Tim Stanley makes a strained comparison between the conflict in Syria and the Iran hostage crisis:
But, unless Obama does a U-turn, it’s possible that the bloodshed will drag on and on. Maybe until election day … just like the 1980 hostage crisis.
If that happens, the moral fibre of the American people will surely be tested. How much violence overseas will they endure watching before demanding action? And what message will inaction send about the willingness of the administration to deal with Iran?
Addressing these in order, the answers are “a lot more” and “none.” Stanley must recognize that the American public views the Syrian conflict very differently from the way it viewed the hostage crisis. First of all, there are no Americans being held captive in Syria, and no Americans are being threatened by the conflict. A large majority wants the U.S. to stay out of the conflict, because most Americans (correctly) don’t perceive any U.S. interests at stake there, and they are sick of U.S. entanglements in the Near East in any case. There is no popular groundswell in favor of U.S. intervention of any kind, and there isn’t likely to be one in the future. That doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be greater U.S. involvement, but if it happens it certainly won’t be because the public is demanding it.
Most Americans don’t perceive Obama behaving in a Carter-like fashion on Syria. More to the point, they don’t think he is failing to do something that they expect him to do. So far, he is doing a bit more than most Americans want, but not so much that it attracts any attention. Unlike the hostage crisis, the conflict in Syria is not a major or pressing issue for most Americans. Syria can’t be “Obama’s hostage crisis” because keeping the U.S. out of Syria’s conflict reinforces what the at least half of the electorate likes about Obama’s foreign policy.
Obama’s response to the conflict in Syria says nothing about his willingness to “deal with” Iran, if by “deal with” Stanley means attack. The two are distinct, largely unrelated issues. Obama can be unwilling to entangle the U.S. in Syria’s conflict directly and still be willing to order military action against Iran. This is something that opponents as well as advocates of attacking Iran should bear in mind. Just because Obama won’t start an unnecessary war in Syria, that’s no guarantee that he won’t be willing to start one in Iran.