Afghanistan and the U.K.: Criticism on the rise but support stays firm

Two stories from the last few days about England and Afghanistan. A story in in the NYT over the weekend reports that criticism of Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan is increasing, due to the deaths of 15 British soldiers in the past two weeks. The deaths meant that more British soldiers have died fighting in Afghanistan (184) than in Iraq(179.)

Writes John Burns:

The latest losses are the heaviest British forces have suffered in any comparable period since the 1982 Falklands war…The deaths have generated grim images that have led the nightly television news, of slate-gray transport aircraft carrying coffins landing at a military air base in Wiltshire and being driven slowly in hearses past crowds lining the high street in Wootton Bassett, a nearby town. When five coffins passed down the street on Friday, on their way to a mortuary in Oxford, women wailed.

According to a poll in the Guardian, though, the deaths and criticism haven’t hurt support for the war:

Opposition to the war, at 47%, is just ahead of support, at 46%. And backing for Britain’s role in the conflict has grown since 2006, the last time an ICM poll was conducted on the subject – up 15 points from 31%. Opposition has fallen over the same period by six points, from 53%.

So–there’s still a tad more against the war than for the war. But, it’s almost a wash. The Guardian explains the results of the poll thusly:

People appear reluctant to turn against a conflict while soldiers are fighting and dying on the front line, and the increasingly high-profile nature of the war appears to be strengthening public backing.

I find this quite interesting. It demonstrates the complex emotional responses of countries during times of conflict. Support for the war was lower when the war was waged with a lower profile. Now, with the sharp upswing in media attention from the Helmand invasion, it’s almost like a new war is starting, and so you have a bit of the war fever effect on public opion. The desire to support your own team(at least at first) is always quite powerful.

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About michaelhastings

Journalist
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