Americans want the U.S. to keep out of Syria conflict: Most Americans do not want the United States to intervene in Syria’s civil war even if the government there uses chemical weapons, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Wednesday, in a clear message to the White House as it considers how to respond to the worsening crisis.
Only 10 percent of those surveyed in the online poll said the United States should become involved in the fighting. Sixty-one percent opposed getting involved.
The figure favoring intervention rose to 27 percent when respondents were asked what the United States should do if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons. Forty-four percent would be opposed.
“Particularly given Afghanistan and the 10th anniversary of Iraq, there is just not an appetite for intervention,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.
The rebellion against Assad’s government has resulted in 70,000 dead and created more than 1.2 million refugees since it erupted in 2011.
Continue reading about the Syrian civil war and American sentiment.
Photo: a Syrian boy plays with an AK-47 rifle owned by his father. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
No one should be overly surprised that most Americans want the U.S. to stay out of foreign conflicts, especially given the long shadow of American involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. It can be very costly to intervene and there are no guarantees of success (whatever that would mean in the Syrian case).
Interestingly, no one in the article mentions what I take to be an equally long shadow … though one that isn’t cast over lost American lives and resources. That is, of course, the shadow of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and the decision by the U.S. to stay as far away from intervention as possible.
I’m not suggesting here that non-intervention in Syria should be considered akin to non-intervention in Rwanda; they’re clearly very different in any number of ways. Nor am I suggesting that Americans necessarily need to throw their support behind the idea of putting soldiers on the ground in Syria. The question asked by the poll seems quite broad, about getting “involved in the fighting” … and there are certainly plenty of ways to do so that that aren’t, as Matthew Duss rightly notes about many of our interventions, “costly, open-ended and strategically questionable military adventures.”
But steering clear of involvement in situations that are clearly human rights catastrophes have what I take to be obvious and terrible costs. When only 27% of Americans polled here think that the use of chemical weapons by the state against its citizens warrants intervention, my sense is that those costs aren’t really being considered all too deeply.
These numbers, taken from the same Reuters article quoted above, back me up:
Many Americans are still oblivious to events in Syria. The poll found that about one-third, or 36 percent, had neither heard nor read anything about the civil war there.
Only 8 percent said they had heard or read a great deal and 19 percent said they had heard or read a “fair amount.”
It’s hard to claim that this position against intervention, then, is some sort of principled stance against military adventurism or a reaction to the Bush administration’s interventions; instead, it seems built on a lack of knowledge about the situation in Syria.