The topline number: 24/68 on the question of whether the U.S. should “use military action to attempt to end the conflict.” The real news, though, is in the partisan split — specifically, the fact that there isn’t much of one. Rand Paul 1, McCain 0?
As this was breaking at Gallup this morning, the following was breaking at Reuters:
Security officials say lawless southern Libya has become the latest haven for al Qaeda-linked fighters after French-led forces drove them from strongholds in northern Mali this year, killing hundreds.
“The south of Libya is what the north of Mali was like before,” said a senior adviser to Mali’s interim President Diouncounda Traore, asking not to be named.
Niger has said last week’s suicide raids, which killed 25 people at the army base and desert uranium mine run by France’s Areva, were launched from Libya. Amid growing tensions between the two countries, Libya has denied this…
“As much as the West may wish to leave the problem to Africans, it cannot,” said Vicki Huddleston, a former U.S. ambassador to Mali. “Islamists will continue to fight until defeated by the region working together and supported by Western governments.”
The next intervention in Syria may have to wait, in other words, because we’ll be too busy re-intervening in Libya to help clean up the mess left by the Qaddafi power vacuum. And the longer the Syrian intervention waits, the harder it becomes (which has been one of McCain’s few good points in all this). The AP reported this morning that MiG plans to sell 10 new fighters to Assad, which undercuts Russia’s claim that it’s only interested in providing defensive weaponry to the regime. Other advanced weapons may yet be on the way as Putin doubles down on protecting his client. Maybe that’s part of O’s reasoning in delaying — the more time he takes to decide on intervening, the bigger the challenge gets, and thus the stronger the argument for not intervening at all becomes.
One footnote on the Gallup numbers. The -44 split on intervention is, I believe, the widest gap in any poll taken on this subject, a sign perhaps that the public’s trending away from action in Syria as the McCain-ians beat the Do Something drum more loudly. If you look at the numbers over time at Polling Report, though, you’ll see that when pollsters mention Assad using chemical weapons, the numbers look different. A Pew poll taken last month found a 45/31 split on whether the U.S. should act militarily if chemical attacks by the regime are confirmed; two weeks ago, CNN got a 66/30 split on basically the same question. There are news reports published as recently as yesterday that Assad’s begun to use chemical weapons more frequently due to the west’s inaction over previous attacks. If Obama does end up deciding that it’s time for a no-fly zone, expect him to hammer the WMD point heavily as a way of building popular support. Realistically, it’s the only way he can sell intervention to the public.