The same BBC report linked to below also notes that British cabinet member Clare Short said she “does not want the UK to join any unilateral American military action against Iraq.” Which seems odd to me, inasmuch as if Britain joined us, it wouldn’t be unilateral.
This ambiguous use of the word “unilateral” has become widespread; a much-hyped Knight-Ridder poll has led to headlines like this one in this morning’s St. Paul Pioneer Press: “No war, Americans Say.” The article’s lead sentence reads: “With U.S. troops heading for the Persian Gulf, Americans say in overwhelming numbers that they oppose unilateral U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, according to a national Knight Ridder poll.” But unilateral action is not one of the options that is even being considered. In any scenario, a number of allies will join in an action against Saddam. So why do reporters and politicians keep denouncing “unilateral” action?
As to the Knight-Ridder poll, the actual data, which can be viewed here, are quite different from the hype. It is true that when asked whether they would support attacking Iraq “alone” and “without the support of the United Nations,” 34% of respondents said Yes, and 59% said No. However, when asked whether they would support at attack on Iraq in which “one or two of [the U.S.’s] major allies” joined, without U.N. support, 47% said Yes and 45% said No. With U.N. approval, support for an attack on Iraq is overwhelming at 83%.
Moreover, when asked “Do you think the U.S. should or should not take military action to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power?” the results are as follows:
Should not: 28%
So much for the “No War, Americans Say” headline!
And, when asked whether they would support or oppose military action if that means keeping American troops in Iraq for one year after the war to maintain order and establish a new government, 80% said they “would support” military action, compared to only 16% who “would oppose” such action.
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