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Americans Don’t Want the U.S. To Take Sides in Foreign Conflicts

There were some interesting YouGov findings on American public opinion and foreign conflicts last week. When asked about conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Gaza, at least a plurality of Americans favored supporting neither side, and in the Syrian case it was a majority:

The question is admittedly a little vague. How a person answers might depend on what one means by support and how much one has in mind, but it is still worth noting that official U.S. policy positions in each of these conflicts have remarkably little public support. While there are many Americans in favor of backing the Ukrainian and Israeli governments, there aren’t nearly as many as one would expect given the near-unanimity among our politicians in favor of these policies.

The Syrian case is the most striking. Syria is the one conflict that the U.S. was very close to joining in directly only last year, there is also fairly broad bipartisan support in Washington for supporting at least some Syrian rebels, and yet the public’s support for anti-regime forces is extremely low. U.S. support for the Israeli government in the conflict is endorsed by virtually every elected official in the U.S. and by numerous editorial boards across the country, but that policy doesn’t even have the support of 40% of the public.

The same poll found that a plurality disapproved of Obama’s handling of the three conflicts. There’s no great mystery as to why this is, since his administration has chosen to take sides in all three conflicts when more Americans believe that the U.S. shouldn’t be supporting anyone (and a few want the U.S. on the opposite side). Once again, there’s no “paradox” in public attitudes on this question: Americans disapprove of Obama’s foreign policy insofar as he and his administration are doing things that they don’t think should be done.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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