59% of Americans oppose unilateral US action.
Even when posed the (increasingly very theoretical) question about how they would feel if the US acted with its allies, only 46% of Americans support an intervention.
Yet the President, after announcing his intentions to strike, decided to take it to Congress, a logical step given this President's criticism of his predecessor's war actions, but one made less logical given that Congress is meant to reflect the people: a people largely and resoundingly opposed to a military intervention in recent polls.
The choice is made even less logical given the UK Parliament's strike down of any military action against Syria. The British public spoke through their MPs with a clearly resounding no. We will get no allies from them.
Americans' concerns seem to stem with the "Why?" of the strike. The why must be balanced against potential consequences such as backlash and long-term commitment and concerns like whether or not the strike will work (a measly 33% think it will).
Albeit, Americans have war fatigue, so Congress, looking after our national security (something that the average American does not have to worry about), will have to consider military action despite the average person's distaste for another war. But, given other available options which, just like a military strike, are good not great, I hope a hearty debate happens, particularly independent of party lines.
(Note: This whole debate is also premature, since we have not yet heard from the UN inspectors, a step that would provide more validity on the world stage to a strike or any action, but I digress.)
To be clear, this is not entirely like Iraq. Weapons capabilities and their usage is more established in this case and Obama had set a red line before the most recent (and most serious) allegations were made. The issue, however, to me with the Obama response has been the attempt to persuade the public that a chemical attack has occurred.
Obama has almost uniquely focused on that, not explaining what the national security concern is or how effective a strike would be on reducing chemical capabilities.
“I want people to understand that gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children, is not something we do. It’s prohibited in active wars between countries. We certainly don’t do it against kids.” - Obama, G20 Summit
While evidence is supporting allegations that the red line Obama has now been crossed, the justification to intervene now merely seems to be a response to Obama's own red line. When over the past two years 100,000 deaths have occurred, 8,000 of which were women and children, 400 additional child deaths from gas, though obviously horrific, seems to be a rallying cry more than rational justification for immediate intervention.
His appeal to the emotional in his speech at the G20 summit is indicative of a greater trend over the past few weeks. Some have accused the White House of orchestrating leaks to spin the story.
Though this would be the first well-documented chemical attack, it would not be the first war crime. People have died from raining bullets, children have had their throats slit, and, the British government report 14 chemical attacks in Syria.
Assad will be convicted of war crimes, a criminal conviction most people who do not support an intervention believe we should focus on achieving instead.
Chinese leaders are siding with Russia, opposing the strike and calling for a political, nonmilitary solution. Both claim that a strike would raise oil prices, affecting the world economy, and destabilize the region more so. China is waiting for an international response after the UN findings are finalized.
President Obama has said that his own credibility is not on the line, but that "the international community's credibility is on the line." If the international community does not act at all, then yes we are all to blame, but even China and Russia support some steps to mitigate the violence. Those that opposed David Cameron's plan like Milliband still want to see humanitarian involvement.
But Obama has set a military-or-nothing play in the United States, and apparently is using that standard to ignore middle-ground dialogue.
Several members of Congress are now convinced that a strike happened after seeing a private video showing analysis of the attacks. But becoming convinced of the crime does not mean they support the punishment Obama has set. Senator Mikuski is convinced chemical weapons were used, but still debating what the response should be.
Obama has only mentioned a military strike. Despite two years of civil war, he has not discussed significant humanitarian measures or, when faced with past chemical allegations, seriously outlined a military intervention to the public. He has not accepted more refugees and has had no serious public concern for the destabilization of the region as refugees and violence spill into Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon.
By shushing other options, Obama has made this decision about his credibility. He said we would strike if X happened and X happened. Now we must act. But if the people's voice is heard, Congress will hopefully propose alternate plans and, hopefully, convince Obama (and Kerry) not to act militarily without approval: a recent, sad threat from the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner.