Last week on the 6th of April the United States launched fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria in response to a chemical attack carried out by the government. Trump said in a statement following the attack “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” This is a dramatic reversal from his prior statements and indications during the campaign that he would stay out of Syria.
His explanation for his changed policy is seeing the images of the chemical attack. “When you kill innocent children — innocent babies — babies — little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines.” There is no questioning or debating the heinous attack upon civilians, but it is no reason to entangle the United States in Syria.
Despite what President Trump says there is no national security interest in attacking Assad. The chemical attacks did not harm Americans, nor does it place any of us at risk. What does place us at risk is bombing an ally of Russia. Attacking Assad will only weaken his ability to fight ISIS, a group we both want eradicated. In an interview in September 28, 2015 Trump told an interviewer, “Why can’t we let ISIS and Syria fight? Let Russia, let them fight ISIS.”
Not to mention the increase in tensions between Russia and the United States that will naturally come from attacking one of its allies. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a conference at Moscow “The current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point. There is a low-level of trust between our two countries. The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship.” A proxy war between opposing Syrian forces would benefit no one, and would only instill more hatred for the west in the middle east.
If Trump’s recent reactionary foreign policy holds it could be detrimental to the United States and the rest of the world. Prematurely reacting to foreign crises will only create more problems. Syria is currently engulfed in six year long civil war, with various groups fighting for control. You have the government, ISIS, and the various rebel groups fighting against each other for dominance. It is a multi front war with no clear group that would be best to lead if Assad and ISIS were taken out. With the United States long record of making countries worse by removing the current leaders you would think we would have learned by now not to meddle in other countries.
Sadly there seems to be no shortage of politicians and leaders who think they know the solution to other countries affairs. Their arrogance in believing they know how to fix other countries has only made the world a more dangerous place. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya are the prime examples of our failed nation building policy. The establishment politicians couldn’t even understand the support for Trump, so why should we expect them to understand the intricacies of foreign politics?
The other dangers posed by a reactionary foreign policy is the debt it would cause for the country. A study by Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs reveals that the War on Terror has costed the United states $4.79 trillion dollars. And what do we have to show for it? A more turbulent Middle East, dead and injured soldiers, and wars drawn out for far too long. With the already massive national debt of $19 trillion very close to reaching $20 trillion we can not afford to squander additional money. We should be focusing on ways to reduce our debt problem instead of wasting it on foreign wars that do not serve our national interest.
Most importantly however is the ceding of power from Congress to the executive branch. Congress holds the power to approve and declare war, and attacking another country with Tomahawk missiles is undoubtedly an act of war. However due to prior precedent Trump felt no obligation to go before Congress and ask for permission. Only a few Democratic and Republican voices brought up the legality of the strikes, but they were drowned out from the praise of fellow lawmakers and foreign leaders.
If there is so little opposition to Trump initiating military action against an ally of Russia then what is stopping him from reacting to other events he finds distasteful? The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists passed in September 2001 gives blanket ability for the president “To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States. Whereas, on September 11, 2001, acts of treacherous violence were committed against the United States and its citizens.” While Assad is not responsible for September 11 this act of Congress began the transfer of power between the two branches. It has been abused to the point where the president does not even feel the need to bother with asking congress. If Congress does not act to reign back its constitutional authority we will only find ourselves in more conflicts.
Perhaps the best closing statement would be an old quote from the Donald himself.