Should U.S. butt out of international conflicts?
April 30th, 2014
01:09 PM ET
5 months ago

Should U.S. butt out of international conflicts?

Washington (CNN) - Stay out.

That seems to increasingly be the message from Americans when it comes to U.S. involvement in global hotspots, such as the crisis in Ukraine and the bloody civil war in Syria.

Forty-seven percent of people questioned in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll say the United States should be less active in foreign affairs, with 19% saying the country should be more active and three in ten saying the current level is just about right. That's a switch from September 2001, right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 37% said the United States should be more active and 14% said the country should be less active in world affairs, with 44% saying the current level was appropriate.

Other recent surveys also indicated a desire by many Americans to stay out of overseas conflicts. Sixty-two percent of people questioned last week in a USA Today/Pew Research Center poll said they were opposed to Washington sending arms and military supplies to Ukraine's government, as it deals with pro-Russian separatists.

By a 54%-39% margin, voters in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted late last month said it was more important for the U.S. "not to get too involved" in the Ukraine crisis rather than "take a firm stand against Russian actions."

And 61% questioned in a CBS News survey from late March said the United States doesn't have a responsibility to do something about the situation between Russia and Ukraine, with only around three in ten saying that Washington had a responsibility to get involved.

"American attitudes have changed since the days after the 9/11 attacks when an interventionist mindset was the norm," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan took care of that, reminding Americans that military actions often have unforeseen consequences."

While the polls indicate many Americans want less U.S. involvement in international affairs, they also suggest that the public's not happy with how President Barack Obama's been handling global hotspots, including the crisis in Ukraine.

Less than four in ten in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey say they approve of how the President's handling foreign policy, an all-time low for Obama in that poll. And according to the ABC News/Washington Post survey released Tuesday, only 34% of the public approves of how the President's dealing with the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, down eight points from early March.

Opposition to the Iraq War was a central theme in then-presidential candidate Obama's successful campaign for the White House in the 2008 election. In his recent week-long trip to Asia, the President defended his current strategy in dealing with international conflicts.

"For some reason, many who were proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven't really learned the lesson of the last decade and they just keep playing the same note over and over again. Why? I don't know but my job as commander-in-chief is to look at what is going to advance our security interests over the long term. To keep our military in reserve for when we absolutely need it. There are going to be times where there are disasters and difficulties and challenges around the world and not all of those are going to be immediately solvable by us," Obama said at a news conference on Monday in the Philippines.

Five takeaways from Obama's Philippines news conference

"That attitude mirrors a poll finding in late 2011, when more than seven in ten Americans said that American military force should only be used as a last resort, after economic and diplomatic efforts have failed," Holland notes. "The problem for Obama is that the public may be just as unhappy with the consequences of inaction as they would have been with any military action."


Filed under: Foreign Policy • Poll • President Obama • Ukraine
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. citizenUSA

    Stupid question. Sad answers.

    April 30, 2014 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  2. just saying

    this country used to stand for something before obama and the democrats got ahold of it. now we just stand around, unemployed and watching while the entire world gets engulfed in conflicts and say sorry, not our problem. other peoples problems will remain their problems and not ours. at least that is the way it worked out all through history. right?

    April 30, 2014 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  3. Andy H.

    Yes, we should. Cut defense spending to be in line with other spending.

    April 30, 2014 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  4. sly

    "Butt Out?"

    No way ... we need to intervene between China and Tibet, between Russia and Ukraine, between the Tutsi's and Hutu's, and of course, between the Arabs and the Jews.

    Also, let's invade Northern Ireland and solve their issues with the Brits. Then, down to Chile to overthrow their government ... oops, wait, already did that.

    Then let's all enjoy those $10 trillion wars that kill 500,000 innocent Arabs. "The American Way"!

    Praise President Obama – the FIRST President in 50 years to not start a war.

    April 30, 2014 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  5. sonny chapman

    Pre Emptive Attack Policy sounds good on paper to Neo Cons who've never seen combat themselves, but it's bad. A REAL Democracy only has so many Wars in it's Ethos. W?/Cheney burned it up on Iraq & Mismanaging Afghanistan.

    April 30, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  6. AJ-107

    At the very minimum, we need to reduce our presence in other country's affairs and stop giving billions in aide to countries that don't give a damn about our policies and concerns. It is past the time for the E.U. and other countries to start footing the bills for the action they want to see, and time for the USA to start focusing on things here at home.

    The old REO Speedwagon song Golden Country comes to mind when I think if this issue.

    April 30, 2014 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  7. TURBO GINSU

    If Ukraine falls to Russia, it will be the start of another Cold War. We won't be dealing with Russia anymore, the USSR will be looking to make a comeback tour. I don't like the radioactive implications of that.

    April 30, 2014 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. salty dog

    Over 500 military contractors with 100 million dollar contracts, no wonder war is so desirable .

    April 30, 2014 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. cedaly1968

    All that is necessary for triumph of evil is that good men to do nothing.
    -Sir Edmund Burke

    The last time we "butt out" we got Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Hirohito. This time it would be Kim,Putin, Assad and ????

    April 30, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. John

    Why is it that when we talk of hotspots other than anything that involves Israel, many here will say to stay out, but if Israel is involved, that the U.S. should be in. Something smells fishy. Could it be the Jewish influence?

    April 30, 2014 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. kiwisepp

    So, Americans do not want to be involved in, but at same time, they are not happy with president while he did just what Americans want, no involvement

    April 30, 2014 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  12. JackBriss

    Should U.S. butt out of international conflicts?
    ==================================

    Absolutely. That's why they created a UN.

    April 30, 2014 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  13. it must be said

    John
    Why is it that when we talk of hotspots other than anything that involves Israel, many here will say to stay out, but if Israel is involved, that the U.S. should be in. Something smells fishy. Could it be the Jewish influence?
    -–

    Well, they own Hollywood and the Democrat Party.

    April 30, 2014 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  14. gyg

    Yes, we need to stay out of it! The United States is not the powerhouse it use to be, thanks to Obama!! He sure is gonna make sure he destroys this country before he leaves office!! Him and Pelosi need to go!! Obama is a dictator-period! Now his wife wants to be a movie star and appear on all the prime time shows! Now the obamas want to tell us what we can and can't eat! Can't someone fine anything on them that would get him impeached?? Please???

    April 30, 2014 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  15. TURBO GINSU

    @just saying

    Somalia and Darfur. Your argument is invalid.

    April 30, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  16. Ron Paul 2016

    LOL All of you pro war fools don't even know what you're talking about! We have no obligation to go to these hot spots, I'm tired spending trillions of dollars, and sending our men and women into harms way into a conflict we have no part in. Until we're or our NATO allies get attacked, we stay out of any problems the world has. We can't be the world's policeman anymore, it's not economically viable! So yes, we should butt out for good!

    April 30, 2014 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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