Americans Reject World Police Role, Fear Being Drawn Into War

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds people think the U.S. has no obligation to punish countries for WMD use.

A U.S. Navy Super Hornet prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Red Sea as Washington debates a strike against Syria. 
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Sept. 10, 2013, 7:29 p.m.

Amer­ic­ans are far more wor­ried that mil­it­ary strikes against Syr­ia will drag the na­tion fur­ther in­to that coun­try’s civil war than the pos­sib­il­ity that stay­ing away will em­bolden des­pots in oth­er na­tions to de­ploy weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

That’s the find­ing of the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, which also found that few­er than two in five Amer­ic­ans be­lieve the United States has an ob­lig­a­tion to pun­ish for­eign gov­ern­ments that de­ploy weapons of mass de­struc­tion to kill ci­vil­ians.

Taken to­geth­er, the res­ults show a na­tion wary of fur­ther en­tan­gle­ments 12 years re­moved from the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and after the pro­longed mil­it­ary con­flicts in Ir­aq and Afgh­anistan. The sur­vey also shows that Re­pub­lic­ans, long the na­tion’s more hawk­ish party, are now among those most skit­tish of fur­ther in­ter­ven­tions abroad.

That can be partly ex­plained away by the fact that Pres­id­ent Obama, a Demo­crat, is lead­ing the cur­rent call for strikes against Syr­ia. But it is also evid­ence that the liber­tari­an, non­in­ter­ven­tion­ist wing with­in the GOP is grow­ing at the grass­roots level. It is ten­sion likely to play out in the 2016 Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial primary.

The poll, which was con­duc­ted be­fore Obama’s na­tion­al ad­dress Tues­day and his blitz of net­work in­ter­views Monday, found that a 50 per­cent ma­jor­ity said they are more con­cerned about be­ing “drawn more deeply” in­to war in Syr­ia. Only 32 per­cent said they are more con­cerned that not tak­ing mil­it­ary ac­tion would em­bolden oth­er na­tions to use mass-de­struc­tion weapons.

Amer­ic­ans across all age groups, re­gions, in­comes, and levels of school­ing are more fear­ful of be­ing fur­ther en­tangled in the Syr­i­an con­flict. Ex­actly 50 per­cent of col­lege gradu­ates, col­lege dro­pouts, and those with a high school edu­ca­tion or less all said that it was ris­ki­er to be drawn deep­er in­to Syr­ia.

The only group that split on the ques­tion was Demo­crats, who were evenly di­vided, 43 per­cent to 43 per­cent, over which op­tion posed the great­er risk. In­de­pend­ents, by a 52 per­cent to 29 per­cent mar­gin, said strik­ing Syr­ia was ris­ki­er. So did Re­pub­lic­ans, by a 54 per­cent to 32 per­cent mar­gin.

In a sign of how in­ward-look­ing the cur­rent Re­pub­lic­an Party has be­come, a slim ma­jor­ity of self-iden­ti­fied Re­pub­lic­ans, 51 per­cent, said the United States does not have an ob­lig­a­tion to pun­ish oth­er coun­tries that use “chem­ic­al weapons or oth­er weapons of mass de­struc­tion to kill ci­vil­ians.” Only 37 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans said the coun­try has such an ob­lig­a­tion. That con­sti­tutes a shift for a party that a dec­ade ago, un­der Re­pub­lic­an Pres­id­ent George W. Bush, led the na­tion to war in Ir­aq over the pos­sib­il­ity that Sad­dam Hus­sein had such weapons, not that he was act­ively us­ing them. (It turned out he did not have the weapons).

Times have changed. As Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said fol­low­ing a clas­si­fied brief­ing Monday even­ing on Syr­ia, “Amer­ica can no longer af­ford to be the world’s po­lice­man.”

In the poll, in­de­pend­ents agreed with the GOP’s cur­rent lim­ited views of Amer­ica’s role abroad, with 51 per­cent also say­ing the United States need not pun­ish gov­ern­ments that de­ploy such weapons. But a slim plur­al­ity of Demo­crats, 45 per­cent to 44 per­cent, dis­agreed and said the United States has such an ob­lig­a­tion. Some of that party dif­fer­ence is likely at­trib­ut­able to Obama lead­ing the cur­rent cam­paign for strikes.

Oth­er than party lines, the poll showed re­mark­able con­sist­ence across a mul­ti­tude of demo­graph­ics. For in­stance, only 35 per­cent of col­lege-edu­cated white wo­men said that Amer­ica had no ob­lig­a­tion to pun­ish those who use weapons of mass de­struc­tion. That is sim­il­ar to the 38 per­cent of white men without col­lege de­grees who felt that way.

Rur­al Amer­ic­ans were the least likely to sup­port pun­ish­ing for­eign gov­ern­ments (34 per­cent), but those who live in sub­urbs (38 per­cent) and cit­ies (40 per­cent) were only slightly more likely to say U.S. in­ter­ven­tion was an ob­lig­a­tion.

The latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al. The group sur­veyed 1,002 adults by land­line and cell phone from Sept. 5-8. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.6 per­cent­age points.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
What the Current Crop of Candidates Could Learn from JFK
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Maher Weighs in on Bernie, Trump and Palin
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.

Source:
×