But in cases when the U.S. does intervene, veterans are more likely to support using “overwhelming” force without restraint.
Consequently, the authors found that as more and more veterans join the ranks of government, the likelihood of intervening militarily abroad decreases -- but the force used in each intervention is greater.
We find that as the percentage of veterans serving in the executive branch and the legislature increases, the probability that the United States will initiate militarized disputes declines by nearly 90 percent. At the same time, however, once an MID has been initiated, the higher the proportion of veterans in the government, the greater the level of force the United States will use in the dispute.
5. We would probably have fewer military interventions if it was always up to Congress.
Obama’s decision to turn the decision on Syria over to Congress is significant because historically, lawmakers are much less likely to take on foreign conflicts than presidents are.
As Richard Hanania argued in the Journal of Jurisprudence last year, “If the power to make war was still exclusively in the hands of Congress, the Serbian and Libyan, and likely Somali, interventions would never have happened.”
To give just one example, here’s the wishy-washy manner in which Congress handled the decision to send NATO into Kosovo in 1999:
On March 23, 1999, the Senate passed a resolution urging the United States and NATO allies to attack the former Yugoslavia in order to stop Serbian forces from killing Albanians. The House refused to do the same, and one day later, NATO began bombing the former Yugoslavia. The very same day, the House passed a resolution which expressed support for American soldiers and made clear the reservations of some members of the legislature about the attack, but did not approve of the war. Just over a month later, it rejected a Senate vote authorizing the use of force against the Serbs by a tie vote. At the same time, the House explicitly rejected a resolution calling on the president to withdraw all troops from the conflict, and along with the Senate appropriated funds for the mission.
One way Hanania explains this is through the phenomenon of buck-passing: If you really do support intervention as a president, not taking action means living with the guilt of violating your morals. After leaving office, Hanania points out, President Clinton said that his biggest regret was not intervening in Rwanda. Meanwhile, if you support intervention as a member of Congress, you can still vote with your party, or with the sentiment of your home district, and share the guilt of having not intervened with your fellow policymakers.
Other studies have found that the general public generally does favor intervening in foreign countries on humanitarian grounds, and that those opinion polls influence the way legislators vote.
"Both the public and members of Congress understand and are motivated by the ethical and normative obligations of the international community in general and the United States in particular to step in and stop episodes of widespread human rights abuse," a 2012 study in the journal Foreign Policy Analysis found.
However, that's actually another reason Congress members might be reluctant to act in the case of Syria: Their constituents are, too.