War Games

03.04.14

If It Isn’t Our Problem, Don’t Solve It, Say Americans

The majority of Americans are on the same page when it comes to military involvement overseas: Unless our national interests are at stake, stay out of it.

If you thought Americans were war-weary after the Korean War…

And if you really thought we were done with combat overseas after Vietnam…

Well, today the anti-war sentiment in the U.S. has never been higher. The numbers aren’t even close.

According to a Pew Poll in December, Americans are more apathetic about any kind of military intervention than ever before. For example, in 1976, after years of fighting in Vietnam and nearly 60,000 American casualties, 42 percent of Americans agreed that “the U.S. should mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” Today, that number is 52 percent, marking the first time since the poll was first taken in 1964 that a majority of Americans have felt this way (for context, that number was only 30 percent in 2002).

Of course, members of both parties in DC talk to their constituents and know the feeling out there, which is why we don’t hear a thing about military options when it comes to stopping Vladimir Putin taking over Ukraine and Crimea like he’s playing a drunken game of Risk.

Critics of the President’s handling of the Russia’s aggression are justified when stating his strategy is incoherent and inept. The problem is, while there isn’t a shortage of the usual amount of complainers, seemingly no one has a solution of their own with any real teeth. We’ve seen this movie before when in Iran, Syria and now Ukraine; Mr. Obama has few options outside of threatening sanctions and talking tough, with the latter action being seen as a punch line by the macho Putin more than anything else.

Conservatives, of course, are enjoying seeing the President get bullied by the Russians, while Democrats are just happy the conversation isn’t about Obamacare for five minutes.

Conservatives, of course, are enjoying seeing the President get bullied by the Russians, while Democrats are just happy the conversation isn’t about Obamacare for five minutes. Either way, there are no winners when it comes to the situation in Ukraine. It’s like Syria on steroids; a messy state of affairs in a part of the world few Americans could find on a map, let alone articulate how it affects our national interest.

So war-weariness from Afghanistan and Iraq has more of us singing Give Peace a chance, right? Yes…but it’s not just those two wars that have us beaten down from banging the war drum. When you think about it, we haven’t had a conclusive war with a definitive, positive end since World War II. Whether it was Korea, Vietnam, Black Hawk Down/Somalia (not a war, of course, but a big black eye in terms of U.S. pride), then Afghanistan and Iraq. All had mixed to poor results. All were without a clear objective and conclusion. All, unfortunately, resulted in plenty of loss of blood and treasure…

As for objective, the old rule is action should only be taken when our national interests are at stake. And more Americans just don't see—in Syria and Ukraine, for example—anything in those places that truly (or at least, immediately) affects their daily lives. It's also why ratings haven't really spiked on the cable news front on the Ukraine story (CNN saw a modest bump last Friday).  The media wants us to care, but those sitting at home are more interested in selfies by Ellen than something as mundane as an unwarranted invasion by a superpower wannabe of a sovereign nation.

Another factor in this malaise? The sluggish U.S. economy: More folks are leaving the workforce than ever (102 million Americans are currently not working, according to Forbes Magazine) and a sluggish recovery in general has more citizens preferring we concentrate on our domestic issues instead of helping other countries solve theirs.

Fifty-two percent of Americans want us to mind our own business.

They say stay out of Iran.

Steer clear of Syria.

And leave Ukraine and Crimea to fend for themselves.

President Obama’s foreign policy may be feckless, but he won’t get too much flack for it.

Intentionally or not, the Commander-in-Chief—by not entertaining the thought of military intervention—is simply reflecting the opinion of a majority of the country.