Afghanistan Opinion Reaching Peak Anti-Iraq Levels

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Vladimir Pirogov / REUTERS

U.S. servicemen board a transport plane before leaving for Afghanistan at the U.S. transit center at Manas airport near Bishkek, March 27, 2012.

Just how unpopular has the war in Afghanistan become? In the latest CBS News-New York Times poll, 69% of respondents said they didn’t think the U.S. should be at war there. Just 29% say we’re “doing the right thing” by continuing the conflict.

Incredibly, that opposition is even greater than the levels seen in some of the darkest days of the Iraq war, when the casualties, carnage and damage to American interests was far worse. An August 2006 CNN poll, for instance, showed 61% of Americans opposing that war at a moment when the country appeared to be sliding into an unstoppable civil war, with dozens of Americans dying there each month.

How can that be? Among other things, Iraq became a kind of partisan issue, one that seemed to rally hard-core conservatives behind George W. Bush. Perhaps related, Bush spent far more time making the case for that war than Obama does. White House aides bridle at the idea that Obama doesn’t talk enough about the war, noting the letters he sends to the relatives of fallen troops. But it’s true that Obama has said precious little about Afghanistan since he appeared in prime time to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden. Propping up public opinion probably requires making a stronger case. The question is how strongly Obama himself believes that case; it’s far from clear.