A new poll from Washington Post/NBC shows broad public opposition to any US military intervention in Syria. Support for an attack on Syria if it used chemical weapons has fallen precipitously since early Summer. As Congress debates whether to authorize military action, a more relevant finding is the 70% of Americans who oppose any efforts by the US to arm Syrian rebels. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have made arming the rebels a condition for their support of military action.
President Obama, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, have argued that the US must strike Syria as “punishment” for its alleged use of chemical weapons on its populace. Obama said that the limited mission was intended to “degrade” the ability of the Syrian government to deploy chemical weapons. Even such a limited response is unpopular with the public.
Almost six out of ten Americans oppose a military strike, even if it can be proved that the Bashar Assad regime ordered the use of chemical weapons. Independents were the most opposed, with 66% opposing any military action in Syria.
On Monday, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, aggressive advocates for regime change in Syria, met with President Obama and urged him broaden his military plans in Syria. They want any military action to have an express goal of regime change and pressed Obama to give heavy weapons to the rebel forces.
This policy is even less popular with the American people. 70% of Americans don’t want the rebels armed by the US. A majority of Americans are “strongly” opposed to such action.
The Syrian conflict is muddled. The Syrian government is backed by Russia, China, Iran and the Hezollah militia. The rebels have a moderate, reform faction, but have a strong contingent of jihadis and supporters of al-Qaeda. There are very real fears that weapons we provide to the rebels could end up in the hands of terrorists.
Sens. McCain and Graham are confident we can control the situation on the ground and keep our weapons out of the hands of terrorists. The American people, however, are much more skeptical. After ten years of war and repeated assurances from elected officials about their ability to control events, the public is right to be skeptical.