After 15 years of war, America's military has about had it with 'nation building'
By: Andrew Tilghman, September 22, 2016Editor's note: This story is part of a series examining the views of military service members ahead of the presidential election.
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Most American military personnel are deeply skeptical of the United States' nation-building missions overseas and would prefer to see leaders in Washington focus the country's resources on less ambiguous missions like killing terrorists and protecting the homeland, according to a new first-of-its-kind survey.
The poll of more than 2,200 active-duty troops, a collaboration between Military Times and Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families, gauged service members’ opinions on U.S. foreign policy priorities. It was conducted in early September. Other questions assessed service members' political views as the nation prepares to elect a new president.
One survey question asked: “How do you view the U.S. government’s continued involvement in nation-building efforts, establishing democracies in the Middle East and North Africa using U.S. military and financial support?” About 55 percent of respondents said they "strongly oppose" or "somewhat oppose" those efforts while 23 percent expressed support for such missions. The remainder expressed no opinion on the issue.
Such views highlight the concerns likely to shape service members' voting patterns come November, and they underscore the extent to which many military professionals are uncomfortable with key polices advanced by Barack Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, as part of America's efforts to combat global terrorism. Both presidents leaned heavily on the military while pursuing varied degrees of nation building, notably in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their success in those endeavors remains questionable at best. The security situation in both countries is exceedingly fragile today — after 15 years of war, trillions of dollars spent, and thousands upon thousands of casualties.