David Rothkopf wants Obama to ignore public opinion on Syria:
Many have welcomed President Barack Obama’s move to bring the decision before Congress as giving the issue the kind of national debate it deserves. And hearings this week may move the needle of public opinion to give the president more confidence that he has the backing of U.S. voters.
But even if that doesn’t happen [bold mine-DL], the president needs to move ahead with the plan to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus — to degrade its ability to use such weapons of mass destruction in the future and to force its removal and replacement by opposition forces that we support.
Whenever opponents of attacking Syria point out how extraordinarily unpopular the proposed attack is, one of the common responses is that Americans shouldn’t want to have our foreign policy determined by opinion polls. That response makes a certain amount of sense, but it’s mostly a way of dodging the larger problem that military intervention in this case has very little public support. This is a very real and significant flaw that can’t be wished away by talking about the need for U.S. “leadership.” That lack of support reflects on the poor quality of the case for military action, and the even poorer effort on the part of the administration to make that case in public. It also reflects the prevailing view of most Americans that the U.S. should not be looking for any more new wars to fight.
Governments that wage war against other countries without popular consent, even if it is only for a “short duration,” are carrying out policies in the teeth of public opposition. In so doing, they are inviting a major backlash sooner or later by exhibiting contempt for the views of the majority. That not only puts the political legitimacy of the government’s action in doubt, but it produces even deeper public distrust of our political leaders and policymakers when public opinion is so brazenly ignored. In the event that a “limited” military action leads to ever-increasing involvement in the conflict, the lack of public support for the original attack will sooner or later catch up to the administration and its supporters, and it practically guarantees that the public will have no confidence in the policy in question. That’s a poor way to govern in a representative political system, and it is a reckless way to conduct foreign policy.