Seth Cropsey notes that the public doesn’t believe Obama’s claim that American forces won’t be involved in combat in Iraq and Syria:
Yet many Americans are skeptical, judging by the new NBC/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll showing that 72% of registered voters believe that U.S. troops will eventually be deployed. Perhaps Americans have been listening to some of the president’s senior military advisers and several retired senior officers and have decided that their expert opinions sound more realistic.
It is more likely that Americans expect that U.S. forces will end up fighting a ground war in these countries because recent experience has taught them that this is often what happens with wars of choice. For that matter, Obama’s assurances that this won’t happen can’t be very meaningful at this point. Just a few months ago, he was assuring us that the U.S. wouldn’t be drawn back into a war in Iraq, and when the bombing began in Iraq the administration claimed that it would not be the start of a “sustained campaign.” Before that, Obama had made U.S. withdrawal from its ongoing foreign wars the leitmotif of his foreign policy rhetoric. Now that he has committed the U.S. to a new war in the same region, and he and his officials are now boasting that the campaign will be a sustained one that will take years, so it is little wonder that few people believe him when he says there will be no “boots on the ground.”
Meanwhile, it doesn’t taken much in the way of expertise to guess that a war ostensibly dedicated to “destroying” ISIS in two countries isn’t going to be successful on its own terms by relying on a few “moderate” Syrian rebels, Kurdish militias, and an Iraqi army whose failures made ISIS’ expansion in Iraq possible. The fact that the public expects this to happen doesn’t mean that most Americans want it to happen. Opposition to having Americans fighting this war on the ground is as strong as ever, but the gap between the administration’s rhetoric about the war’s goals and the means that they are using to achieve them is so large and obvious that it would be very hard not to see it.
The administration could close this gap by redefining its war aims, and it could acknowledge that expanding the war into Syria was an error, but neither of these is likely to happen. Each time he had a choice about how to proceed in Iraq and Syria this year, Obama has chosen to expand this intervention’s goals after claiming the action would be “limited” and to escalate U.S. involvement after he had said that there wouldn’t be any. The public can see that Obama has yielded to pressure for escalation in the past, and they reasonably assume that he will do so again.