What U.S. Policymakers Can Learn From The World's Unhappiest People


A Gallup poll released Monday showed Syrians are the world's least happy people, with a positive emotions index (PEI) of only 46%. This should come as no surprise after everything that has happened in Syria recently, but what may come as a surprise to some United States policymakers is that Iraq, a nation where the U.S. has exerted influence and control for over a decade, had the second lowest PEI, with only 47% of the nation experiencing positive emotions.

This is a warning to U.S. policymakers that U.S. intervention abroad is not helping natives in those countries, at least not with their level of happiness.

According to other Gallup polls conducted on the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, Americans are more wary of military intervention today than ever before. A pre-conflict poll taken prior to the Afghanistan and Iraq interventions showed that in 2001, 89% of Americans favored U.S. military action in Afghanistan while in 2003, 59% of Americans favored U.S. military action in Iraq. A survey from earlier this month showed an even lower support rate for military action in Syria, with only 36% of Americans in favor of such measures.  

The most cited reasons for Americans' opposition to military action in Syria is that the civil war there is none of our business (43%), and exerting military control won't produce the results we think and hope it will (30%). It looks like the American public has learned a few things from past mistakes, so why are U.S. policymakers still talking about intervening in Syria?

Gallup's PEI reports should serve as a strong indication to policymakers that if a decade of intervention in Iraq couldn't pull the nation out of its status as one of the most unhappy in the world, military action in Syria probably won't produce positive results either. 

In order to determine the PEI, Gallup asked people whether they experienced enjoyment a lot, felt respected, felt well-rested, laughed and smiled a lot, and learned or did something interesting the previous day. A response of "yes" to any of the questions resulted in a higher PEI.

Despite negative results from Syria and Iraq, the poll found that people all over the world are generally happy. From the 143 countries surveyed, 73% of adults said they experienced enjoyment "a lot of the day" yesterday, 72% smiled and laughed a lot, 85% felt treated with respect, and 71% felt well-rested. 

Evidently, U.S. engagements overseas have not had an overall positive effect on the countries affected, and many Americans have already realized this. Hopefully Congress will realize this soon too, before we repeat history in Syria.