Americans want no part of bombing Syria. And this majority view is the correct view. Syria presents America no credible national security risk. Syria has not attacked America. As such, President Obama has no constitutional authority to bypass Congress and commence bombing Syria. Here Vermont Commons offers a well-thought out approach that will be of considerable interest to many Americans.
Why is the American public so unenthusiastic about bombing Syria? Certainly the case for war is weak and hypocritical both in its pretext and in its imagined goals. But that was no less true of the Iraq War, which was easily foisted upon a credulous public – a “slam dunk,” as CIA director George Tenet put it. This time, despite a weeklong media blitz (administration insiders call it “flooding the zone”), a majority of the American public still oppose bombing Syria. For the most part, it isn’t because they are explicitly aware of the weakness of the case for war. They haven’t necessarily asked themselves, “Why would Assad use poison gas when he had virtually won the war already?” A week or two ago, when only 12% of Americans supported bombing, most had a very vague idea of anything but the one-line narrative: Bashar al-Assad used poison gas on civilians and needs to be punished. Yet still they opposed it. Why?
One common explanation in the media is that Americans are “war-weary.” In former times, that term meant that people were weary of the danger, privation, and uncertainty that come with war. Most Americans today are (seemingly) quite well-insulated from war’s direct consequences; if war-weary, then, it must be for some other reason. It is the people in Syria (and Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan…) who are understandably weary of war. Yet the phrase seems apt for Americans too. What is this weariness that talk of yet another bombing campaign evokes?
Perhaps what we are weary of is the whole concept of war, the mindset of war, and the worldview underlying the waging of war.