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U.S. Opinion on Violent Conflict

November 19, 2009
This publication is now archived.

The Use of Force

In international polls, most Americans agree that military force is sometimes necessary to maintain order in the world. Download full chapter (PDF).

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The UN Security Council and the Use of Force

International polls find that publics around the world, including in the United States, believe that the UN Security Council has the right to authorize the use of force to prevent and respond to violent conflict in a variety of contingencies. These include: to defend a country that has been attacked, to prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide, to stop a country from supporting terrorist groups, and to restore by force a democratic government that has been overthrown. More broadly, Americans say the idea that national sovereignty precludes intervention in the internal affairs of countries is outdated. Download full chapter (PDF).

UN Responsibility to Protect

Polls further find that the UN Security Council is seen as having not only the right, but the responsibility to authorize the use of military force to prevent severe human rights violations. Download full chapter (PDF).

UN Role in Peacekeeping

In principle, most Americans favor the United Nations having a standing peacekeeping force that it selects, trains, and commands. A majority also wants peacekeeping policy to be decided at the United Nations rather than by national governments or regional organizations. Americans favor providing financial support to the United Nations for peacekeeping. Download full chapter (PDF).

Participation in Military Operations to Prevent and Respond to Violent Conflict

A large majority in the United States approves in principle of participating in peacekeeping. As a general rule, support is strong for participation in post-conflict situations, but less consistent when it comes to intervening in civil conflict. In the recent past, Americans have expressed support for contributing U.S. troops to military operations in the Balkans, southern Lebanon, Haiti, and Liberia, and to enforce peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. A slight majority has also favored contributing to a UN operation to keep peace between India and Pakistan. Download full chapter (PDF).

War in Afghanistan

The Afghanistan war began with high majority support among the U.S. public, even though a majority expected it to last several years or longer. As of October 2009, about one-third of the public thinks the military action was a mistake, but six in ten disagree. A majority believes the war is going badly, and approval of the administration’s handling of Afghanistan has declined. However, a majority continues to reject the idea of withdrawal and substantially fewer than half even favor troop reductions. A majority approved of the troop increase in February 2009; however, there is not majority support for a second increase. Reasons Americans cite for maintaining the operation are to weaken terrorists’ ability to stage attacks and to keep the Taliban from regaining power. Download full chapter (PDF).

Intervention in Darfur

Many Americans feel that the United Nations has the responsibility, rather than simply the right, to intervene in Darfur. Approximately three out of four Americans has expressed a readiness to contribute U.S. troops to an international force to stop the killing and support a humanitarian operation in Darfur. Download full chapter (PDF).

Preference for Using U.S. Military Force as Part of UN Operation

Americans show significant resistance to using U.S. military force without UN approval except in self-defense or when vital interests are at stake. Even when it comes to defending other countries from aggression, Americans show reluctance to do so except as part of a UN operation. Support is quite strong for contributing U.S. troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Download full chapter (PDF).

The Responsibility to Participate in NATO and EU Military Operations

When NATO decides to take a military action, the U.S. public believes that all NATO members should contribute troops and, if not, at least contribute financially. American support for such a shared contribution is exceptionally higher than that expressed in other NATO member countries. Download full chapter (PDF).

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