Republican Congress AWOL on Syria
Where is the Republican-controlled Congress on Syria? By all accounts, it is busy cheerleading the president's firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles at a foreign sovereign -- an offensive attack that was unprovoked and unauthorized by Congress, rendering it unconstitutional. With a Republican in the White House, though, Republicans on Capitol Hill are all for executive overreach, despite having spent the last eight years chiding a Democratic president’s excesses and Middle Eastern misadventures.
Of course, the bottom line is the same: Congress does nothing. But at least during the Obama years, legislative spinelessness was swaddled in righteous constitutional rhetoric. Now, lawmakers outright encourage presidential imperiousness and their own consequent irrelevance.
The Constitution vests in Congress the power to declare war -- meaning the power to authorize military operations. The president may order the use of force unilaterally only when the United States is under attack, or at least the threat of attack. There was no such threat from the Syrian regime.
That makes Trump's aggression unprovoked. Yet, Trump apologists claim that the use of chemical weapons by the despicable Assad -- perhaps in collusion with his despicable Russian and Iranian enablers -- is provocation enough. It is not. To be a provocation warranting unauthorized forcible retaliation, an attack must target the United States. Or, as someone once said: America First!
The Syrian atrocity -- or should we say, the latest Syrian atrocity -- had nothing to do with America. It was more internecine Islamic savagery. It was a case of a ruthless dictator in a barbaric civil war conducting yet another attack on his opposition, including the non-combatant civilians among whom that opposition hides. And as the Long War Journal’s Thomas Joscelyn reminds us in an essential report published by the Weekly Standard, Assad’s opposition includes al-Qaeda cells, Islamic State elements, and assorted Islamist militants. These factions are notorious for their own atrocities and desire to cleanse Syria of its Christian and other non-Islamic populations.
American troops are on the ground in Syria, coordinating coalition attacks on the anti-Assad jihadists. Assad, Russia, and their equally loathsome Iranian/Hezbollah allies are not targeting those Americans in Syria. Why would they?
While Assad & Co. avoid confrontation with American forces, Trump's attack on Assad buoys the jihadists. It gives them hope that if they can hang in long enough, stave off the reluctant American intervention long enough, the new administration will engineer Assad’s removal from power -- an intention Trump’s State Department is now signaling. That would pave the way for the jihadists to turn most of Syria into another of the Sunni sharia-supremacist basket-cases we've come to know so well -- like Egypt while under Muslim Brotherhood-control, Afghanistan under Taliban domination, post-Qaddafi Libya, and other failed states whose ungovernable frontiers become safe havens for anti-American terrorism.