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Gallup Poll on Syria Attack: Lowest Support of Any U.S. Intervention in Past 20 Years

Gallup has just released its latest poll tracking U.S. opinion on attacking Syria.  It finds that of the four major U.S. interventions over the past 20 years (Iraq, Afghanistan, Perisan Gulf, Kosovo/Serbia) Barack Obama’s planned assault on Syria has the lowest level of support of any of them.  Only 36% of Americans support an attack while 51% oppose.  The most contentious previous intervention, in Kosovo, was opposed by only 45% of Americans.  This is the first proposed American attack that begins with opposition above 50%.

obama putin

Obama and Putin: an unhappy couple (AFP/Jewel Samad)

Pres. Obama traveled to Russia for the G20 conference where he’d hoped to rally support for his position.  At a dramatic dinner party, Presidents Putin and Obama argued for their respective positions.  Of the twenty nations, he came away with support from only four (Canada, France, Turkey and Saudi Arabia).  Vladimir Putin, the host for the summit, carried all the rest.  Obama persuaded no new countries to support him there.  He’d hoped to carry home from the meeting a message of broader international support that would translate into momentum in persuading Congress and the American people that both right and the world were on his side.  Instead, he leaves the poker game just about cleaned out and with precious little to show.

When he returns to the Congressional debate that begins Monday, he will have the support of the Republican and Democratic leadership and those they can carry with them.  But this is turning into a vote in which party loyalty or traditional chits don’t carry much weight.  Countervailing those forces are the voices Representatives are hearing back home which are almost universally negative.  In an almost unheard of political phenomenon, both liberals and conservatives oppose intervention by wide margins.  What support the president gets is from moderates, but even they are split (43% oppose, 40% favor).

Another party on the president’s side is Aipac.  It’s announced it will spread 250 of its top lay leaders and lobbyists throughout Capitol Hill this week to carry the message that the Israel Lobby wants the bombs to fall on Damascus.  Israel too is “all-in” for the president on this.  Not so much because it opposes a gas attack or remembers the gas chambers of World War II.  Israel doesn’t care whether Syrians kill each other.  In fact, as Alon Pinkas (considered by many a dove on the Israel-Arab conflict) told the NY Times in so many words, Israel wants as many Syrians to die as possible–as long as they die on both sides and leave the country fragmented and powerless to make trouble on its northern border.  U.S. officials expect our attack will lead to a “war of attrition.”  Who do you think will be hurt the most by this?  Obama or Assad or Al Qaeda?  No.  The average Syrian hiding out in basements or fleeing to the Turkish border.  They will be the targets.  They will bear the blows.

Syria isn’t Israel’s main target.  The main target is Iran.  Israel’s military and political echelons are expecting that 2014 will be the decisive year for launching an attack against Iran.  Netanyahu figures if Obama will attack Syria then he’ll look favorably on a similar operation against Iran.  If he won’t attack Syria, then there’s even less of a chance he’ll attack Iran.  Most of Israel’s generals and intelligence chiefs have told Bibi that he’d be a fool to go it alone.  That he needs the U.S. to lead on this.  That’s why Syria is a crucial test of American mettle.  If we fail, then Bibi may be left to his devices in going after the ayatollahs.  He knows that most of his generals oppose this and it will be an awfully hard sell.

One development indicates how tough this project is to sell to the Jewish community.  J Street is a group I’ve derisively called “Jews for Obama.”  I checked their website every day this week to determine where they were going to come down.  Frankly, they have supported every Middle East policy advanced by Obama, even the worst like opposing Palestinian statehood in the UN, opposing the Goldstone Report, supporting sanctions against Iran, etc.  I was astonished not to see a ringing endorsement of military action.  Today, the group’s press officer told Buzzfeed that it had not yet decided which way to vote on the Congressional resolution.  This is simply astonishing.  The group was created as Obama’s Jewish vanguard, yet even they cannot support him (yet).  Even if they do decide to do so, coming into the game as late as they will, renders their support (if it comes) much less effective and meaningful.  Ironically, the title of J Street’s upcoming national conference this fall will be “Our Time to Lead.”  So much for that.

By rights, the considerations for attacking Syria or not should be weighed on their own merits.  The Syrians who’ve died at the hands of the butcher Assad deserve nothing less.  But Israel is turning this into a mandate for attacking Iran as well.  Since such an assault would be far larger, more devastating, and dangerous to the world order–we too must weigh things in that light.  Thus, those who oppose a U.S. attack on Iran must see Syria as the opening salvo in that process and oppose military intervention.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Oui September 7, 2013, 1:40 AM

    Obama’s got “humanitarian hawk” Ambassador Samanthe Power as our new Minister of Propaganda at the United Nations and at the Center for American Progress.

