Weary of war, Americans increasingly balk at military intervention. Does this reflect a new strain of isolationism or just doubts about the effectiveness of using force in the Middle East?
As President Obama pressed earlier this month for congressional authorization to use force against Syria over a gruesome chemical weapons attack, one reader's comment on a Politico story assessing the president's prospects captured the mood of a fatigued and inward-looking America.
"Losing the vote is the best thing that could happen," the reader said. "Then we can sail away from the Middle East and mind our own business."
After a decade of wars in the Middle East and Muslim world, and after a "great recession" that sapped the United States economically and psychologically, Americans appear ready to board a sloop and forget about the rest of the world.
In one survey after another, the percentage of Americans preferring the US to "stay out" of world affairs climbs to record levels – in one it's at a seven-decade high. Polls taken during Mr. Obama's 10-day campaign in September for public backing of his plan for punitive military strikes against Syria's Bashar al-Assad revealed deeper resistance to action in Syria than to other unpopular presidential initiatives for intervention in recent decades.
Moreover, surveys find that Millennials in particular eschew global engagement – suggesting the trend could have an effect on America's role in the world for some time to come. Yet while some experts and pundits trumpet the advent of a new isolationism, others say not so fast. Libertarians and progressive internationalists alike say that, after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which cost the US tremendous blood and treasure even as they cost those countries even more, Americans have turned resolutely noninterventionist.
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