What does the American public want in Egypt? Not much.

August 15, 2013

President Obama weighed in on the violence in Egypt Thursday morning, issuing a careful statement in which he canceled a planned joint military action with the country but stopped short of cutting off military aid.

"America cannot determine the future of Egypt," said Obama. "That's a task for the Egyptian people."


President Obama

A scan through recent polling on Egypt suggests that Obama is echoing a sentiment widely held by the American public: There is little interest in the United States involving itself in what is happening in the Egypt and equally little belief that such involvement could change anything.

Take this Pew poll last month that showed just more than one in three Americans believe that what happens in Egypt is "very important" to U.S. interests, a 10-point drop from February 2011 -- in the midst of the Arab Spring.

In that same Pew survey, nearly eight in ten respondents said that while Egypt was "important" there were "bigger concerns" in the United States.

Image courtesy of Pew
Image courtesy of Pew

And the doubts about what the United State's role should or, more accurately, shouldn't be are remarkably bipartisan.

In a National Journal/All State poll, 16 percent of Democrats and Republicans said that the "U.S. should do more to try to shape the government in Egypt and promote an end to violence" while nearly eight in ten people in both parties say the U.S. should mostly stay out of Egypt's business.

It is, of course, possible that the deaths of more than 500 people over the last few days in Egypt could move public opinion into a more activist stance toward the country.

But, given the fatigue over Iraq and Afghanistan we've seen in the American public in recent years, it seems there is a broad and steady reluctance to get involved in foreign conflicts that isn't likely to change.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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