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Poll: Are you OK with bombing civilians?

Some people think that bombing and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians are sometimes justified while others think that this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that such attacks are often justified, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified?

In December of last year, a sample of Americans was asked this question in a poll by the Program on International Public Attitudes, and their responses were:

  • often- 5%
  • sometimes- 19%
  • rarely- 27%
  • never- 46%
  • The remainder said "don't know" or refused to respond.

Recently, a survey by the Pew Research Center (pdf) asked Muslim Americans: 

Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Other people believe that, no matter what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never justified? 

The responses were:

  • often or sometimes- 8% (15% for those ages 18-29)
  • rarely- 5% (11% for those ages 18-29)
  • never- 78% (69% for those ages 18-29)
  • The remainder said "don't know."

Any statistician will tell you that you have to be cautious in comparing the results of two separate polls, but at the very least, the results above show that when it comes to intentionally attacking civilians, Muslim Americans don't support it any more than Americans at large do.

In my blog post yesterday, I said it was "unsettling" that "one in four young U.S. Muslims surveyed agreed that suicide bombing of civilians was at times acceptable." Well, now I also find it unsettling that 51 percent of my fellow Americans think it's acceptable to intentionally attack civilians. It's not too surprising, however. Many Americans think that dropping nuclear bombs on Japanese civilians during World War II was acceptable, so it makes sense that a sizable fraction think—at least on certain occasions—that bombing civilians is justifiable. Troubling indeed.

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Kazakh president for life hailed by U.S.

Scott Barbour/Getty

In a move worthy of the world's most dastardly despots, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev recently approved a constitutional amendment that abolishes term limits for presidents, allowing him to seek office again in 2012, when his current term expires. Considering he managed to pull in a highly questionable 91 percent of the vote in 2005, there's no cause to believe the autocratic leader will be going anywhere anytime soon.

In response, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack has called the legislation "a step in the right direction."  Wh-what?

Presumably, McCormack was speaking in reference to the other legislation packaged with the amendment, which serves to give the Kazakh Parliament greater power and autonomy. Though McCormack acknowledged that the reforms were perhaps not "exactly what we would have hoped," he maintained that "we're not going to impose it on them." The "it" is, of course, democracy, the imposition of which has proven difficult for the United States in recent years.

This retreat to realpolitik has little to do with any lessons learned in Iraq; rather, it is a reflection of the vital interest Washington perceives in a strong, stable Kazakhstan. It so happens that the former Soviet state will be one of the world's top 10 oil producers within the decade. More immediately, Kazakhstan is a vital link in U.S. and E.U. plans to bypass Russia in the export of oil from the Caspian Sea. Outraged, Nazarbayev's opponents have accused the United States of "valuing oil more than democracy." Sorry, friends—welcome to the real world.