The Persian Gulf crisis may have been the most extensively polled episode in U.S. history as President Bush, his opponents, and even Saddam Hussein appealed to, and tried to influence, public opinion. Yet until the publication of a new book by University of Rochester political scientist John Mueller, Policy and Opinion in the Gulf War [Univ. of Chicago Press, July 1994, $19.95], there has been no cogent account of the complex relationship between American policy and public opinion during the Gulf crisis.
In the book, Mueller analyzes such key issues as the actual shallowness of public support for war; the effect of public opinion on the media (rather than the other way around); the use and misuse of polls by policy makers; the American popular focus on Hussein's ouster as a central purpose of the War; and the War's short-lived impact on voting. Of particular interest is Mueller's conclusion that Bush succeeded in leading the country to war by convincing the public that it was inevitable, rather than right or wise.
Mueller places this analysis of the Gulf crisis in a broad political and military context, making comparisons to wars in Panama, Vietnam, Korea, and the Falklands, as well as to World War II and even the War of 1812. The book also collects nearly 300 tables charting public opinion through the Gulf crisis, making it a valuable reference for anyone interested in recent American politics, foreign policy, public opinion, and survey research.
Mueller has taught at the University of Rochester since 1965. He is the author of Retreat From Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War, War, Presidents, and Public Opinion, and dozens of scholarly analyses in such areas as public opinion and foreign policy. He also has contributed op-ed articles to the Wall Street Journal, to the New York Times, and to the Los Angeles Times.