Why Americans Would Rather Invade Iraq Than Help the Syrian People

In stark contrast to the run-up to the Iraq War, Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll.

About 60% of Americans surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria's civil war, while just 9% thought the Obama administration should act.

Even if reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its citizens are confirmed, a majority of Americans surveyed said that the United States should stay out of the volatile conflict.  

The Reuters/Ipsos poll, taken Aug. 19-23, found that 25% of Americans would support U.S. intervention if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 46% would oppose it.

These numbers indicate a clear divergence from public sentiment in the months before the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

According to Gallup polling data in June of 2002, 61% of Americans surveyed said they favored invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Over the course of the next year, these numbers fluctuated slightly but remained well above 50%. On March 14-15, four days before the U.S. began its bombardment of Baghdad, 64% of those surveyed supported invasion, and 33% opposed.

It is clear that a decade of war in the Middle East has taken a clear toll on the American people as there is far less support for involvement in another regional conflict.

In March 2003, 78% of Americans surveyed said they would favor invading Iraq if the United Nations passed a resolution that set specific conditions for Iraq to disarm. Almost half of respondents (47%) said they would still support invasion even if the United States decided not to offer any new resolutions on Iraq and go forward with military action without a new UN vote at all.

In other words, international support for Iraq meant something to the American people, but nearly half would not view this rebuke as significant enough to prevent a U.S. invasion.

10 years later, however, U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war — even with evidence of chemical weapons that allegedly killed over 600 civilians in the past week — simply does not have substantial support from the American public.