Americans support sending more troops to the Middle East over the eastern Pacific region according to results of a national survey released Thursday, a sharp contrast to results from the same survey in 2022.
The U.S. has surged troops to the Middle East to deter and defend against rising aggression from regional Iran-backed militias that have involved direct strikes on U.S. troops, seemingly precipitated by the Israel-Hamas war. Despite efforts in Washington and the Pentagon to focus U.S. military strength on deterring China in the eastern Pacific, results from the 2023 Reagan National Defense Survey suggest that when forced to choose only one region, more Americans would commit forces to the Middle East compared to any other world region.
Nearly a third, or 31%, Americans would forward-deploy forces to the Middle East, compared to 25% for East Asia and 19% for Europe. The results are flipped from responses to the same question in 2022, when 31% Americans answered East Asia and only 11% said the Middle East.
Central America, South Asia, South America and Africa each received less than 5% of American support, while 16% of respondents selected “don’t know.”
In addition, when asked to distribute U.S. military forces, resources and attention worldwide, respondents on average proposed 19% in the Middle East, 18% in East Asia and 17% in Europe, with the remainder split between four additional regions, the survey showed.
The results of the Reagan survey do not suggest that Americans have elevated threats in the Middle East above those in East Asia however.
Roughly three-quarters of Americans worry that China will invade Taiwan and see a possibility China could surpass the U.S. as the world’s most powerful country, including militarily, the survey found. In addition, more Americans cited China’s military buildup as a concern in the 2023 survey than did in the 2022 survey.
“Our survey shows that Americans remain resolved, like President Reagan was, to support those defending freedom around the world,” Roger Zakheim, director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Institute, said in a press release. “In a time of increased global conflict, rather than backing away, Americans have shown their commitment to standing up against authoritarianism and bolstering U.S. global leadership.”
On Nov. 26, the Carrier Strike Group Eisenhower (IKECSG) completed a transit of the Strait of Hormuz to enter the waters of the Arabian Gulf as the Strike Group continues to support USCENTCOM missions.
While in the Arabian Gulf, the IKECSG are patrolling to ensure freedom of… pic.twitter.com/0GzRZQ7awM
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) November 26, 2023
The survey was conducted in October and November 2023, as the war in Gaza continued and attacks from Iranian proxy militias on bases hosting U.S. troops escalated. As of Thursday, U.S. positions in Iraq and Syria have been attacked 74 times by Iran-backed groups since the first one occurred on Oct. 17, according to Fox News.
The Houthi rebels in Yemen also appeared to target a U.S. warship Wednesday, and the U.S. naval forces operating in the Arabian Gulf region have intercepted multiple projectiles the Houthis likely launched toward Israel.
The Navy extended the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group’s deployment and redirected it to the seas around the Arabian peninsula to bolster protection of U.S. troops in the region.
An additional 300 troops along with nearly a dozen air defense systems have also arrived in the U.S. Central Command region to protect American service members from threats of attacks by Iran-backed militias.
Beacon Research and Shaw & Company Research cooperated on the survey, interviewing 2,500 Americans over a 10-day period from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5.
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