More Americans reject war as policy tool

September 12, 2006

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. - Americans are rejecting war as a tool of national policy in unprecedented numbers, and this trend will have significant impact on mid-term elections and the next presidential race, according to Paul Joseph, professor of sociology at Tufts University and author of the new book "Are Americans Becoming More Peaceful?" (Paradigm Publishers, 2006).

"The public will now support military force only where it appears to be in the self-defense of the U.S. or against perpetrators of human rights violations on a massive scale," says Joseph, a political sociologist who has spent more than 30 years examining public opinion and its interaction with foreign and defense policy.

Joseph finds that 50 percent to 60 percent of Americans now exhibit what he calls "Type 2" opposition to war: They are less likely to accept war as its costs become apparent, but they do support war under certain circumstances. Between 15 and 20 percent of Americans are "Type 1" opponents, who reject war out of principle, and 25 to 30 percent are "hawks."

One striking indicator of this change is the treatment of photographs and casualty statistics. During the latter years of World War II, images of dead or wounded servicemen routinely appeared in major magazines. Today, images of military caskets or funerals are tightly controlled, and public tallies of those killed are discouraged. If the war in Iraq were being fully supported, Joseph contends, the Pentagon would be more willing to acknowledge the sacrifices of U.S. troops and their families.

"The effort put into management of the public implies that if the administration showed the war transparently, if costs were explicit, then the public would turn even further against war," says Joseph, who directs Tufts' Peace and Justice Studies program.

Public opinion ahead of politicians and news media

Remarkably, Americans are disconnecting from war without clear leadership from any political party, prominent public figure or mass media outlet. But Joseph believes that changing public attitudes have big implications for coming political campaigns.

"On security issues, there really has not been that much of a difference between Democrats and Republicans," he says. "There is a perception that security is a trump card for the Republicans. But I think the public is open to hearing a different message about how the United States can pursue national security and world security, another message about a revamped defense policy that is less reliant on the use of military force."

According to Joseph, the issue is not simply whether any major national political figures will recognize the growing tendency of Americans to be critical of war as an instrument of national policy. The question is also "how much space is there within the media to get sympathetic coverage" of such views. "It looks to me like the public is ahead of both politicians and the media in its willingness to be open to a different type of message," he says.

Joseph also offers insight into other timely subjects:

The American public's diminished appetite for war despite 9/11: "September 11 brought a wave of patriotism and initial support for war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In five years, and without visible political leadership, the appetite for war has shrunk dramatically. The public has taken diet pills and is now undergoing war liposuction."

The impact of popular films like "World Trade Center": "These films put us in touch with the values, decency and sacrifice of ordinary people shown so clearly on September 11. But decency and defendable sacrifice are becoming harder to find in war itself. Wars must be fought with honor or they will lose support. World War II was fought with honor even though it was very messy. Iraq is also messy but without honor."

Truth as a casualty of war: "There is an old saying about truth being the first casualty of war. Winston Churchill defended this practice by saying that a 'cocoon of lies' was required to defend the country's 'essential truth.' But this contradictory approach will not pass close scrutiny. The loss of life requires accountability and transparency. If the core of government policy can't stand the public light of day, then it is not deserving of support."

The role of embedded journalists: "Embedded reporters have been around for a long time (only they weren't called that). World War II and Vietnam both had 'embedded reporters.' At least some responsible journalists - embedded or not - will want to cover war from the standpoint of soldiers fighting the war. Washington will sometimes like that practice and encourage it - even as they also try to control it. At other times, the Pentagon won't like what embedded reporters are saying - and they will try to control that as well. But good journalism requires a description and pictures from the battlefield."

Anti-war protests: "We have marches and protests that are at least as large as the '60s and '70s. Demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and New York before the Iraq war were larger than Vietnam era mobilizations at the Pentagon. But media attention is elsewhere so we 'don't see it.' The visibility of antiwar activism has changed - not the size of the national demonstrations themselves."
-end-
Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the university's eight schools is widely encouraged.

Tufts University

Related World Trade Center Articles from Brightsurf:

Examining rates of thyroid cancer among World Trade Center rescue/recovery workers
Rates and methods of detection of thyroid cancer diagnosed in male rescue/recovery workers at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 terrorist attacks were compared with demographically similar individuals from Olmsted County, Minnesota, to see if increased rates of thyroid cancer among those workers were associated with the identification of asymptomatic cancers detected during heightened nonthyroid-related medical surveillance.

Elevated leukemia incidence is found in World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers
Responders who worked at the World Trade Center site after the attacks on Sept.

Is exposure to world trade center disaster associated with cardiovascular disease risk for NY firefighters
A study of nearly 9,800 Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) male firefighters suggests an association between greater exposure to the World Trade Center disaster and long-term cardiovascular disease risk, while the results of other studies have been mixed.

9/11 World Trade Center exposure linked to heart disease among NYC firefighters
A study of New York City firefighters finds that exposure to 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) dust is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Biomarkers confirm higher incidence of thyroid cancer among World Trade Center responders
Method developed by Brazilian and US researchers distinguishes between malignant and benign tumors and rules out false positive results.

Researchers find link between exposure to world trade center dust and prostate cancer
World Trade Center (WTC) responders with prostate cancer showed signs that exposure to dust from the World Trade Center site had activated chronic inflammation in their prostates, which may have contributed to their cancer, according to a study by Mount Sinai researchers in Molecular Cancer Research in June.

Global commodities trade and consumption place the world's primates at risk of extinction
A recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal PeerJ -- the Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences highlights the fact that the economic benefits of commodity export for primate habitat countries has been limited relative to the extreme environmental costs of pollution, habitat degradation, loss of biodiversity, continued food insecurity and the threat of emerging diseases.

World Trade Center responders at increased risk for head and neck cancers
A Rutgers study has found a significant increase in head and neck cancers among workers and volunteers who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC), pointing to newly emerging risks that require ongoing monitoring and treatment of those who were exposed during the initial response.

World Trade Center response crews may face higher heart attack, stroke risk
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may increase the risk for stroke and heart attack in both male and female city workers and volunteers who cleaned debris in the aftermath of the World Trade Center plane attack on Sept.

Two studies, editorial report on cancer risk for firefighters at World Trade Center disaster
Two studies and a related editorial report on cancer risk for firefighters with the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) exposed to the wreckage of the World Trade Center during rescue and recovery work following the attacks on Sept.

Read More: World Trade Center News and World Trade Center Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.