War and Peace: Syria and the Question of American Intervention

On July 4 1821, John Quincy Adams gave an historic address to Congress, in which he stated that, while America may support the cause of freedom with “benedictions and prayers…she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.” However, from the Spanish-American War of 1898 to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, or the Libyan air campaign in 2011, this elegant appeal to noninterventionism has given way, time and again, to U.S. adventures abroad.

Today, as conflicts and humanitarian crises abound, the United States is called upon more frequently than ever to put its military and diplomatic preponderance to use. Yet, at the same time, 15 years of war in Afghanistan and over a decade of involvement in Iraq have deeply cut the American appetite for military intervention, at least the kind that puts U.S. troops in harm’s way.

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