CHICAGO (AP) -- The gruesome sight of an American soldier's body being dragged through the streets of Somalia's capital by a mob horrified the nation. Within days, a date was announced for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The terrorist bomb that ripped through a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon and left more than 240 dead, sent shock waves across the country. Within months, America's peacekeeping mission there was over.
Now the questions arise: Will public support of war with Iraq waver if casualties are high or fighting drags on? And, do America's adversaries count on a weakening of resolve?
Some experts say Americans have become more determined since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and will stand firm behind military action against Iraq just as they have in the campaign to root out al-Qaida terrorists throughout the world.
"I have no doubt that after Sept. 11, all Americans have the resolve to see this through," says John Allen Williams, professor of political science at Loyola University in Chicago. "It has convinced them that there are real threats out there and they need to do something about them."
Not everyone agrees.
Charles Moskos, a military sociologist at Northwestern University, sees no new mood of sacrifice in the post-Sept. 11 climate, noting that military enlistment has not increased since then.
"Putting a flag on your SUV is not a sacrifice," he says. "It's patriotism lite."
Moskos also dismissed public opinion surveys registering healthy support for war. "Those polls mean nothing until people die," he says.
He notes that fewer than 550 American military personnel were killed altogether in missions in Lebanon (1983) and Somalia (1993), the invasions of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), the first Persian Gulf war (1991) and the ongoing campaign in Afghanistan.
"Being a taxi driver is more dangerous than being a member of the military since Vietnam," Moskos says.
Some polls have shown the majority of Americans back a U.S. campaign to topple Saddam Hussein -- but would be more comfortable with allied support.
One survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in mid-February showed 66 percent approval of military action against Iraq.
These results suggest the public is willing to hang tough "and pay the costs of a military engagement because of its feeling of vulnerability coupled with its fear and dislike of Saddam," says Andrew Kohut, the Pew Center's director.
But the poll also found 57 percent of those surveyed wanted a second U.N. resolution backing an attack.
The Pew poll also found 55 percent of those questioned worry a great deal about high numbers of U.S. casualties.
Some politicians cite the U.S. government's war on terrorism as proof of American resolve.
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