National security works differently than domestic issues, and actually leaves the White House broad latitude to act and lead abroad–as long as its efforts produce results.
Last August, as President Obama considered military action against the Assad regime in Syria after it almost certainly used chemical weapons against its own people, ABC News argued that a lack of public and congressional support would constitute “a major obstacle” to the President launching such a strike.
In June, John Judis wrote in the New Republic about the Administration’s deployment of advisers to Iraq: “[Obama] is suffering from political cross pressures…there is next to zero public support for any military intervention in Iraq or anywhere else.”
This conventional wisdom shapes the thinking of elected officials, policy makers, outside experts and the media—and therefore ends up constricting the policy options the White House, Pentagon and State Department view as viable.
It is true that the polls have shifted, with the public expressing less support for ventures abroad. A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 52% now agree the United States should “mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.” That’s the highest level ever, in 50 years of asking that question.
The public also seems less confident about our global power. A 53% majority now says the United States is less important and powerful than 10 years ago.
But on national security, we should all pay less attention to the polls.
Continue reading at Time.