9% Approval for Strike on Syria, Obama Does Not Care
An Ipsos/Reuters poll released on Monday gave a 9% approval rating among Americans for launching a strike on Syria. Even taking into consideration definitive proof that the Assad regime was behind the recent chemical weapons attack on civilians, approval for strikes only rises to 25%. We have only a small minority of Americans who are supportive of the US striking Syria, yet today more news is coming out that cruise missiles may be launched as early as Thursday August 29th. On top of this, only a handful of members of Congress, such as Rep. Justin Amash from Texas, are even arguing that any use of force needs to be specifically authorized by the legislature. Most are going along with the whole plan and they feel that a couple phone calls from the white house are enough “consultation” to be in line with the War Powers Act and the Constitution.
Ignoring for a moment arguments about the constitutionality of strikes on Syria, we are faced with the disheartening situation in which a majority of Americans are opposed to armed intervention in a foreign country, and our political representatives including the President himself, simply don’t give a damn.
I do not favor intervening in Syria at this time, I am even skeptical of arming the rebels, and so are seemingly a plurality of Americans according to a recent Gallup Poll. However, regardless of whether intervention makes humanitarian or strategic sense, there is something much more fundamental to consider at this time. How can a democratic country completely ignore the feelings and desires of the vast majority of its population in regards to armed conflict?
While one could argue that there are times in which a leader must make unpopular decisions for the common good, even in a democracy, this is not that time. While horrible and tragic, the situation in Syria does not directly affect the security of the United States or its people. We are not faced with a crisis that could severely hurt our society or way of life, nor significantly threaten it in the near future. The sad fact is that Syria could go on fighting a civil war for another 2 years and the United States would not be significantly threatened. This is not to minimize the situation at all, only to illustrate that in this context our leaders do not have sufficient justification to ignore the will of the American people. There is no imminent threat, there is no direct harm, and there is time to figure out a strategy that can help the Syrian people without getting us involved in another quagmire.
When it comes to wars of choice, as a strike on Syria will clearly be given that no Americans are in any kind of imminent danger, the will of the people must be considered and actions should not be taken that run counter to that will. This is because regardless of whether actual soldiers are risked in a military venture, the cold hard reality is that people will be killed, and those people will be killed in our collective name. It is the flag of our country that is painted on the fuselage of a predator drone, or that flies on the mast of one of our destroyers. It matters little that the killing will be done remotely; it will not be carried out in the name of the soldiers or airmen that launch the missiles, or even in the name of our President. No, we as a country are the ones who will be held responsible for what happens. It is we, and our sons and our daughters who will bear the burden of a larger war if things don’t go according to the neat little plans drawn up by the Pentagon. In the end, through our treasure and potentially our blood, we will pay the price for what happens this week.
For those reasons, it would constitute the greatest of crimes for the President and those who follow him to so egregiously ignore the will of the American people and go to war in Syria, even in the “limited” way he claims. Such a course of action would betray an opinion of democracy and the worth of the citizenry more akin to Assad than those who helped found this country. It would show us that our leaders have absolutely no respect and consideration for us and regard us as little more than pawns in a petty chess game, to be moved around the board and sacrificed at will. To make things worse, it seems in this case going to war has more to do with the Obama administration saving face and retaining its credibility after foolishly spouting off about a “red-line” being crossed if chemical weapons were employed in Syria. It is commonly understood in international politics that if you use weapons of mass destruction you invite intervention from the West, why the President felt compelled to spell that out and put himself into a corner he is now stuck in is anyone’s guess. Unfortunately for us though, his political problem could soon become our national quagmire.
This is no longer about whether striking Syria is a good idea, or about stopping the use of chemical weapons by madmen, or even about supporting questionable rebels in a complex civil war. This is about the heart and soul of our system, about what is perhaps the defining characteristic of a democracy as envisioned by the founders; that the will of one man or powerful elite was not enough to take us to war, that the consent and backing of the people as a whole was needed. If that characteristic is truly lost, then we are no longer sovereign citizens in charge of our own destiny, but rather subjects at the command of a king.