very high-minded ultimate goal for military action,
This key finding was known to Bush2 well before the 2003 Iraq invasion was planned.
To the extent that the case against the dictator is not so strong or the three bases are not fully covered, support for military force drops to a bare majority of 52% or so and likely variable from day to day in the range of 45% to 60%.
Contrary to the mythology of much of Washington, support does not drop much if the deaths of as many as a thousand, enemy or US troops, are anticipated. At 10,000 deaths support does drop substantially.
It is almost universally conceded that Saddam Hussein's treatment of Iraqis was heinous. To gain maximum support for an invasion of Iraq, the key Bush team, Chaney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and W himself knew that a great effort had to be made to cover the three bases to gain support for the invasion at levels needed to insure Bush's reelection and make possible all that he would want to accomplish as President.
The soft effort to cover the first base, had been largely in the hands of the UN for 12 years without revealing, the Bush team argued, adequate evidence of the regime's supplies of weapons of mass destruction or its al Qaeda support that the Bush team was certain existed.
For a high-minded goal, Bush initially favored "eliminating terrorists with global reach" and his rhetoric in time shot up to no less than, "elimination of evil in the world".
Bush's enormous and protracted efforts, through Colin Powell, to get the endorsement of the UN, had a fatal flaw. Bush demanded the support of the UN Security Council, but at the same time said repeatedly and clearly to the Security Council and to the world, that the US would go it alone if the UN did not support his demand. If the US did then invade Iraq without the support of the Security Council, that invasion widely acknowledged to be pre-emptive would be a violation of the UN Charter that requires the approval of the Security Council for any military action other than one justified by the necessity for immediate self-defense. When the US superpower half way around the world considers invading Iraq in the name of "self-defense", while the majority of the world's countries are geographically closer to Iraq, some even bordering and hostile to Iraq, and every country in the world is much weaker than the US, thinking of "pre-emption" as "self-defense" is an incredible joke. The obligation to the Security Council came from the UN Charter, an international treaty ratified by the US and thus a solemn obligation to be treated as US law.
Bush was ready to make a mockery of respect for the UN by saying, in the same breath, in effect, if the UN did not take the course he recommended, he would violate US and UN law, and — adding insult to injury — the UN would become irrelevant. Why? Why could he at least not make the two contradictory points at different times?
The answer is this: Bush wanted that potential 80+% support of the American people, but if he was not going to get it, he did not want to lose his base, the hawkish or neo-con sector that would probably give him 52% support and would be upset at Bush's kowtowing to the UN. Many of these hawks distrust the UN or wish the US would leave the UN. They would pull away from Bush in the month or so where Bush would be doing everything he could to get UN support. To secure his base, Bush felt he had to be forthright and say, "We'll go it alone if necessary" as soon as he asked for UN support. Bush knew that he would get his 80% popular support if he corralled the UN, but he also knew that his hawkish constituency would fade away rapidly if he did not put the two ideas out to the world as one.
Bush, in fact, did pretty well with the American public. He did receive 60% support that even rose a bit after the invasion was portrayed as a great victory by the docile mainstream US media. Europeans were much better informed via their media explaining that Iraq, weakened by the 1991 Gulf War and a decade of sanctions plus US control of Iraq airspace, was not a serious threat to any country. Little of this information appeared in the mainstream US media. France, Germany and Russia were invaded and devastated both in WWI and WWII, not true of England or the US, leading those countries to a more cautious and conservative view of major military invasions. But Bush's begging for UN support at the same time he was undermining the UN, struck the Europeans as insufferably arrogant. Few leaders, in the shadow of the hegemonic superpower, could say this to a world audience, but the difference between US and non-US public opinion of Bush is enormous and scary.
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