Syria Shows Which Voices Matter in the U.S. Foreign Policy Debate

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Whose opinion counts when it comes to U.S. foreign policy? Not yours.


There have been several recent opinion polls in the U.S. showing a strong preference for staying out of Syria's civil war. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 61 percent of respondents opposed U.S. involvement in Syria. Another, from the New York Times and CBS, found that 62 percent of Americans polled said Washington had no responsibility to "do something" about the fighting in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is signalling that it is ready to arm Syrian rebel groups, drawing the U.S. inexorably deeper in a struggle the American people say they want no part of.

All of this raises an important question: if the American people don't want any part of Syria's civil war, who does? Who's clamoring for action in Syria? As far as I can tell it consists of journalists and think tank analysts, members of Congress, some of the president's advisers and foreign governments. The American public, writ-large, as best we can tell, is not.

And that's all you need to know about whose opinion is actually decisive when it comes to shaping U.S. policies.

Let's also stipulate that the American people could be wrong about Syria. They certainly are not well informed: a full 36 percent of people polled had "neither heard nor read" anything about Syria's civil war, according to the Reuters survey. But right or wrong, their opinion doesn't count for much.

(AP Photo)

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