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Bombing Agrabah

According to research from Public Policy Polling, 30% of Republicans and nearly 20% of Democrats support the bombing of Agrabah. The left-leaning polling organization makes a big deal of the level of Republican support, but the level of Democratic support is disturbingly high as well.

It's disturbing because not only is there no military or economic benefit to be gained from this action, it's hard to imagine a way it could be carried out in the first place. Agrabah is a fictional city from the 1992 film Aladdin.

Overall, the public was evenly split in its opinions. About a fourth supported a bombing campaign, another fourth opposed it, and half had no opinion or no preference.

Public Policy Polling has a history of asking curveball questions. For example, in an 2013 poll they asked Louisiana residents whether George W. Bush or Barack Obama was more responsible for the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, and found the public equally divided about who was to blame. In 2011 they asked Republican voters whether they expected Barack Obama and/or Sarah Palin to be "taken up to heaven in the rapture".

The results of both of those questions are disturbing enough, but the question about bombing Agrabah reveals something dark and vengeful about the American psyche. When asked about the possibility of dropping bombs on a place they weren't familiar with, three fourths of the population were unwilling to say no. Those who expressed no opinion are just as culpable as those who expressed outright support for bombing the cartoon city, because when military actions begin, most "I don't know" answers (and for that matter, a significant amount of "no" answers) quickly flip to "yes".

Just prior to the 2003 Iraq invasion, for example, although a majority of Americans supported military action, only 47% supported going without first seeking U.N. approval. But even though President Bush declined to seek U.N. approval, support for the invasion rose to 72% within days after troops hit the ground.

So there's no comfort in the fact that only 25% of Americans favor war with Agrabah.

Likewise, there's no comfort in knowing it's only a hypothetical question. If only 1/4 of all Americans are opposed to bombing an imaginary city, what might the numbers be for a real city? This poll makes it clear that a large number of Americans want to bomb somebody. In this atmosphere a demogogic leader would only need to supply the name of a target, and could then expect a clear majority to rally to the cause. Most Americans wouldn't even care who the target is.

That's not a healthy way to interact with the rest of the world.

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