Essential Issues Americans Need to Know About Syria's Civil War

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Posted Sept. 4, 2013

Interview with Jennifer Loewenstein, associate director, Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, conducted by Scott Harris


After long, bloody and costly U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American people are decidedly opposed to President Obama’s plan to intervene militarily in Syria’s civil war. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Sept. 3 found that by a margin of 59 to 36 percent, Americans oppose a U.S. attack after the Obama administration announced they had high confidence that the regime of Syrian President Basher al-Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people. Opposition to U.S. intervention in Syria was bipartisan, with Democrats and Republicans both coming out equally against the plan that is now being debated in Congress.

The president sought and received conditional support in his campaign to win congressional authorization from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama’s 2008 presidential election opponent. McCain, who was one of President George W. Bush’s most vocal supporters of launching the 2003 war against Iraq, has stated his intention to expand U.S. military involvement in Syria beyond President Obama’s pledge to limit U.S. intervention to “degrade and deter” Bashir al-Assad’s capacity to use chemical weapons. McCain and other “war hawks” want the U.S. to "reverse the situation on the battlefield" and more actively assist the rebels in overthrowing the Syrian government.

With over 100,000 deaths and 4.5 million internal and external refugees thus far in the Syrian civil war, as well as violence spilling over into neighboring nations, there are many warning signs that U.S. military intervention could trigger unintended and dangerous consequences. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jennifer Loewenstein, associate director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Here she talks about what the American people should know about Syria - and the possible costs of any future U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Find information about the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison at

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