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Indecision In Syria: The West's Public Opinion Problem

A strange thing has happened on the way to the war in Syria: U.S. public opinion, like in Turkey, has lined up this time alongside Europe's perennial reflex against intervention.

London protest against war in Syria on Sept. 9, 2013
London protest against war in Syria on Sept. 9, 2013

PARIS — Upon his return from Vietnam, after serving there as a lieutenant, John Kerry delivered impassioned anti-war speeches to U.S. senators and excited crowds at peace rallies. That was 32 years ago. Today, John Kerry is President Obama's Secretary of State, and the most vocal advocate of a military intervention in Syria to punish the regime's use of chemical weapons.

But despite all of the eloquence and conviction that Kerry is capable of displaying, one central fact about the Syrian crisis cannot be concealed: American public opinion — in line this time with European sentiment — is largely hostile to the prospect of their country taking military action against Bashar al-Assad’s regime. This turnaround of opinions, in comparison with previous allied interventions, is a key part of the Syrian equation and complicates matters for the few heads of states who are in favor of using military force.

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