The Impact Of Public Opinion On U.S. Foreign Policy Since Vietnam Essay

The Impact Of Public Opinion On U.S. Foreign Policy Since Vietnam Essay

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Since the Vietnam War, the public's opinion has played major roles in how policymakers operate. Their opinions may not always support to choices which are best for the country, however they are still factored into the decision making. Richard Sobel discusses several cases on how the public's attitudes have affected policymaker's decisions in his book, "The Impact of Public Opinion on U.S. Foreign Policy Since Vietnam."

During the Persian Gulf War, public opinion ultimately shaped policy. How the policy was attained, not the goals of the policy were shaped by the public opinion. The Persian Gulf War would be the largest use of the U.S. military since Vietnam, thus causing the Bush administration to consider how the public would react when they presented the crisis. "A lack of consensus over issues such as the necessity, likely outcome, and cost of the war marked the period leading up to the actual fighting in January of 1991." The struggle within the Bush administration to overcome the doubt which the American people had shows how public opinion clearly affects foreign policy. When creating foreign policy, policymakers were sure to maintain the backing of the American people. "As Bush and his advisers tried to shape public opinion through it's foreign policy, public opinion actually shaped foreign policy. Public opinion did not specifically determine the destination of the policy, but it had a lot to do with how the administration got there."

Saddam Hussein sent troops into Kuwait on August 2, overtaking it and renaming it Kuwait City, Iraq's 19th province. Bush sent 50,000 troops to the Gulf on August 8 and ordered a naval blockade on August 12. This increased the support from the American people to 80 percent. ...


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...c opinion (Carlucci, 6/18/93)." Carlucci felt that while it may suggest possible options, public opinion should not influence decisive military action abroad. While making policy, Carlucci tried ignoring public and Congressional opinions.

Reagan Pollster Richard Wirthland agreed with Carlucci that the President should create public opinion rather than follow it. Although some issues may be unpopular, the President must still consider implementing them. According to Wirthland, "public opinion lacks the strength of influencing policy itself." Congressman John Spratt was aware of his constituent's opposition to contra aid, but did not let that determine his voting. Since nearly fifty percent of his constituents were undecided, he had leeway without deliberation. Public opinion did not to play a major role in the Nicaragua case due to their lack of knowledge.

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