A majority of Americans are positive that the U.S. has struck sites in Iraq from the air in the last six months, and a majority of Americans are nearly equally sure that the U.S. has not attacked Gaza in that same time period. Folks get a little fuzzy on whether or not America is executing airstrikes in Iran, but a plurality is pretty sure that American warplanes are not conducting missions over that country. When it comes to Syria, though, far too few Americans know what, if anything, we are doing there.
Acceding to a poll conducted by YouGov (via Huffington Post Politics editor Ariel Edwards-Levy), only 32 percent of Americans know the United States is not bombing targets inside Syria. Another 30 percent believe strikes against Syrian targets are underway. That is a shockingly large number of disconnected Americans that are admittedly losing track of how America applies military force abroad.
Now, in defense of the 32 percent, America has been debating whether to execute strikes in Syria now for over one year. Each time the president has walked up to the line, however, he has blinked. It seems many Americans tuned in for the debate over whether the U.S. should strike Syrian targets but dropped out before they learned what the conclusion of that debate was.
YouGov found an even more dispiriting result when they asked respondents whether or not the United States was executing drone strikes over places like Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. In each case, a plurality was positive the U.S. was not mounting strikes inside these countries – in the case of Yemen, a vast plurality – but they are all wrong.
In Pakistan and Yemen, America has been conducting a fruitful counterterror drone campaign for several years. It was just this week that American forces executed a strike in Somalia which resulted in the death of a targeted Somali extremist leader.
While some might think that this confusion is due to the unwelcome proliferation of targets on American planners’ lists, and there is a strong political if not operational case to be made for scaling back the expanding number of fronts in the war on terror. Most Americans, however, don’t seem to agree with that notion. With the exception of Gaza and Ukraine, two places where America has no intention of bombing anything, a plurality for a majority of Americans approved of strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Syria when the time comes.