When news broke Thursday night that President Donald Trump had launched airstrikes in war torn Syria, the response from across America was swift. President Trump, a longtime critic of Syrian intervention, had gone against his own word after chemical attacks were allegedly carried out by the Syrian government under President Bashir al-Assad.
Senator Rand Paul denounced the airstrikes in a series of tweets.
The continued civil war in Syria has undoubtedly resulted in many horrific atrocities. Images have filled media stories for months showing destroyed homes and lifeless bodies all around. The recent chemical strikes are no different.
With all of that said, as Senator Paul himself pointed out, the United States was not directly attacked.
What’s most shocking here is President Trump himself in 2013 repeatedly criticized former President Barack Obama for military activity in Syria without a congressional approval.
The United States Constitution’s separation of powers is a unique way to keep power from being centralized. While the President as Commander-In-Chief does have control over the military, the Constitution specifically leaves the power to declare war with Congress.
Thus, unless there is rebellion or an imminent attack, the President must go to Congress for approval to go to war. President Trump did not seek prior approval from Congress.
Iraq is the most notable example of Senator Paul’s third point. United States activity in the Middle East has been ongoing for decades but has escalated in the last decade and a half since the devastating attacks of September 11th, 2001.
The invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq have resulted in thousands of U.S. casualties overseas, in addition to the civilians lost through the fighting. The undeclared war also has cost the United States more than a couple trillion dollars.
Saddam Hussein, a dictator, was removed from power because he was a tyrant. The effect after that was worse because of the destabilization. Terrorist organizations like ISIS took advantage of the chaos and the insurgency made things worse.
Will this happen if President Assad is removed in Syria?
Will any of these foreign policy maneuvers make America safer?
Senator Paul’s point echos one that many libertarians and most conservatives make. There is tyranny abroad and with that comes atrocity. but it’s not feasible for us to save the world. There are limitations to the the wealth and bodies the United States has.
This is why congressional debate is important. Representatives of the people can evaluate the President’s request and debate the merits of authorizing military action. After careful deliberations, they will cast votes accordingly. It protects our military from being sent on crusades dictated by the few, or even one.
The airstrikes in Syria, no matter how limited they may be, could result in escalated tensions that send shockwaves throughout the Middle East. As seen when this occurred with the destabilization of Iraq, the results generally are not good for the United States.
Senator Paul is right here and President Trump is certainly wrong. These airstrikes could have a terrible effect on foreign policy going forward.