The possibility of the U.S. military getting involved in Syria's civil war has consumed the American discussion in the past few weeks. Ever since Syrian president Bashar al-Assad purportedly used chemical weapons on his own people, the Obama administration has stated that it is America's responsibility to halt the use of chemical weapons in any context.
We took to our social media channels to find out directly from our readers where public sentiment lay. As always, your feedback was informed, passionate and extremely colorful.
The "nays" have it
As it turns out, a resounding 84% of Americans (and a couple of our international readers) are wholly against any further conflict. While most of our commenters left a simple "no" (or the more common "[insert expletive here] no!"), several provided interesting insight into their specific reasons for opposing more conflict.
The most common reason we saw for keeping our noses out of it was readers' belief that it's time for America to stop playing "world police." One reader put it like this: "We are NOT the police for the world. How would it feel if another country came over here to "Help" us. Congress would be bombed, seriously. We just can't keep doing this"
A large number of you also felt that the Obama administration should consider de-emphasizing foreign policy in favor of focusing their attention on the homefront. We particularly like the metaphor that explained getting involved with Syria "would be like cleaning someone else's house when yours is filthy."
There's also a thick strain of people who are just plain tired of armed conflict. America has been actively engaged in military exercises for over a decade, and citizens are feeling the fatigue. By and large, each of our "no" commenters felt that it was time for America to focus inward, to let the world sort out its own problems and to stop getting involved in issues that didn't concern us.
But the "ayes" make some good points, too
Most of the people who felt we should assert ourselves in Syria spoke from the heart. Of those people - a slim 13% - who are for a strike in Syria, most listed the atrocities visited on children as our reason enough to engage in armed conflict.
One reader posited: "... if you're walking down street and see a man beating a child senseless, knowing he's killing this child, do you step in to protect that child? And if so, how far does that street go?? You'll stop the killing of a child within a few blocks or miles, so how far away is too far to intervene? Every single person is sick and tired of war..I AGREE...but how far away does it have to happen to say it doesn't affect us???"
Another added: "The use of chemical weapons on their own population including children cannot be tolerated. Although unpopular the president should have already initiated a strike. There is no doubt the regime was behind the attacks."
While we can certainly see the logic behind these reasoned statements, there were also a lot of people out there who felt Syria would be best served as a "parking lot." We do have the tools to get the job done, but a country-sized parking lot would be almost useless to Americans. Wait, did I miss the point?
And there's always the crowd who can't decide
We even had a few undecideds, who provided several appropriately wishy-washy responses. These people carefully considered the "pro" arguments (we'll look stronger to the world, we'll be helping prevent future attrocities, etc.) and the "con" arguments (it's none of our business, et al.) and firmly decided that they couldn't really make a decision.
"Slippery slope," one of these commenters claimed. "[I]f we do nothing...they will be emboldened to use chemical weapons without fear of retribution. Diplomacy first. But definitely no boots on ground."
But what did we learn?
In short, we learned that Americans are capable of making a united decision. We're pretty sure our readership doesn't skew towards one political party over the other, so we're inclined to believe that the results above indicate people of opposing political beliefs being of the same mind. Republicans and Democrats alike agree: we shouldn't go to war.
That's the first time in recent memory I've been able to use "Republican" and "Democrat" in the same sentence without also having to include "ripping each other's throats out." That we, as a country, can unite in one voice when it's called for, that's something to be comforted by, right?
Given recent developments, where Syria has elected to give up their chemical weapons in favor of avoiding conflict, the Obama administration has an out if they choose to take it. Given the incredibly united response we can only hope our elected leaders take that option, no matter where it's coming from.
Besides, the mandate is clear. Stay away from Syria. And it's their job as politicians to reflect the voice of their constituents. Isn't it?