Veterans, Americans Don’t Believe US Foreign Policy Makes US Safer

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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A new poll in advance of Veterans’ Day shows that vets and Americans don’t believe U.S. foreign policy has made the country more safe.

The poll, released by RealClearPolitics and the Charles Koch Institute on Thursday, shows many Americans and veterans believe U.S. foreign policy has made the country less safe over the last 20 years and aren’t even sure about where troops are deployed.

For example, 41 percent of veterans, when asked about the effects of U.S. foreign policy over the last 20 years, said that it made the country less safe, while 35 percent said the country was more safe. A total of 19 percent said safety levels remained the same. Among the general population, 43 percent said the effects of U.S. foreign policy made the country less safe, while only 28 percent said more safe.

Veterans also don’t seem to believe that U.S. foreign policy made the world safer, either, as 40 percent reported that the world has become less safe over the last 20 years. The same figure held true for the general population.

Both the general public and veterans also think that threat posed by terrorism to the U.S. has markedly increased over the same time period. A total of 71 percent of veterans said there are more terrorists threatening the U.S., while just 9 percent said there were fewer. The general population, at 71 percent, also believes there are more threats from terrorists.

Interestingly, the poll revealed a tension between opinions of U.S. foreign policy and opinions of military engagement. As such, while many veterans and civilians don’t believe U.S. foreign policy has made either the country or the world safer, 40 percent of veterans said that more military engagement would make America safer and just 34 percent said less safe.

Among the general population, however, 41 percent said more military engagement would make the U.S. less safe and only 27 percent said safer.

Interestingly, in one specific case of potential intervention, 47 percent of veterans said that military intervention in North Korea would make the already volatile situation even more dangerous. And 57 percent of the general population agreed.

“Americans are unclear of all the places where the U.S. military is engaged, concerned about whether our foreign policy has been making us safer, and wary of war with North Korea. These views are also shared by veterans,” Will Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, said in a statement. “This survey shows that veterans are actually a diverse group when it comes to issues of using force abroad. They aren’t all enthusiastic about relying on military power to solve problems, as is sometimes stereotypically assumed.”

Many veterans and Americans also have no real idea about where U.S. troops are deployed abroad. The recent revelations of troops in Niger, which many members of Congress even professed bafflement about, were unknown to 71 percent of the general public and 55 percent of veterans.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 26 to Oct. 31 and relied on a sample size of 1,000 Americans, 500 of whom are either active-duty service members or veterans. The margin of error for the general population is plus or minus four percentage points.

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