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Friday, October 21, 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

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • S1AMER

    I always wonder when I see polls like this:

    What proportion of the people polled could find Syria on a map? What proportion actually knows what’s been happening in Syria during the past few years?

    American foreign and domestic policy are driven by polls results. Think about that.

  • charleo1

    I don’t think there is any question in the mind of a large, and growing number of
    war weary Americans, that it’s past time to bring our troops home, and start taking care of some of our own serious problems here. I also think many see a disconnect, between the politician who thinks nothing of spending a billion dollars on an intervention in Libya. A country where we have no direct National interests. But, then baulks at infrastructure investment here, because he says, we just can’t afford to go on spending money we don’t have. I think many see the rebuild roads, and bridges, and state of the art power grid, and water plants, and giant military instillations, built with money, someone, somehow managed to find. In a Country, (Iraq,) that still hates our guts. And with their freedom our troops gave their lives to secure for them, have decided aganist democracy for a sectarian tribal based, Theocracy, much like their brothers in Iran. I think a lot of Americans fail to see how the world is better, or how such an investment, poured into the sands of the Middle East, is going to make paying for their kids college education any easier. Make their healthcare any more affordable, or help to rebuild a Middle Class in a Country quickly becoming a lopsided have, and have nothing, society. And I think they have a good point.

    • sigrid28

      Try out this scenario. The White House delays, waiting for the results of UN testing in Syria, taking time to honor the anniversary of the March on Washington today, and consulting with allies, all the while signaling that action might be taken, a serious human rights violation has occurred. A gradual understanding builds within the U.S. over the Labor Day weekend and holiday. People start to understand where Syria is on a map, what the problem is, who our allies are, what the options are–they catch up with the Beltway crowd and the media. The president “reluctantly” agrees either to wait until Congress reconvenes after the Jewish high holidays, as scheduled, or to call Congress back early to debate the issue. He seems committed to taking action in Syria, but Republicans–who hate anything he proposes–vehemently disagree. Congress will not commit to military intervention in Syria, so the president CANNOT act as he would have liked to. Republicans have a hollow victory (which undermines their demand for military spending), and the president avoids getting us involved in another unpopular war in the Middle East. Our allies, whose constituents may also have grave misgivings, heave a sigh of relief because they, too, can withdraw from military intervention and look for other means of censure. Any intervention in the Syrian civil war must now be covert action, probably a more efficient way of dispatching with Assode and Al Quaeda factions working behind the scenes.

      • charleo1

        I like that for a couple of reasons. One, it allows the world community
        more time to process the evil event that has taken place. And the
        Parties, and the man responsible for the outrage. And the Communist
        Putin, that has his back. If we start launching tomahawks, then we
        become the story. And it’s how successful were they? And how weak of a response that turned out to be. Assad is still in power, and the children are still dead. Only no one is talking about them anymore
        it becomes about, “the response.” What will Putin do? Will the Israelis be attacked? What will Iran’s response be? Will Hezbollia in Lebanon step up their rocket attacks? Will Iran send in it’s Republican Guard into Syria, if it looks like Assad is losing? Or, is
        the U.S. using Syria as proxy war, as cover then, to attack Iran?
        And, who are the rebels? No I don’t like the looks of this thing at all.
        I also cannot think of a single reason Assad would use chemical weapons at this point. Because, Assad can read the mood of the American public at least as well as I can. So why would he do the one thing that would draw us into the conflict? But, I do like your cautious approach. There is also the Hell of a budget fight we’ve
        got shaping up domestically. So, how does a wider war in the Mid-
        East color that issue? I’m not sure. I just don’t like the looks of
        this thing from several angles.

        • sigrid28

          While I was OD-ing on the commemoration of the March on Washington yesterday, I did see BBC coverage on PBS, which showed Parliament giving Cameron a pretty hard time about committing resources to military intervention in Syria, even over the use of chemical weapons. Like the U.S., the British have ample resources to take care of chemical weapons in Syria using covert means rather than open military censure.

          I heard nothing–rien!–from those we sometimes uncharitably call cheese-eating surrender monkeys across the channel from Great Britain. Likewise our other “allies” in Europe, though I am sure back channels are filled with bilingual communications.

          The longer the delay in retaliation, the more misery for Assad and his troops, who are left dreading a response or imagining it. The longer the rest of the world hesitates to act and works for consensus, the more Russia and China are tempted to take care of it themselves, to save their dear friend Assad. They could swoop in and commandeer his chemical weapons, thus improving their own credibility worldwide.

          • charleo1

            I can well imagine the British public is fairly spent with helping
            yet another American President, with a preemptive military
            strike because of WMDs. And, although there is no doubt as
            to their actual presence. We can hardly blame the British for
            being a tough sell. It is a good bet the Obama Administration, frustrated in the UN by Russia, and China. Is turning to NATO Nations to, “punish,” Bashar Assad over the use of chemical weapons. The problem with that is, many, if not all of our NATO partners are still recovering from the world wide recession. Many of their populations have had economic austerity programs imposed on them by their governments. And see any military operation, but especially one of choice, as something that’s going to be expensive, and will probably
            exacerbate, and prolong their current economic doldrums.
            Turkey, a NATO Nation, will be especially important here.
            As tens of thousands of Syrians have fled the Civil War, and
            are now living just across the border in refugee camps. If
            they see this contemplated military action, as bringing the war to a quicker end, they will be supportive. However, if
            they find it would widen the conflict, and therefore make the refugee problem worse, they would most likely oppose it.

          • idamag

            Iraq did not have Al Qaeda before our intervention. Now they are creeping in. We will only cause deeper problems in Syria than they already have. For years, we allowed worse atrocities to take place in Africa and held our peace. If the UN inspectors find that chemical weapons were used and it is against the law, then the UN will call for forces in Syria and we won’t lose any more allies.

    • idamag

      Absolutely, we need to take care of our own problems before we start trying to solve everyone else’s

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    The United States had better learn that we can not be the World’s Police Force on a Unilateral Basis.

    Forming a solid consensus with the UN is the ONLY way to get anything done. At least, IF we screw up then, the world can’t blame only the US.

    It is not the responsibility of the United States to have “regime change” in any country when we have so many problems of our own we haven’t even begun to solve internally in our own country.

    Clean up our own backyards first. Then, we might have the justification AND approval of the rest of the world to go and clean up someone elses backyard.

    Right now the US is the laughing stock of the world trying to impose our form of justice and democracy on someone else. They all know we’re full of crap.

    Yes, we have the military might to do just about anything. But, we sure don’t have the high ground in moral fortitude to justify anything.

  • idamag

    Most Americans probably remember being lied into a war. I am one of those who thinks we should not arbitrarily strike Syria. We can’t afford any more conflicts. We can’t afford any new enemies. We already have an ugly reputation in the world. Let the UN take care of this and support the UN. We don’t have the money. We don’t have the troops.

  • tax payer

    Let them ( all kill each other ) and the illegals can take their place in that country, so we can be rid of them finally. Killing two birds with one stone make sense.