Does public support for Libya stack up with past conflicts? INTERVENTION IN GRENADA: American forces dropped this flier over villages on the island.

More Americans agree than disagree with Obama’s decision to take military action in Libya. About 45% support the decision, compared to 34% who don’t, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll taken on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  The remainder (21%) isn’t sure. Those numbers closely match a Gallup poll taken on Monday.

Does the level of support for the Libya action surprise you? Higher or lower than you expected? It turns out the this level of approval is the lowest of other U.S. military campaigns in the past 40 years, say the pollsters at Gallup. Gallup has been polling for a long time and gives us historical perspective.

The highest level of initial support, not surprisingly, was for military incursions in Afghanistan right after 9/11. Nine of ten Americans approved. Eight of ten Americans supported American engagements in Iraq in 1993, with just less than that approving the Iraq war in 2003.

What about other engagements, both major and “minor”? (I put “minor” in quotes because the adjective refers to the American perspective—from the opponent’s perspective, it’s always major.) Here’s poll data: Kosovo and the Balkans (1999)—just over half (51) approved. Haiti in 1994? 54%. Grenada in 1983? 53% approved. And, this isn’t America’s first military foray into Libya. Back in 1986, the U.S. bombed Libya in retaliation for Libya’s Berlin discotheque bombing. Seven of ten Americans approved of this action, according to Gallup.

What do you make of the level of support for the U.S. intervention?

Do you see the current level of support rising? Or falling?

What factors should we watch in coming weeks?

(Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)

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