With the president poised to strike in Syria and the Congress set to vote on the issue the week of Sept. 9, the debate about U.S. military intervention in the two-year-old civil war is already happening amongst the American public.
In the poll, only 20% said the U.S. should take action, although that was up from 9% last week. Even if it’s clear the Assad regime used chemical weapons on civilians, only 29% said the U.S. should intervene.
That sentiment appears to be mirrored with veterans and members of the military, who have been tweeting to Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), as well as personally emailing me their thoughts* after Business Insider published two letters from troops on Saturday.
While President Obama has repeatedly denied there would be “boots on the ground,” and the strike would be limited — likely using cruise missiles from ships far away — many were fearful of the possibility of further involvement.
“I’m a U.S. Air Force vet who spent a solid 6 years shuttling between Afghanistan and Iraq, doing everything from combat airdrops to medevacs to hauling flag-draped coffins,” wrote one servicemember in an email, who also mentioned travel to 38 countries in that time. “What we do not need is another war, and we certainly do not need any further involvement in a civil war where our objective isn’t clear, and our allies aren’t really our allies.”
Outrage was largely shared by most over chemical weapons usage in the conflict — the Aug. 21 gassing of civilians near Damascus killed more than 1,400, many of them children — but many servicemembers expressed questions over any specific U.S. national security interest.
“The U.S. has stood by idly while many countries have massacred themselves in a civil war. This should not be any different,” wrote one active-duty Marine who said he had deployed five times to Iraq or Afghanistan. “The method of their war should not make any difference, killing is killing. As long as the conflict stays within their borders, we do not have any business interfering.”
“This country has a fairly recent history of sticking our noses where it doesn’t belong,” wrote another. “Since Vietnam, America has used other nations’ transgressions as a reason to go in and set up shop for our government’s own reasons. This sort of behaviour needs to end. We are not a world police.”
Still, while many who have written to Business Insider have voiced opposition to military action (the tally was roughly 50-2 against), there were some who believed good could be done in the country with a more robust response.
“Dropping a few missiles, without any clear idea of what type of war we’re really getting into will put us on the wrong side of a bad and worse dilemma … ” wrote one Marine veteran of the Iraq war. “I’d like to see a broader ‘smarter’ strategy for dealing with Syria than dropping a few tomahawk missiles with ‘no objective’ but to punish Assad.”
As both lawmakers and the public remain sceptical, it seems the Obama administration has an uphill battle ahead of any vote to authorise the use of military force. That sentiment was echoed by the International Crisis Group, a well-respected organisation that released a statement on Sunday that said limited strikes were “largely divorced from the interests of the Syrian people” while calling for a larger political and diplomatic solution.
* Quotes from emails in this article have been edited for clarity.
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