mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
French Bark About Syria: No Sign of Bite

As world opinion becomes more outraged (and US diplomacy looks more impotent and clueless) on Syria, a poll in France casts light on the growing clamor for yet another Middle Eastern war.

According to a poll published by the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde, 58 percent of those polled favored a UN backed intervention in Syria. (Alert: the link takes you to an article in French.) Even more striking, once supporters of the far right Front National are taken out of consideration, almost three quarters of the French right and two thirds of the left support such an intervention.  (New French president Francois Hollande has said that such an intervention “cannot be excluded.”)

This kind of poll will inevitably drive more talk of war, but it is interesting to note the limits of that support. Only 50 percent of the French favor French participation in a UN-backed military effort. Given Russian and Chinese determination to block another western intervention in the Middle East, it is likely that any such intervention would have to take place under NATO. That would be harder for the French to support, especially on the left where many still see NATO as an instrument of American power that France needs to oppose.

Unless things change, that means that the French are likely to march in the streets and write letters to the editor about Butcher Assad’s Syrian horrors, and reflect at length on the vast moral distance between their own keen enlightenment and strong political values and the sorry state of the Arab world, but otherwise do very little.

Given that Germany is strongly opposed to military intervention in Syria and that Britain shows no desire to lead the charge, Europe is unlikely to provide clear policy leadership on Syria. The Obama administration can’t lead from behind this time; at present it appears unable to lead at all.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Kansas Scott

    I know it’s not your main point but why do you note the poll results with the far right removed? Your post is what the French think not what a subset thinks. The far right may be odd and unpleasant but they are obviously still French. If the fact that the left and center are more supportive of intervention is news, then that should be explained.

    It seems a bit like reporting an election poll about where Americans stand on the upcoming election and saying 51 percent support the president but then noting that if you take Republicans out of the poll, the president’s numbers go way up.

  • Kris

    8% of the French support a purely Yankee military intervention in Syria.

    KS@1: Indeed, though to be fair to VM, that’s the breakdown provided at the link: Front National, Right, Left. (As an aside, if we are going to have a “far right”, better an isolationist one.)

  • anthony

    It is not our war. We should all stay out.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service