"They’ll like us when we win," the West Wing’s Toby Ziegler said of the Arab world. David Cameron
might have said the same when public opinion was turning against the intervention in Libya. And, judging by today’s "http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/yg-archives-pol-sun-results-libya-230811.pdf">YouGov poll, he’d have been right.
Public support for military intervention has mirrored the public’s view of how well the action is going. In the first two weeks, when optimism prevailed, the public were largely in favour.
However, as that optimism wore off and people increasingly doubted that the rebels could succeed, more and more began to oppose our involvement. Before the weekend, just 26 per cent thought the
intervention was going well, and only 31 per cent were in favour of it. In the latest poll, conducted amidst headlines proclaiming Gadaffi’s imminent downfall, more than half thought it was going
well and 41 per cent supported it — a return to the positivity of the first days of the campaign.
It’s a similar story for Cameron’s handling of the situation. Support spiked as military operations began, only to decline as victory seemed elusive. This week they’ve returned to those early
highs, suggesting that his role in Gaddafi’s demise may well help Cameron’s standing with the electorate here at home.
As for what comes next, the public — wary of the experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq — overwhelmingly oppose prolonged military deployment to keep the peace, as well as long-term
spending on Libya’s reconstruction and development. People are more receptive to the ideas of giving Libya emergency aid and sending police as advisers only.
And while there is optimism about the outcome of this particular conflict, there are mixed predictions for the Middle East as a whole. On the plus side, 34 per cent think the Arab Spring will make
the region more democratic and 30 per cent think there will be more respect for human rights. On balance, though, Brits think the area will be less peaceful and more vulnerable to terrorism.
Overall, just 23 per cent are "more optimistic about the future of the Middle East" in light of recent events, compared to 35 per cent who are less so. It seems that Brits are worried
that, as John R. Bradley wrote in February, the Arab Spring may turn into an Arabian nightmare.