    Jahblat al-Nusra must have a new PR professional, rolling into the ancient Christian village of Maaloula and leaving without harm to churches and mosques.

  • H. Mor September 7, 2013, 5:23 AM

    @ Richard,
    Why do you claim that only 4 countries support the president while 12 signed the closing statement urging a strong response in Syria ?
    “We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable,”

    It was signed by the leaders and representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Britain and the United States.

    The German foreign minister stated today that Germany signed the statement http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/22/2676293

    • Richard Silverstein September 7, 2013, 12:54 PM

      A “strong response” can mean anything. But I assure you, for the signatories it does NOT mean military attack. Read the linked NYT article for the list of countries opposing Obams at the dinner.

  • bluto September 7, 2013, 5:38 AM

    No more endless bites at the apple, misters Dershowitz and Netanyahu

    Israeli Apartheid and adventurism, supported by and even carried out by the Israeli Lobby/Neocons, such as ginning up False Flags (in Iraq with the Niger Yellowcake forgeries and all the other Neocon lies – and against Iran (phony ‘smoking Iranian laptop’ or Mossad posing as CIA, etc, etc) or Syria), will NEVER be effectively defeated until we manage to quit fighting on Israel’s terms and at times and places of her choosing. The momentum must be shifted where every Israeli loss weakens her ability to continue her shenanigins

    The fight must be taken to the Israelis and they must be taken on many fronts as once – they must be in the ICC unsuccessfully trying to fight anti-Apartheid cases (which even the IDF-legal teams say they will lose) WHILE the EU is strengthening anti-Apartheid boycotts on the ground and WHILE the US is diplomatically negotiating with Iran on the nuclear program.

    Israel getting sued for cases she cannot win at the ICC, intensifying EU and other BDS boycotts against her, and NO escape route out by touching off the next 10 year conflagration in the Middle East by bringing in America against Iran or Syria. That’s the Ticket

    Israel must be losing on many fronts at once – rather than having the endless bites at the apple which Sen Kerry and Indyk and all the rest of them are making possible for her.

    What happens when Israel gets to call the shots, deal with her problems one by one at a place and time of her chosing? – I put forward into evidence Mr Alan Dershowitz

    The instant Alan Dershowitz saw the US House vote count reach a majority of 217 he had an article up at Haaretz moving on to the next Israeli scam, a ‘Pre-Authorized US Attack on Iran’, such that any Israeli False Flag could be INSTANTLY responded to by Obama or other American President, without the danger of having the Israeli False Flag exposed by taking the days it takes to get a Senate or House Vote.

    This is AIPAC Pre-emptive Rubber-stamping of the next war for Israel and her Lobby r – because False Flags tend to be perishable goods – one UN team examining the ground in Syria or Iran is enough to reveal the Israelis or her agents as liars and hoaxers

    Israel and Dershowitz must be overwhelmed and effectively continuously trounced – so they are merely REACTING and retreating rather than calling the shots.

    Give them another moment and they will find a way to mousetrap the US into a war with Iran, having been stymied in Syria for the moment. Dershowitz is already ON IT

  • J.J. September 7, 2013, 5:52 AM

    ” Today, the group’s press officer told Buzzfeed that it had not yet decided which way to vote on the Congressional resolution”.

    J Street has got to be the most feckless group inside the Beltway. Pathetic.

  • jg September 7, 2013, 7:35 AM

    Politico report: “AIPAC to go all-out on Syria.”
    “Israel Lobby group plans on sending 250 lobbyists to the hill next week to push for military intervention (with their eye
    on Iran.”

    “AIPAC on an island: politico report says Israel Lobby alone in pushing for war in Syria.” Sept 6, 2013
    “Rep. Alan Grayson: (AIPAC) falls to the wayside when the public weighs in.” Sept 6, 2013

  • jadez September 7, 2013, 12:07 PM

    for anyone who believes this poll that 36% of the people support a war against Syria i have some WMD from Iraq to sell you.

    ALL congressmen report calls at a minimum of 100-1 AGAINST this war strike.

    they finally understand what some of us have been saying all along, that we are headed toward nuclear war.

    that AIPAC appears to be the only group of foreign agents swarming congress to support this strike is telling.

    its to early to predict if obama will attack even with no support from the people.

    and it simply is impossible to understand all the motives behind it as just an outside observer.

    the only thing i know for certain is IF this attack does occur…it will be the start of WW3 leading to nuclear war.

