Intervention fatigue: For the past dozen years, Sept. 11 has become one of the most solemn annual observances in our nation. On the eve this sad occasion, President Barack Obama went on prime-time television to persuade the American people that further military action is needed in the Middle East.
So far, the American people aren’t buying it. The president acknowledged this in several interviews leading up to his speech.
“Right now, the American people are not persuaded,” Obama told Fox News.
He told PBS, “I’m not sure that we’re ever going to get a majority of the American people, after over a decade of war, after what happened in Iraq, to say that any military action, particularly in the Middle East, makes sense, in the absence of some direct threat or attack against us.”
It appears a diplomatic breakthrough is at hand, inspired by an off-hand remark by Secretary of State John Kerry and brokered by Russia. On Tuesday, Syria agreed to turn over its chemical weapons to the United Nations to avoid a U.S. military strike.
Flash back to 12 years ago, the day of the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in history. Ceremonies across the country will mark the 9/11 attack on Wednesday. Riverside County’s remembrance, starting at 7:30 a.m. at the County Administration Center, is called “Lest We Forget.”
As if we could.
Anyone one of a certain age remembers exactly where they were when those towers were struck by hijacked airliners, along with the crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. It changed our world and our outlook. We still feel a sense of violation and outrage. Back then, the American people supported the invasion of Afghanistan and later the war in Iraq.
The fact that the justification for that second war turned out to be bogus is one reason the American people and Congress are reluctant to support intervention today. While we have a certain amount of faith in our leaders, we haven’t seen proof that Assad used chemical weapons to kill 1,400 of his own people. And, as the president said, there’s no direct threat.
Andrew J. Polsky, political science professor at Hunter College, told the Associated Press there’s just no sense that American interests are directly implicated. He likens this period to the aftermath of the Korean and Vietnam wars, one of intervention fatigue.
“The kind of intervention the American people will tolerate now is one of virtually no possibility of blow back, no possibility of American casualties, of generating attacks on Americans elsewhere,” he said.
We look at this in the context of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, now the longest war in U.S. history. We wonder why, 12 years later, American lives are still being lost there. We’ve endured enough. Despite assurances from Obama and Kerry that the attack on Syria would be a “small strike” and that there will be no U.S. troops on the ground, we don’t have the stomach for another conflict in the Middle East.
The diplomatic solution is best.