Few troops think the U.S. will be drawn into a major new war within the next year, but many would like to see more military forces deployed to problem spots overseas, according to an exclusive Military Times poll of active-duty troops.
Nearly two-thirds of troops surveyed believe the United States should increase its military involvement on the Korean peninsula, and 42 percent think the American military should step up activities in Eastern Europe to counter aggression from Russia.
Nevertheless, troops surveyed in the September poll report a largely optimistic view of the world.
Only 5 percent of servicemembers polled think a new major conflict for the military is imminent in the next year.
Two-thirds said such a military fight is not likely.
Since taking office in January, Trump has said he hopes to avoid fights with foreign adversaries but has also threatened military action if needed.
In recent months, Trump has also taken to social media to criticize North Korea for its missile tests, implying that the U.S. may pursue air strikes against the regime if the aggressive moves continue.
Of the 64 percent of troops who said the Pentagon should increase involvement on the Korean peninsula, 37 percent backed a “major increase” in American military might.
North Korea was seen as the second most significant threat to national security in the poll, trailing only cyber terrorism. About half — 53 percent — said they approve of current U.S. policies towards North Korea.
Domestic terrorists with ties to Islam were third, and foreign terrorists with ties to Islam were fourth. Russia, America’s long-time Cold War adversary, was fifth.
And only one in four troops surveyed said they approve of Trump’s handling of Russia.
Although a substantial number of troops are still deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, neither country was considered a major long-term threat by troops in the poll. Only 22 percent called Afghanistan a significant national security threat; 17 percent said the same about Iraq.
Service members appear split over whether Trump’s policies have hurt relations with NATO countries. Trump has vowed to make traditional U.S. allies contribute more in money and manpower to the security operations and, occasionally mocking longtime partners for failing to do so.
Among service members, 32 percent described current U.S. relations with allies as good, 30 percent as average, and 35 percent as poor.
Between Sept. 7 and 25, Military Times conducted a voluntary, confidential online survey of U.S. service members. The questions focused on President Trump’s time in the White House and national security issues facing U.S. leaders.
The survey received 1,131 responses from active-duty troops. A standard methodology was used to estimate the weights for each individual observation of the survey sample. The margin of error was roughly 3 percent. The survey audience was 86 percent male and 14 percent female, and had a mean age of 30 years old.
The respondents identified themselves as 76 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African American, 2 percent Asian and 5 percent other ethnicities. Respondents were able to select more than one race.