62% in CBS/NYT poll: Stay out of Syria

On this point, the CBS/NY Times poll shows a rare cross-partisan consensus, too, although it dims considerably with people paying closer attention to the conflict in Syria.  Despite all the talk of chemical weapons and red lines, only 24% of Americans overall think the US has a responsibility to take action — up from last month’s 20%, but not outside the margin of error.  On the other hand, 62% reject the idea that the US has a responsibility to get involved:


Sixty-two percent of Americans continue to say the United States does not have a responsibility to intervene in the fighting in Syria, while 24 percent of Americans think the United States does have a responsibility to do something about the fighting between government forces and anti-government groups there – a four point increase since last month.

Most Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree that the U.S. does not have a responsibility to get involved in the conflict in Syria.

Even as news of the possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government was announced by the Obama Administration, fewer Americans are paying attention to news about Syria than were doing so last month. In March, slightly more than half of all Americans were following news about Syria at least somewhat closely. Now, four in 10 say they are doing so, including just 10 percent who are following it very closely.

Still, those following the news about Syria very closely are far more likely to think the U.S. has a responsibility to get involved there. Nearly half (47 percent) of that group thinks the U.S. has a responsibility to get involved there — though about as many do not (48 percent).

This latter demo feels a lot like self-selection bias.  People inclined to want the US to intervene will be more likely to pay closer attention to developments in Syria.  Even at that, it’s an even split.  And that group has dropped by 15 points, according to the NYT’s analysis of the data.


Doug Bandow endorses the majority position at Forbes:

The Syrian civil war lurches on, adding new casualties every day.  The campaign to push the U.S. into the Syrian civil war also marches on, threatening to add American casualties to the human toll.  Possible use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government is another reason to stay out, not to get in.

Washington’s foreign policy should be one of peace.  There are tragic times when war becomes necessary, but thankfully not often.  Especially for America, which enjoys a privileged international position. …

Syria stands out as a conflagration in which the U.S. should play no role.  There is no threat to America.  President Bashar al-Assad is evil, not stupid.  He wouldn’t attack the U.S. or an allied government, such as Israel, before; he certainly wouldn’t do so now with his regime under siege.

Damascus may have facilitated attacks on U.S. forces during Washington’s occupation of Iraq, but it’s late to use that as a casus belli.  Moreover, Americans should pause before treating such action as a cause for war:  today the U.S. is actively aiding Syria’s rebels and during the Cold War Washington armed insurgents against the Soviet Union and its Afghan ally, as well as Nicaragua.  America may well do the same again in the future against other nations viewed as hostile.

Syria is a civil war, not genocide.  The killings are awful, but that is what happens in low-tech conflicts.  Two sides, with the military balance steadily equalizing, are battling for control of the country.  Such a struggle is unlikely to have a good outcome, whoever prevails.


That’s my argument today in The Week, as well.  Which side would we pick for the winner?  Neither, which is one good reason why we should stay well out of the war, among others:

Apparently, no one has learned any lessons from what happened in Lebanon in the early 1980s, Afghanistan in the late 1980s, or in Libya over the last two years. In all three cases, lightweight American/Western intervention emboldened Islamist terror networks, unleashing waves of radicalization that undermined or toppled nearby nations, and made the region less safe as a result. The Lebanon intervention resulted in a Hezbollah attack that killed more than 240 Marines and convinced Ronald Reagan to retreat, emboldening Hezbollah and other Islamist terrorist groups. One could argue that the result in Afghanistan — the humiliation and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union — still made the effort worthwhile, even if it did produce Taliban control and a string of successful al Qaeda attacks against American interests, including 9/11. It also resulted in our 11-year war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history and longer than the Soviet intervention that necessitated it.

There is no corresponding good argument from our Libyan adventure. The U.S.-initiated NATO intervention quickly escalated from a “right to protection” argument regarding the population of Benghazi to an undeclared war against Moammar Gadhafi. The quick decapitation of that regime did not result in a unified Libya with an enlightened self-government, but in a failed state controlled in some places by the type of Islamist terror networks we have been fighting for more than a decade. Those networks, freed from the oppression of Gadhafi, quickly organized into an insurgency in neighboring Mali, which only narrowly missed seizing control of the north African nation when foiled by a French military intervention. …

An intervention of any scale in Syria would produce another Libya, or worse. At least in Libya, there were secular groups in the mix, mainly in Tripoli, even if they ended up without much power. In Syria, there are no good options. The New York Times reported over the weekend that the opposition is so dominated by Islamist militias that “nowhere in rebel-controlled Syria is there a secular fighting force to speak of.”

In fact, there is a plethora of sectarian fighting forces, and they’re not all on the same side, either. Hezbollah has entered the civil war on behalf of Assad, which pits the Iranian and Syrian establishments and their Shi’ite extremists against grassroots Sunni extremists. In no way is that a fight that should interest Americans; rather, we should be taking great care not to get entangled in it at all.


This is one civil war that should remain a localized civil war.  Let’s sit this one out.

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