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WASHINGTON — Only 1 in 5 Americans believe that failing to respond to chemical weapons attacks in Syria would embolden other rogue governments, rejecting the heart of a weeks-long White House campaign for U.S. military strikes, an Associated Press poll concluded Monday.
The poll of 1,007 adults nationwide found that most Americans oppose even a limited attack on Syria — likely with cruise missiles — despite Obama administration warnings that inaction would risk national security and ignore a gruesome humanitarian crisis. And a slim majority — 53 percent — fear that a strike would lead to a long-term U.S. military commitment in Syria.
The survey reflects a U.S. public that is tired of Mideast wars after a dozen years of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. It undercuts political support Obama is hoping to garner as he seeks congressional authorization this week to strike the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
U.S. officials have cited a high confidence in intelligence that indicates Assad's government launched the Aug. 21 attacks that they say killed more than 1,400 Syrians. Obama last year warned Assad that using chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war would amount to a "red line" that, if crossed, would bring a swift U.S. response.
But the White House is facing lukewarm support in Congress, where many lawmakers have questioned whether the strikes would create more of a problem for the U.S. than they would help the nearly three year effort to overthrow Assad.
"America needs to stop getting into other people's business and causing a war that's mainly unneeded," Patrick Lawrence, a student at Loyola Marymount University, said Monday while eating breakfast at a Glendale, Calif., bakery.
If Assad still refuses to negotiate an end to the Syrian civil war, "then we should go after him instead of going after innocent people in random cities," Lawrence said. He was referring to the strong possibility of civilians who would be killed unintentionally during U.S. strikes.
Released Monday, the AP poll was conducted September 6-8 by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,007 adults nationwide. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.
Associated Press Writer Raquel Dillon in Glendale, Calif., contributed to this report.