The current situation in Syria has the U.S. government trapped in a moral paradox. A country that is the self-proclaimed “beacon of moral authority in the world” is struggling over whether it should enforce war crimes and breaking of international law or simply mind its own business. Over the past few weeks Obama has been grappling with the idea of military action in Syria; both the necessity of it and the public’s willingness to engage in another overseas military commitment. The American people are fatigued by the drawn out wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so much that rumors of another military engagement in Syria are enough to push them over the edge.
This phenomenon, where the U.S. policy fluctuates between wanting to help and wanting to keep to themselves is not a new one. The American government has shifted multiple times between policies based on isolationism and internationalism for the mere two centuries we have been around. One notable shift in policy was in the early 1900s when President Theodore Roosevelt issued the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. His corollary established the U.S. at the “police force of the world”, the exact thing that Obama recently stated he was against. Roosevelt changed the U.S. from an isolationist country to an internationalist, an ideal that held up until the end of WWI. After the First World War the U.S. changed back to an isolationist country and tried to stay out of the looming Second World War. Unfortunately, the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 forced the U.S. into the war and the general public quickly shifted to an internationalist mindset. With the end of WWII and the creation of the United Nations the United States tried to shift back to its isolationist policy and leave the responsibility of watching over international law to the U.N.
It is safe to say that after a war the last thing anyone wants is more war. This has been proven time and time again throughout history and the same concept holds true now. Americans do not want to go into Syria because we are already sick of the drawn out fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, it could be necessity that prompts action in Syria and with that a wave of nationalism and support that shifts the U.S. back into an internationalist state of mind.
Hampshire Daily Gazette, 9/11/13