In his New York Times article about why US troops will (and should) remain in Iraq beyond 2008, NYU law professor Noah Feldman provides a common mischaracterization of American public opinion.

He concedes that Iraqis and Americans agree “that US troops don’t belong in Iraq.” But he goes on to write that Americans feel a “deep ambivalence” about exiting Iraq and that “leaving too fast is seen as undesirable as well.” To buttress his claim, he cites a poll by CNN showing that only 21 percent of Americans want to bring all the troops home now.

Feldman, like many former and current war advocates, is misreading public opinion to support his own views about Iraq. Americans may be ambivalent about leaving, but they are remarkably clear about the need to go, sooner rather than later. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, sixty percent of Americans favor “setting a timetable for withdrawing all US troops from Iraq no later than the fall of 2008.”

Feldman and others can argue for staying in Iraq. But they shouldn’t hide behind public opinion to make their case.