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US weapons. Photo: SAA

Trump voters support withdrawal from Middle East

The United States will not disengage from the Middle East as its military has some 53 000 soldiers stationed in at last 27 bases in 12 Middle Eastern countries - not counting those in Syria. But the notion of withdrawing is popular with Trump voters.

Published: January 14, 2019, 6:24 am

    Washington

    Not only are American troops deployed in the Middle East, but there are also large numbers of civilian support staff working in many of these countries. There were 22 323 Pentagon contractors working in the CENTCOM area of operations in the Middle East, excluding Afghanistan.

    This number includes 9 762 US citizens, 12 020 third-country nationals and 541 host-country nationals. This represents a 15 per cent year-on-year increase in Pentagon contractors utilized in the region.

    Therefore, the move to withdraw at the most 5 000 troops and their supporting civilian contractors from Syria and into new bases in Iraq, is hardly a “disengagement” as some have tried to argue.

    The deployment of contractors to fulfill missions that 15 to 20 years ago would have been conducted by US troops gives the impression of a smaller American military footprint in the region, think tank Chatham House noted.

    Because the US has large economic interests in the Middle East, their overall presence in the region will not change. Weapon sales already add up to more than $5 billion per year, and some 17 percent of oil imports – 1,75 million barrels per day – come from the Middle East.

    In the US, media coverage and foreign policy discussion is more focused on the Middle East than on any other part of the planet. Even though the combined population of the 15 Middle East countries (414,3 million) represents slightly more than 5 per cent of the world’s total population (7.6 billion), the region remains a headline item in American political and media circles.

    Outside of North Korea, China and country-specific issues, the Middle East has remained in the spotlight in the US.

    Surprisingly, it is not the “war” party – as the Republican Party is called – that supports wars elsewhere. A new poll from Morning Consult/Politico found the majority of Democrats are actually against President Trump’s move to pull out of Syria and also oppose Trump pulling half the troops out of Afghanistan.

    Republicans overwhelmingly favor both pulling out of Syria and drawing down troops from Afghanistan. Non-evangelical Catholics were the most supportive of pulling out of Syria (64 percent) while Jews were the most opposed (34 percent).

    The poll also found that military households were also overwhelmingly in favor of ending the war (55 percent). Moreover, US military veterans have increasingly been voting for the Republican Party, researchers found.

    Steven L Foy and Salvatore J Restifo, assistant professors of sociology at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, examined shifts in party affiliation among generations of veterans. “Our results suggest that the historical tendency for veterans to identify as Democrats is reversing course,” Foy and Restifo noted.

    Among those who came of age before World War II, 55.4 percent identified as Democrats, 38.3 percent identified as Republicans and 6.2 percent considered themselves Independents.

    A third of veterans who turned 18 between 1972 and 2016 identified as Democratic. Just more than half said they were Republican, and 16,7 percent were Independent.

    For the study, the two researchers examined 18 years of data that the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center gathered through nationally representative surveys between 1974 and 2016. They focused on how men aged 18 and older answered questions about military service, political affiliation and their personal backgrounds. The scholars analyzed response data from a total of 10 251 people, 35 percent of whom were veterans.

    Foy and Restifo excluded women because they make up such a small proportion of the veteran population — 2 percent as of 2013, according to the US Department of Defense. Also, women have not been subject to compulsory military enlistment and possible conscription, which are factors the researchers considered as part of their analysis.

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