MIT students on military engagements

No surprises — students want to leave Iran alone, disagree with Iraq

3555 fpsurvey 3
Should we use military force to prevent Iranian nuclear development?
3557 fpsurvey 2
Did the U.S. make the right or wrong decision in using military force in Afghanistan?
3559 fpsurvey 1
Did the U.S. make the right or wrong decision in using military force in Iraq?

Last November, The Tech published some of the results of a campus-wide political survey. We asked graduate and undergraduate students about their views on today’s most important social, political, and economic issues, and 2,145 people — 20 percent of campus — responded. Here, we present your responses to military engagement questions, particularly concerning the United States’ role in the Middle East.

Iran is a source of perennial concern in Middle East politics. The country has been aggressively pursuing a nuclear energy program, which many governments, including the US, believe to be a build-up to developing nuclear weapons. Some critics have proposed that military intervention would be justified in an effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We asked what MIT students felt was more important — preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it meant taking military action, or avoiding military conflict with Iran, even if it meant the country may develop nuclear weapons. The answer corroborated other data characterizing MIT students as being generally left-leaning: 1,005 students, or about 47 percent of respondents, said avoiding military conflict was more important. About 30 percent said preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons was more important, even if it meant military conflict. Interestingly, a large contingent of respondents, 480 of them (22 percent), were unsure. In comparison, an October 2009 Pew poll reported that 61 percent of Americans supported military action to prevent nuclear weapon development, which is double the MIT support for the same response.

Unsurprisingly, most MIT students believe the United States made the wrong decision in choosing to invade Iraq in 2003 — 70 percent, to be exact. Only 323 students in our survey (15 percent) said it was the right decision, and a plurality of those — 37 percent — identified with the Republican Party. Still, about 20 percent of those who agreed with the decision to invade Iraq identified with the Democratic Party (but only 7 percent of Democrats agreed with the decision to invade Iraq). Libertarians who felt it was the wrong decision to invade Iraq outnumbered those who felt it was the right decision by more than three to one. As was the case when considering Iran, almost as many students were “unsure” about the decision to invade Iraq as were those who felt it was right — 308, or roughly 14 percent.

But Afghanistan is a different animal altogether. Approximately 45 percent of students felt it was the right decision to use military force in Afghanistan in 2001, while 32 percent said it was wrong and about 22 percent reported “unsure” or did not answer. According to an August 2010 Pew poll, 52 percent of Americans felt it was the right decision, 38 percent the wrong decision, and only 10 percent didn’t know or declined to answer.

International students at MIT tend to be more cautious about invading other countries. Fifty-six percent of non-U.S. citizens preferred to avoid military conflict with Iran, and 76 percent felt it was wrong to engage in Iraq. Internationals were nearly tied on the Afghanistan question — 42 percent felt it was wrong to invade, and 38 percent felt it was right.

Keep a look out on this page for future survey analysis!