  • Hasbarist settler September 7, 2013, 2:47 PM

    ” In fact, as Alon Pinkas (considered by many a dove on the Israel-Arab conflict) told the NY Times in so many words, Israel wants as many Syrians to die as possible–as long as they die on both sides and leave the country fragmented and powerless to make trouble on its northern border”

    “This is a playoff situation in which you need both teams to lose, but at least you don’t want one to win — we’ll settle for a tie,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death: that’s the strategic thinking here. As long as this lingers, there’s no real threat from Syria.” (From NYT)

    Let’s see how many faults in one small paragraph:
    1. “…in so many words..” – Actually, not so many…
    2. “…considered by many a dove ” – While you try to mock this statement, he refers to his words as ” that’s the strategic thinking here” – meaning – in Israel, meaning, not necessary his approach
    3. Your biggest fault – “Israel wants as many Syrians to die as possible”. While he says – Israelis don’t care if Syrians kill each other as long as they are occupied with that, they are no threat to Israel, you are dedicated to demonize Israel, so you totally twist his words.
    BTW, by being against an intervention in the situation in Syria, it seems that most of the western world can be categorized under “Let them both bleed, hemorrhage to death”…

    • Richard Silverstein September 7, 2013, 8:04 PM

      @ Hasbarist settler: Let’s see how many faults you made in one comment:

      1. “in so many words” means that I’m construing his actual words to mean that Israel would be happy for a stalemate in Syria, meaning that many more Syrians must die in order to achieve & ensure such a stalemate. If you believe that Israel’s leaders care a whit for Syrians or how many more are killed, then you’re deluded. The phrase “in so many words” is a figure of speech doesn’t have anything to do with the quantity of words involved. Either you don’t know English well & missed the meaning; or you do know English & were trying to be witty & failed. Either way, you lose.

      2. I construe his words as reflecting his own thinking as well as Israel’s government. He is a very well connected ex diplomat who reflects the consensus strategic approach of the intelligence/diplomatic apparatus. If you can show this is not his thinking I’d be happy to note that. If you can show me a Labor Party leader, of which he’s a key member, who opposes such thinking, I’d like to see it. I await your proof.

      While he says – Israelis don’t care if Syrians kill each other as long as they are occupied with that, they are no threat to Israel, you are dedicated to demonize Israel, so you totally twist his words.

      So let me understand you: you concede that Pinkas says he (or Israel) doesn’t care how many Syrians die as long as they’re so occupied with killing each other that they’re not a threat to Israel. And you claim I’m “totally twisting his words?” How am I twisting them? Admittedly, these are disturbing words & thoughts. But both you & he concede this is the strategic thinking of Israel’s leaders. So how am I demonizing them if these are their real motives and goals?

      As for you last sentence: refusing to intervene doesn’t mean that anti-interventionists support the slaughter in Syria. We didn’t create the civil war there. But we do recognize that intervention without any clear plan of goal could be more disastrous than not intervening at all. History offers scores of such examples of intervention under the best of intentions leading to disaster.. Not that you or your fellow Israelis recognize or learn from such lessons.

  • Garrett Connelly September 7, 2013, 6:38 PM

    Putin has the expression of a peeved father biting his tongue. Yuckola. Kill more civilians for peace?

  • bluto September 7, 2013, 8:28 PM

    Unbeknownst to John ‘Slam Dunk’ Kerry, and like Colin Powell before him, Kerry was the useful patsy transmitting a Neocon hoax to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the American people as a centerpiece of his presentation.

    Yes folks – just like his predecessor Colin Powell in our Neocon-hoaxed run up to the Iraq War, Kerry was regurgitating falsified intelligence stovepiped to him by Neocon outlets – in this case by Elizabeth O’Bagy (who turns out to be a PAID Lobbyist for the Syrian Rebels/Syrian Oppositon and the ‘Institute of War’ run by the infamous Neocon Kimberly Kagan) – and O’Bagy has since been forced to disclose her PAYMASTERS to the Wall Street Journal editors and her unfortunate readers

    “What Kerry and McCain neglected to mention was that Elizabeth O’Bagy had been recently hired as the political director (ie LOBBYIST) of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a little known outfit that functions as a lobbying arm of the Syrian opposition in Washington”

    Yes – John Kerry – either unwittingly or in collaboration with the Neocons just like in the bums rush into the Iraq war – was feeding false information to the American people as well as to the Senate as to the makeup of the Syrian Rebels and their massive degree of involvement with Al Qaeda Syria (Al Nusra) – and pointing everybody to a paid Neocon Lobbyist as his source.

