theGrio readers react to the crisis in Syria

The crisis in Syria is complex and filled with uncertainty, and  that has the American public wary of the potential downsides of a possible U.S. strike on that country.

The call for some type of strike against the regime of Bashar al-Assad reached a peak when France and the U.S. said Assad used chemical weapons.  The Syrian leader denies this. President Obama’s administration is lobbying Congress, the U.N. and world leaders to join the U.S. in a possible military strike against the Assad regime to cripple future use of such weapons of mass destruction.

But the situation is not simple.  The American people, weary of war and wary of the circumstances that got the U.S. into Iraq have not embraced the concept of a military action against Syria. Two key Republican leaders in the House — Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) — announced their backing for a strike and expressed confidence that fellow lawmakers would follow suit.  But there are congressmen and senators who say their constituents are not convinced that unilateral military action by the U.S. is well advised.

There are concerns that the U.S. has not exhausted all diplomatic and economic sanctions to alter Assad’s behavior. Many feel the U.S. should not go it alone. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concerns that unilateral action by the U.S. would be a violation of international law, saying such action should only be used for self-defense.

TheGrio has asked users and followers to offer their views on the crisis in Syria. 313 people took the survey that was available online on theGrio site and our Facebook page. Their views and opinions, though not gathered in a scientific manner, reflect the conversations the American people have been having on social media, and are filtering into the offices of Congress in the form of constituent feedback.

First, here is a look at some demographics regarding the survey: 31 percent of the respondents are military veterans, half of the respondents have loved ones serving in the military right now. More women responded than men by 9 percent.  The youngest respondent was 17 years old, the oldest, and there were 5 of them, were 76 or older. Most of the respondents were between the ages of 45 and 65.

When it comes to the race of our respondents, 79 percent were African-American, 19 percent were Caucasian. There was one Asian and one Native American who responded.

Our users responded yes 3 to 1 that there should be consequences against Syria if they used chemical weapons. But the type of action recommended by our users varies. There were calls for economic sanctions, the prosecution of Syria’s leaders for war crimes, a call for missile strikes against Syria’s military infrastructure, and an embargo on future weapons to both sides of the conflict.

One 66-year-old African-American female said, “I don’t know for sure that it was Syria using the [c]hemical [w]eapons. It could have been Israel or the Rebels looking to get the U.S. and others involved in a [w]ar. They can boycott, or blockade Syria. They could assist the people who are fleeing that war torn country. I would not take America into another war, as we are war weary. It is better to use all diplomatic channels and work with other counties for a solution.” She went on to say, “We cannot help the people of Syria by dropping bombs and killing more innocent people, that makes no sense. Assad will still be there and in power after the smoke clears.”

A 47-year-old African-American male was more concerned about the welfare of people right in his neighborhood. He told us “We have a war going on in our streets. Our allies are our good neighbors. I support the [p]resident but we could really use some assistance and Intervention in Chicago.” He went on to say, “Citizens are not equipped to handle armed individuals the police can’t even control.”  In his comment he declared, “NO MORE WAR OR FOREIGN AID ‘TIL YOU TAKE CARE OF HOME!”

A 40-year-old white female said, “Specific targeting of those responsible (leader and enforcers) via a missile or arresting and trying them in a court for serious crimes against humanity. This isn’t about just another country. This is about [h]umans being humanitarian and giving a [expletive] about atrocities that should not be allowed to happen!!! Help these people that are suffering!”

When it comes to the president getting congressional approval, our respondents want Congress to green light a military strike by 2 to 1. An overwhelming number, 4 to 1, believe the United Nations should support any U.S. action in Syria.  And when it comes to having the support of our allies, 87 percent of our respondents feel the U.S. should not go it alone. By a margin of 6:1, respondents say the U.S. should have allied support.

Respondents were asked “What is your greatest fear regarding the outcome of a potential strike against Syria?” Many respondents felt the run-up to a possible attack on Syria is rushed and might lead to a protracted U.S. engagement. Others felt an attack by the U.S. alone would further erode stability in the region, posing a specific danger to Israel.

A 26-year-old African-American female who has a loved one currently serving in the military says her concerns are “That this ‘narrow and swift’ strike will evolve into the same consequences that the U.S. witnessed in Iraq. I do not want my tax dollars funding another frivolous war, we have far more under funded issues here in the U.S.”

A 49-year-old African-American male says he would not want to see Syrian president Assad lose power and allow the chemical weapons his regime now possesses fall into the hands of terrorists.  

Few of our respondents feel U.S. influence in the world is tied to its actions on Syria. By a margin of 3 to 1, our respondents said they do not believe that if the president does not react in some way to hold Syria accountable, that U.S. influence abroad would be eroded.

By the largest margin surveyed, 14 to 1, respondents said the United States couldn’t financially afford to fight another war. The concerns about a protracted military action are prevalent even though the president has offered assurances that the administration seeks a short “surgical” strike without U.S. ground forces deployed to Syria. It is this perception that remains a major obstacle to the president’s proposed response in regards to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Respondents are mixed regarding their view of the outcome of the civil war in Syria. It could be because by almost 4 to 1, respondents do not feel there is a clear foreign policy objective articulated by the White House in regards to a possible attack on Syria.  Respondents have voiced a range of their understanding of why the U.S. should attack Syria over the issue of chemical weapons use.

A 47-year-old African-American male says the U.S. has an obligation as a “world leader” to hold countries accountable if they violate international treaties.

A 58-year-old white female says U.S. policy in regards to this crisis should be geared “To prevent Syria from using chemical weapons and to deter Syria’s allies and other rogue states from considering the use of those weapons.”

A 55-year-old Asian female who has a loved one currently serving in the military says, “Will the president tell his whole game plan? No. But I know that he has carefully thought out what objectives need to be achieved and has the backbone to follow through. That is why I voted for him twice. The objective is to thump Assad and tell him no more chemical weapons and it is time to get your butt to the negotiating table. To let Putin in Russia know that he needs to curb his boy down and it’s time for diplomacy or else. Putin will understand and respect this.”

In an interview with the Associated Press Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin said Russia could agree to back military action in Syria if the U.N. received proof that Bashar al-Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons against its citizens.

Mr. Putin said that he “doesn’t exclude” the possibility of backing force, but at this stage he does not even accept that an alleged chemical weapons attack took place.

The president is scheduled to be in St. Petersburg, Russia to attend the G20 Summit where he is expected to have conversations with world leaders including Vladimir Putin regarding the crisis in Syria.

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