A broad majority of Americans, exhausted by nearly a dozen years of war and fearful of tripping into another one, are opposed to a military strike on Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/world/middleeast/poll-majority-of-americans-oppose-military-strike.html?ref=world Those findings illustrate the depth of the challenge facing President Obama as he tries to win support for a limited strike from a deeply reluctant Congress and an American public that has become steadily more skeptical of foreign engagement.
The poll underscores a steady shift in public opinion about the proper American role in the world, as fatigue from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has made people less open to intervening in the world’s trouble spots and more preoccupied with economic travails at home.
When asked whether the United States should intervene to turn dictatorships into democracies, 72 percent said no while only 15 percent said yes. That is the highest level of opposition in a decade of polling on this question. At the start of the Iraq war, 48 percent favored staying out and 29 percent favored getting involved.
“A lot of people bought the idea that if we create democracy in the Middle East, the terrorists would stop coming,” said Walter Russell Mead, a professor of humanities and foreign policy at Bard College. “But that conflation has disappeared, and that makes it harder to gin up the popular support for foreign military intervention.”
Obama, who has repeatedly ruled out sending troops to Syria and promised a “limited, tailored” operation, the findings reinforce his failure so far to make his case to the American public, which has seemed as skeptical as some of the nation’s allies.
“I just saw on the Internet that the Russians said they would take Syria’s weapons of mass destruction if they would give them up, and destroy them,” said Jim Ploskunak, 68, a retired manager of a foundry who lives in Charlo, Mont. “That’s better than war.”
“Whoever did the World Trade Center and those other places had specific targets in mind,” she said. “Did that make it right?”
For lawmakers, it is clear that their vote on Syria carries genuine peril. Seventy-six percent of people said it would matter in how they evaluated their representatives.
“If the people through their congressmen suggest we not go to war with Syria, then the people have spoken,” said Robert Holloway, 79, of Sparta, Ill.