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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Syria protest Times Square

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday, Americans overwhelmingly oppose the prospect of U.S. military action in Syria. The latest numbers revealed that 47 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should not intervene, and just 9 percent support President Obama taking action against the al-Assad regime in Syria.

As Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald points out, the idea of military intervention in Syria is less popular than:

—President Nixon during the Watergate scandal in 1974 (24 percent approval)

—Communism in 2011 (11 percent)

—BP during the Gulf oil spill in 2010 (16 percent)

—Paris Hilton in 2005 (15 percent)

In fact, the idea of intervening in Syria is as favorable to Americans as the U.S. Congress and Hugo Chavez.

Perhaps due to the long, costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is far less support for foreign intervention than in the past. Seitz-Wald points out that a majority of Americans stood behind intervening in Kosovo in 1999, the war in Afghanistan after September 11, the deployment of American troops to Iraq in 2003, sending UN troops to Darfur, Sudan in 2004, and aiding Libyans against Gadhafi in 2011.

Why is Syria different? Seitz-Wald speculates that, after years of war and casualties, humanitarian intervention is “indefinitely spoiled.”

“Libya at least had a more clear goal as to what was more militarily feasible, and even then it may have backfired in the public’s mind after the Benghazi attack. Syria is a mess, with no palatable alternative to Assad available,” Seitz-Wald explains. “Can you blame Americans for not wanting to get involved in another conflict, especially when the goal is so undefined and U.S. interest murky?”

Senior U.S. officials told NBC News that the U.S. could conduct a three-day missile strike in Syria as early as Thursday. But Americans would not support such actions even if it were absolutely certain that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is using chemical weapons against his own people. Reuters reports, “25 percent of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46 percent would oppose it.”

“The results — and Reuters/Ipsos polling on the use-of-chemicals question since early June — suggest that if Obama decides to undertake military action against Assad’s regime, he will do so in the face of steady opposition from an American public wary after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Reuters concludes.

Of all viable options for Syria, the choice with the most support among Americans is sending arms to the Syrian rebels — 27 percent favor that plan, while only 11 percent think we should be doing more than just arming the rebels fighting against the al-Assad regime. Just 12 percent are in favor of the U.S. conducting airstrikes, 11 percent in favor of a no-fly zone, 9 percent support a multinational invasion of the country, and a mere 4 percent support sending American troops to invade Syria.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said during the press briefing on Tuesday, “The options that we are considering are not about regime change,” adding, “They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”

Americans clearly don’t agree with the White House that intervention is a necessary step. If the Obama administration determines that intervening in Syria is in the nation’s best interest, then convincing the American public is an important next step.

Photo: Michael Fleshman via Flickr.com

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