Americans’ Foreign Policy Preference: Stay Out of It

crimea ukraine

President Barack Obama is facing conflicting demands over foreign policy. On the one hand, in light of Russia’s continued aggression, many are demanding that he show greater strength, saying sanctions are ineffective as a strategy and that Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing no signs of removing his troops from the border, while those Russian entities already in Ukraine continue to wreak havoc on government buildings. On the other, a poll of Americans by The Wall Street Journal shows an overall strong opposition to American involvement in world affairs and a majority desire for less activity internationally — a position that’s backed by other polls.

The desire for a more aggressive foreign policy tactic comes in large part from Republicans in Congress such as Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who said Monday that he believes further “tepid” sanctions will be ineffective, and suggested that the U.S. focus on Russia’s financial sector and its energy sector while also providing aid to Ukraine’s military.

After a week of rhetoric from the administration, I had hoped we would have responded to Russia’s blatant violations of its commitment to cease efforts to destabilize Ukraine with more than just a slap on the wrist,” he said. “Until Putin feels the real pain of sanctions … I don’t think diplomacy will change Russian behavior and de-escalate this crisis.”

The president spoke at press conference in the Philippines earlier in the week, addressing the pressure some are placing on him to either send weapons and military support to Ukraine, or to get militarily involved. “Typically, criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget?” Obama suggested that some may not have “learned the lesson of the last decade” in Iraq, and that foreign affairs “may not always be sexy.”

Based upon the 47 percent of Americans that reported to The Wall Street Journal their preference to be less active on the world stage, it’s likely many agree. This is compared to 30 percent that are happy with the country’s involvement level at present, and the 19 percent who would prefer a more active role. Forty-two percent say that the president’s approach to foreign policy is balanced, 36 percent say “He is too cautious and lets other countries control events,” while 15 percent call him too bold. When asked about what the U.S. should do to handle the situation between Russia and Ukraine, 48 percent said that action should only be pursued alongside other countries, and 26 percent said that America should leave the situation in the hands of the EU alone. Only 5 percent suggested America make any moves on its own.

A similar response was given in 2013 in a Gallup poll that asked respondents whether or not the U.S. should become militarily involved in Syria should economic and diplomatic efforts fail. Only 24 percent said that the U.S. should, while 68 percent said America should remain uninvolved, and 8 percent gave no opinion. This is more notable considering 58 percent said they did not think that economic and diplomatic efforts would ultimately be successful, only 27 percent saying the opposite. Overall, the American public seems to be demanding more in the way of efforts at home, rather than desirous of an outward focus.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS