The Times West Virginian

Opinion

September 8, 2013

Idea of strike on Syria extremely unpopular

Popularity is a funny thing. Sometimes you’ve got it. Sometimes you don’t. It’s an ebb and flow situation.

But to be the least popular it 20 years ... that’s saying something.

And while war isn’t popular, ever, those citizens who can support military actions are gauged. And apparently, even the idea military action in Syria by U.S. forces (a decision has yet to be made) is the least popular move in more than 20 years.

For example, a Gallup poll in the fall of 2001 showed that 82 percent of Americans favored military action in Afghanistan. This was less than a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, and Americans wanted some kind of retaliation after the loss of more than 3,000 citizens on U.S. soil. Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden were the targets, though it would be more than a decade before the elusive head of the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks was killed in a raid.

But flash forward two years to Saddam Hussein and taking down his regime in Iraq. In 2003, a Gallup poll found that only 59 percent of Americans could support that. Not bad, and not too far from the 62 percent who supported a similar mission in the Persian Gulf in 1991.

But former President Bill Clinton had a hard time convincing his constituents that the U.S. military needed to be involved in Kosovo. In 1999, Gallup reported that 43 percent supported action, while 45 percent opposed, with a very large 12 percent undecided on the measure.

Today, even with the swing vote, action in Syria is not supported by those polled by Gallup. Between Sept. 3-4, those polled were 36 percent in favor, 51 percent against and 13 percent undecided. What does that mean? President Barack Obama has an uphill battle to not only convince Congress but the American people that the U.S. needs to get involved in the Syrian civil war because of chemical weapons the current administration has used against its citizens.

And he plans to make his case straight to the people on Tuesday.

“Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence,” Obama said Friday at the G-20 summit. “And that’s not the world that we want to live in.”

At issue is a strike against Syrian President Bashar Assad who, U.S. intelligence agencies report, killed 1,400 using chemical weapons in a Damascus suburb in the midst of civil war. Hundreds of those killed, activists and agencies say, were small children.

“I was elected to end wars and not start them,” Obama said. “I’ve spent the last 4 1/2 years doing everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power as a means of meeting our international obligations and protecting the American people.

“I will continue to consult with Congress and I will make the best case that I can to the American people, as well as to the international community, for taking necessary and appropriate action,” he said. “And I intend to address the American people from the White House on Tuesday.”

Again, popularity changes. It’s entirely possible that his White House address will change minds and change hearts. But for now, the only poll we’re interested in is the one the www.timeswv.com readers log on to each week to express their opinions on the week’s hot topics.

And our poll is certainly not reflective of the national one. Last week, we asked about the possibility of a military strike on Syria and whether readers believed “information that Syria using chemical weapons in this way justifies a military strike?”

And here’s what you had to say.

• Yes. It’s our responsibility to protect innocent civilians from massacre — 5.05 percent.

• It depends on the action. If American boots never hit the ground, I could support a military strike — 19.19 percent.

• No, this nation cannot afford another war. The cost of lives and resources is too much — 75.76 percent.

Uphill? Oh my, yes.

This week, let’s talk about fast food. Thousands have staged protests across the country to call attention to the struggles of liv­ing on the federal minimum wage and believe there should be a boost in pay. Where do you stand?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor

mpoe@timeswv.com

@MistyPoeTWV

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