Public opinion clearly shouldn’t drive policy – especially foreign policy – even in a democratic regime. However, it is interesting to see that the American public seems more realistic when it comes to Syria than many elites, particularly those on the Right who would have the US wade more deeply into the internal affairs of Syria. Here is a new poll from the Pew Research Center that shows Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to arming anti-government groups in Syria:
But before we get too excited about the wisdom of the crowd, notice the potential contradictions – or at least tensions – between that opposition to arming groups and these more general views:
The last finding worries me most, though the silver lining is that “what it can” might be seen as pretty limited by Americans who think the U.S. military is already too overcommitted. Nonetheless, moralism in foreign policy is a dangerous sentiment that can be tapped into by a motivated President (see McKinley, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Clinton, and Bush II in particular).