Use of Chemical Weapons Affects the Public's View on Military Intervention in Syria


Credit: US Army/wikimedia

One of the arguments against intervention in Syria has been that such a move would not be welcomed by most Americans. Numerous polls from last year and this year show that Americans have been broadly consistent in their skepticism of military intervention in Syria. 

However, it seems that the use of chemical weapons in Syria will change the minds of many Americans. Over at The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight blog Micah Cohen shows that a majority of Americans said before the recent confirmed use of chemical weapons in Syria that they would support military intervention in Syria if the Assad regime used chemical weapons (graphic below).

Credit:New York Times, Pollingreport.com

Quite what makes the use of chemical weapons so especially outrageous escapes me. A significant number of Americans were against intervention when tens of thousands of Syrians had already been killed and many others tortured and raped. I can't see how now that U.S. officials are confident that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons that such a drastic shift in moral outlook can be justified.

Of course, terms like "chemical weapon" and "weapon of mass destruction" come with a lot of political, legal, and historical baggage that no doubt influenced some of those surveyed in the polls. But even considering the shock value of chemical weapons the shift in opinion outlined by Cohen is disturbing.