Potential conflict in Syria has bogged down President Barack Obama’s approval ratings over the past several weeks.
Aggregate polling data collected by the Huffington Post indicated that President Barack Obama currently has a 51 percent disapproval rating, his greatest disapproval numbers in nearly two years.
“People are very weary of another conflict in the Middle East,” Director of CMU’s Cultural and Global Studies Program Orlando Perez said. “It’s an area that most people don’t really understand, and they look back at Iraq and are opposed to us intervening. That’s why his poll ratings are what they are.”
Political Science professor David Jesuit said he agrees the majority of Americans are irritated at the threat of an additional foreign intervention.
“Americans are tired of war and conflict (such as Afghanistan and Iraq), and want leaders to focus on domestic issues such as the economy,” Jesuit said.
As of Thursday, a Pew Research/USA Today poll found that a lowly 29 percent of Americans supported military action against Syria, while a CNN poll of the same sort found 31 percent in support.
However, with the recent agreement struck between Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, the threat of an American military intervention appears to be off-the-table, at least for now.
Perez, who also teaches political science at CMU, said the process of cataloguing, removing and destroying Syria’s chemical weapon supply will be a long, arduous process that at best might finish in six months, but could potentially last several years. He said the Syrian civil war certainly does not help the matter either.
“How do you secure the weapon inspectors?” Perez said. “There’s a civil war; people are shooting at each other. I think it’s not clear how this is all going to turn out, but I believe it’s a better solution in the short or medium term than a strike.”
Both Perez and Jesuit said the avoidance of using drone or cruise missile strikes against the Syrian government is likely to be beneficial and that the United States is fortunate to have escaped the possibility of having to do so.
“I think the outcome thus far suggests that Obama is either very smart or very lucky,” Jesuit said. “If, however, military intervention had taken place, I think it would have been a failure.”
Said Perez: “It was never clear to me what would happen after the strike. We send a few cruise missiles, kill a few Syrians, destroy some weapon facilities and then what? Our goals were to destroy and deter the use of these weapons, but it was never made clear how a limited strike would do that and that’s the problem that I and other people have with that.”
As long as the Syrian state and Assad adhere to their signed chemical weapons agreement, the United States has an incentive to avoid conflict with the country it is attempting to disarm.