Majority Of Americans Oppose Intervention In The Internal Affairs Of Middle Eastern Nations

As we head into tonight’s debate, the Pew Research Center is out with a poll showing that most Americans favor a foreign policy that doesn’t rely so much on intervention in unstable parts of the world like the Middle East:

More than six-in-ten (63%) say they think the U.S. should be less involved with changes of leadership in the Middle East, compared with just 23% who say the U.S. should be more involved.

Although Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to favor greater involvement, just 34% of Republicans advocate this (compared with 20% of Democrats and 19% of independents).

The one area where this doesn’t seem to be the case is, not surprisingly, Iran:

The public has long favored tough measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and 56% now say it is more important to take a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program, while 35% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict. In January, 50% favored taking a firm stand against Iran and 41% said it was more important to avoid a confrontation.

Given ten years of war, it’s not surprising that the American public is less enthusiastic about interventionism. We’ve paid a heavy price in blood and treasure and have very little to show for it. Add to that the fact that the Arab Spring has created a political climate in several Middle Eastern nations that is less than hospitable to the U.S. to say the least, and the idea of discretion being the better strategy here seems quite apparent. As for the Iran situation, I think that can be attributed to the conflicts we’ve had with that nation over the past three decades. The Iranians have done next to nothing to convince anyone in the United States that they are willing to become responsible citizens of the Middle East, and that’s the primary reason that their nuclear program is something that the average American is concerned about.

FILED UNDER: Middle East, National Security, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    Since when did taking a firm stand and avoiding a war become mutually exclusive choices?

    The key to the debate tonight will not be Romney’s accusations against Obama, but rather Obama’s counterpunching and pinning Romney down.

    “Tell us, governor, what you would be doing differently? Tell us how you would implement global sanctions without Russia and China agreeing to participate.”

  2. Tony W says:

    @Geek, Esq.: Why would he begin answering questions now?

  3. @Geek, Esq.:

    Of course the question becomes what the President would do if/when those sanctions fail to persuade the Iranians to abandon their nuclear program.

  4. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Everyone should have this answer memorized: Nothing is off the table, a military strike remains an option but only as a very last resort, Iran had better not test our resolve on this, we stand united with Israel and our other allies on this, etc.

    Which is exactly what Romney will say as well. But that he’ll be mas macho than Obama at it.

  5. sam says:

    On Iran, see Former Israeli Spymaster: We Need To Talk to Iran:

    Obama has placed emphasis on negotiations. In this current election for the US presidency, his hands are tied. He cannot proceed, because he cannot appear soft on Israel’s security.

    Negotiating with Iran is perceived as a sign of beginning to forsake Israel. That is where I think the basic difference is between Romney and Obama. What Romney is doing is mortally destroying any chance of a resolution without war. Therefore when [he recently] said, he doesn’t think there should be a war with Iran, this does not ring true. It is not consistent with other things he has said. […]

    Obama does think there is still room for negotiations. It’s a very courageous thing to say in this atmosphere.

    In the end, this is what I think: Making foreign policy on Iran a serious issue in the US elections — what Romney has done, in itself — is a heavy blow to the ultimate interests of the United States and Israel.

    It is not as if, if he wins the election, and gets into the White House, he can back up. The Iranians are listening attentively to what he says. When he says, he would arm the opposition in Iran. They understand.

    Folks should be careful what they wish for.

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    The current Israeli intelligence officials and the Israeli military are opposed to a military attack on Iran because they know it would be a disaster for Israel. Only shoot first necons and Likudniks think always being alpha males is a good idea. Do we want Iran to have a nuclear weapon? Of course the answer is no. But you have to look at the probable negative impact of that war.

  7. grumpy realist says:

    If the Israelis are so spooked by the prospect of Iran getting a nuke, they can deal with the problem on their own.

    Heck, I’d rather just outright donate a few nukes to Iran rather than get into a Iran-Israel war with US acting as mercenary army for the Israelis….

  8. David M says:

    The Iranians have done next to nothing to convince anyone in the United States that they are willing to become responsible citizens of the Middle East

    Is this really correct? If anything it seems like a pretty safe bet that Iran won’t be starting any wars in the near future.

  9. Dave Schuler says:

    I wonder how many Americans oppose trading with the countries of the Middle East, advocating for women’s rights or health in the countries of the Middle East, or visiting the Middle East as tourists. Those are all forms of intervention in the internal affairs of those countries, too.

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