Commentary Magazine


Do Americans Really Oppose Syria Intervention?

Ed Morrissey at HotAir flags an interesting Washington Post/ABC poll finds that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to a U.S. intervention in Syria–unless Syria loses control of its chemical weapons. Or attacks neighboring U.S. allies. Or Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons against his people. Or if the intervention is a no-fly zone that doesn’t involve ground troops. In those cases, the vast majority of the public supports it:

In general, 73 percent say the U.S. military should not get involved in the conflict. But almost exactly as many say they’d support U.S. military involvement if Syria were to lose control of its chemical weapons, as do 63 percent if the Assad regime used these banned weapons against its own people – an action that Barack Obama has warned would “cross a red line.”

Similarly, if Syrian forces were to attack nearby U.S. allies, 69 percent say they’d support U.S. military involvement. And regardless of any such specific provocation, 62 percent say they’d favor creation of a no-fly zone, provided no ground troops were used. (That may reflect the success of the no-fly zone over Libya, general preference for air vs. ground combat, or some combination of both.)

Even among those who initially oppose U.S. military intervention, more than half change their position given the specific circumstances proposed, including 69 percent who, despite initial hesitancy, support U.S. involvement if Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile became insecure. 

Those scenarios aren’t that far off. But this finding is interesting for another reason. There’s a lot of talk about how the public is war weary, but Americans have not shown an interest in turning to isolationism. As Seth pointed out recently, a growing percentage of Americans say the U.S. should use military force if need be to prevent a nuclear Iran. The public largely believes that the U.S. has a global responsibility to intervene under certain circumstances, even without a direct, imminent threat to our country. Defending our allies and stopping dictators from massacring their own people with chemical weapons is reason enough for most Americans.

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