Most veterans believe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, and a majority also view U.S. military efforts in Syria as too costly in dollars and casualties, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center released Wednesday.
In a survey of nearly 1,300 veterans conducted in May and June, 64 percent of those surveyed said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, as opposed to just 33 percent who said the security benefits outweighed the sacrifices.
For Afghanistan, 58 percent of veterans said that fight was not worthwhile, versus 38 percent who believed it was. Results from both questions closely track with the opinions of the American public at large.
More veterans also had a negative view of U.S. involvement in Syria (55 percent) than a positive view (42 percent). Pew Research officials said the rate of support for each of the conflicts did not change significantly for veterans’ different eras of service, military rank or combat exposure.
More than 4,500 U.S. service members have died in Iraq since the start of combat there in 2003, and more than 2,400 have been killed in the nearly 18-year-old fighting in Afghanistan.
President Donald Trump has indicated in recent months he would like to fully withdraw U.S. military forces from the Middle East and Afghanistan, but has also pledged not to make any sudden moves against military advice that could allow insurgent groups to regain a foothold in either area.
A Military Times survey of active-duty troops conducted last fall found that about 45 percent worry that the United States will be drawn into another major military conflict soon. But more than half of that group saw Iraq and Afghanistan as little to no threat to American national security today.
Among the veterans polled by Pew Research officials, more approved of Trump’s dealings with North Korea (60 percent) and Russia (54 percent) than oppose his recent outreach.
And Trump also received strong support for his tough talk with NATO allies, whom he has accused of not contributing enough resources to global anti-terrorism and security efforts. More than half (54 percent) said they approve of his handling of those traditional American alliances.
Pew Research officials said those findings are the opposite of the public at large, where more than half of respondents disapproved of Trump’s North Korea, Russia and NATO polices.
Full poll results are available on the center’s web site.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.