Americans Express Sadness and Unease Over Syria
The American people have mixed feelings about Syria, and are both war-weary and uneasy about the unintended consequences of a strike. They are also concerned about the Syrian people and the country’s humanitarian crisis.
Across the country Americans tuned in to hear what the president had to say on the issue.
In New York, people paused in the middle of primary election parties to watch President Obama’s 15-minute speech about Syria.
Milind Thakar, professor of International Relations at the University of Indianapolis thinks America’s threat of military force is helping to limit Assad’s aggression and that the president deserves support. “It seems to be that the U.S. president and the administration are getting fairly harsh dealing both from the U.S. public and the international community,” Thakar said.
Obama has made efforts to handle the situation in Syria through diplomatic means for over two years, according to Thakar. Obama’s decision to request congressional authorization, and now to postpone the vote to see if Russia’s diplomatic intervention will work, demonstrates that he wants a nonviolent solution, but Thakar believes that military force has a place.
Thakar suggested that the American people should support a military strike against the Assad regime. He thinks they have not supported it so far because they have feel that the Iraq invasion was a mistake, and have a sense of failure over the war in Afghanistan.
Wynne Patterson, a 38-year-old speech pathologist, said the images of children lying dead on cold hospital floors and Obama’s assurance that any engagement in Syria would be precise and short-lived were not enough to persuade her there would not be unintended consequences from more U.S. involvement in the Middle East.
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“It just seems like every time we like stick our toe in those waters it’s protracted and messy and, you know, whatever outcome we think we wanted isn’t usually the outcome that happens,” Patterson said, adding that the situation reminded her of the discussions surrounding Afghanistan and Iraq a decade ago.
The war in Afghanistan is the longest war in America’s history.
Syria is different, in Thakar’s opinion. “If ever there was a time to intervene, it is this one,” he said. Assad chose to be violent in the face of a popular uprising. His violence has continued to escalate.
To strike against a military target under Assad’s control would save lives in the long run, according to Thakar’s analysis. The strike Obama and Kerry are talking about would be carefully planned to limit or avoid civilian casualties. “The president is very alive to these issues,” he said.
Passivity in the face of crimes against humanity is wrong and dangerous. According to Thakar, “The international community’s failure to censure a barbaric regime will set a bad precedent.”
While Obama worked hard in his speech to explain “why it matters and where we go from here,” many who tuned into his White House address said he faced a daunting—if impossible—job.
“It was a coherent speech about a convoluted problem,” Don Merry, 68, a retired middle-school math teacher from Denver, who watched the speech at McP’s Irish Pub, a popular hangout for active-duty and retired military in Coronado, Calif. “He didn’t score any points with me.”
Obama’s promise not to put any U.S. troops on the ground in Syria captured the attention of Justin Bryant, a tourist visiting Juneau, Alaska, on a cruise.
Bryant, who is from Atlanta and unaffiliated with a political party, said he found an option other than military force appealing. “You can make a statement without being harmful,” he said of Obama’s proposed strategy.
In Atlanta, the Braves game was put on mute as patrons of Manuel’s Tavern turned toward a television broadcasting Obama’s speech.
Some who listened said that while the president made a compelling argument, they were interested in seeing how Russian diplomacy efforts might pan out.
John Ellis, a Republican who retired as a master sergeant, said that a failure to respond militarily would be an admission of weakness for the United States.
“The whole region is so unstable,” said Ellis, 47, of Sacramento, Calif. “There are no good answers. It’s so sad.”
Associated Press contributed to this report