    “During the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry and Senator John McCain both cited a Wall Street Journal editorial by Elizabeth O’Bagy to support their assessment of the Syrian rebels as predominately “moderate,” and potentially Western-friendly.”

    “Only after a storm of criticism did the Wall Street Journal insert a note in O’Bagy’s recent op-ed disclosing her paid position at SETF”

    The facts are the MAJORITY of the ACTUAL FIGHTERS doing the fighting against the Assad regime are Al Nusra (Al Qaeda Syria) – with estimates of 50% to an unbelievable 75% being Al Nusra (from Syria experts on Hardball’s Chris Matthews) as contrasted to the numbers Kerry is giving to the world of ~15% to 20% that he bought from the Syrian Opposition/Syrian Rebel Army Lobbyist Elizabeth O’Bagy – and the fact that the Syrian Rebels are DEFECTING to Al Nusra in growing numbers.

    Yep – Kerry has been caught holding the big of O’Bagy load of NEOCON propaganda – and trying to lie the American people and the US Senate into a war with it. Kerry, like Powell last time, has ALREADY been punked by the Neocons

    all quotes from the GREAT expose on O’Bagy from investigative journalist Max Blumenthal


    • Davey September 7, 2013, 10:02 PM

      Has Kerry or McCain or any of them actually met with any rebel faction that is listed as “terrorist” by the State Department? Isn’t it a crime to meet with these people?

  • zhu bajie September 7, 2013, 11:25 PM

    As many as 36% support war with Syria? How many of them are Dispensationalists, hoping for the End of the World?

    I suppose I should be glad it’s not war with China. However, I expect attempts to destabilize the PRC will come in the future. :-(

  • Fred Plester September 8, 2013, 3:03 AM

    Obama seems unable to comprehend Mr Putin’s position of supporting the Assad regime through thick and thin, and therefor may be unable to believe that Putin would actually order his forces to actively oppose US strikes.

    I think the general public is willing to believe that Putin might do exactly that, at which point too many lives would be at stake for the original offence to seem very relevant.

    We mustn’t see this entirely in terms of middle Eastern politics, because Russia’s position is at least partly the result of bitter resentment at what happened to their Serb allies over a decade ago, and more recent conflict in the Republic of Georgia. The Russian requirement is not so much to save Assad as to thwart any attempt to topple him.

    For Mr Kerry to make a point of stopping in Lithuania en-route to Paris to garner support, won’t have eased the paranoia in Moscow very much.

    We are almost certain to see Russian forces of some sort suddenly appear in Syria and position themselves where Obama proposes to bomb, just as happened with the main airport in Kosovo.

    Russian naval forces are guaranteed to feed live radar information to the Syrians, too.

    It would be a good thing for Assad to be toppled or brought to justice, but there is a limit to the price we should be willing to pay for this, and WW3 is far too high a price.

    Putin’s last attempt at brinkmanship (The paratrooper brigade at the airport in Kosovo) was neatly circumvented by General Jackson being more perceptive than his nominal NATO superior, US Admiral Clark. Putin’s “bluff” was never actually called, and we don’t know that he was bluffing. My view is that he wasn’t.

    The UK has Typhoons to protect Cyprus from any retaliatory airstrikes, but I think there needs to be a Type 45 destroyer there, too, in order to protect population centres, especially in the Turkish North of the Island, from possible scud strikes. Even though the UK won’t take part in any strikes on Syria, Cyprus is just too handy for Assad not to retaliate against it. Which could be very uncomfortable for some of the Russian ex-pats living there on the unconfiscated remnants of their ill-gotten gains following the banking crisis.

  • Fred Plester September 8, 2013, 11:22 PM

    This is the sort of stunt I expect Putin to pull, and the sort of American reaction to it upon which he will be counting:


    I mis-remembered Clark’s position: he was the senior (inevitably American) NATO General and I think the overall commander was a US Admiral, who saw things General Jackson’s way.

    The problem with the limited strike plan is that there is no planning for avoiding traps and adverse reactions, and Mr Putin has considerable form for laying political and military traps for the west.

    Mr Blunt has obviously told his story now, because he feels it is highly relevant to the current situation and I can see exactly why. Obama and Cameron are focused on Putin being wrong, wrong, wrong in their view, whilst the important thing is that he is cleverer and more experienced than they are, and likely to come out on top if they are not a lot more careful than they seem inclined to be.

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