The Jury Talks Back


Like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, I Dissent on Syrian Air Strikes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Patterico @ 10:00 am

Ted Cruz, September 9, 2013 on proposed air strikes by President Obama: Why I’ll vote no on Syria strike.

First, Assad’s actions, however deplorable, are not a direct threat to U.S. national security. Many bad actors on the world stage have, tragically, oppressed and killed their citizens, even using chemical weapons to do so. Unilaterally avenging humanitarian disaster, however, is well outside the traditional scope of U.S. military action.

Second, just because Assad is a murderous thug does not mean that the rebels opposing him are necessarily better. As of May, seven of the nine major rebel groups appeared to have significant ties to Islamists, some of whom may have links to al-Qaeda and other terrorists. Their presence and power have only increased, according to media reports. We should never give weapons to people who hate us, and the United States should not support or arm al-Qaeda terrorists.

Third, the potential for escalation is immense. Syria is in the midst of a sectarian civil war, born of centuries-old animosities. We have no clear ally in this ­Sunni-Shiite conflict, and any “limited” and “proportional” strike could quickly get out of control, imperiling our allies and forcing us into the civil war.

The president and his secretary of state have repeatedly said that Assad’s use of chemical weapons violates an “international norm.” They insist it is critical that we send a “message” to Assad that his behavior is unacceptable. But it is not the job of U.S. troops to police international norms or to send messages. Our men and women in uniform have signed up to defend America.

That was Ted Cruz from 2013. I agreed with his reasoning then and I still agree with it now.

Donald Trump, September 7, 2013:

And August 30, 2013:

Trump was right then, and his reasoning is still true.

The first time Trump did this, Andrew C. McCarthy said:

I was with McCarthy then and I am with them now:

Because nothing is different now.

The Constitution says Congress must declare war. The President may conduct the war that Congress has declared, and can also act in response to sudden attacks.

Syria has not attacked us. Congress has not declared war. Strikes like these are an act of war. If someone did it to us, we would see it that way.

There is no constitutional basis for these attacks. Trump should not be doing this.

[Cross-posted at RedState and The Jury Talks Back.]


  1. And now Trump and Cruz have done a 180, because it’s much easier to look tough as President and go along with it if the President is from your Party and has your number.

    I wish Cruz could be more like Mike Lee. Fighting for principles is good but he doesn’t have to always pick fights to show he has principles:

    Mike Lee
    Mike Lee
    My thoughts and prayers are with the American service men and women in harms way tonight. I look forward to hearing from the President about his strategy for Syria and whether he plans to seek authorization from Congress for any further use of force.

    Comment by DRJ — 4/14/2018 @ 10:21 am

  2. I think Cruz would have been a conservative President, if only out of habit. But he has trouble dealing with populists because so much of his rhetoric is populist, even if his policies aren’t.

    Comment by DRJ — 4/14/2018 @ 10:30 am

  3. Except the situation in Syria has deteriorated since 2013 and these weapons, which were supposedly dismantled during the Obama administration, suddenly popped back up which means they might fall into the hands of those who will use them against the US. Cruz making the point that taking out weapons that we were promised were already turned over doesn’t exactly seem like pulling a 180, and he’s already explained that he wants Trump to explain his actions to Congress.

    Comment by Sean — 4/14/2018 @ 2:06 pm

  4. Cruz said dealing with WMD is a matter of national security. I understand that argument. Why didn’t he make it in 2013?

    Comment by DRJ — 4/14/2018 @ 2:09 pm

  5. Was it less a matter of national security if we thought we can deal with it in an easier, simpler, diplomatic/non-military way?

    Comment by DRJ — 4/14/2018 @ 2:11 pm

  6. Dealing with national security isn’t a military-only solution. Diplomacy and international pressure is a viable alternative to going in alone as Obama did. Trump put together a coalition of nations and went before the UN before striking Syrian chemical weapons facilities, which is a stark difference. While Cruz doesn’t have an issue going after WMDs he still wants Trump to involve Congress, and I agree. If a nation state promised to rid themselves of chemical weapons and a couple of years later they use them again those that were promised have to act.

    Comment by Sean — 4/14/2018 @ 3:28 pm

  7. Look how long we waited to act in Iraq but, even with Congressional approval, the will to persevere wasn’t there. I think it means we have to be more limited in how we identify/define our national security interests. Otherwise we run the risk of being perceived as the world’s policeman, something the American people don’t support.

    Comment by DRJ — 4/14/2018 @ 4:05 pm

  8. I do not see how Syria’s chemical weapons program, in its pre-strike state, was a security risk to the US, so therefor I consider the strike a bad idea.

    I also consider it to be outside a President’s personal prerogative to carry out when it’s not a case of US national security or of protecting US lives.

    However, I disagree with those here who define a president’s military abilities even more narrowly. Even in the days of the Founding Fathers, minor military actions did not constitute war. For example, military actions against the Indians.

    Also, as a purely practical matter, there are times when it is needful to act both quickly and without warning, and that cannot be done if Congress is involved. Reagan’s invasion of Grenada comes to mind. A future attack on North Korea also comes to mind; it would be better to do it with no warning at all.

    But just because Trump has the ability to do something does not equate to it should be done.
    There was no pressing NatSec reason to launch a strike on Syria (this applies to both Trump’s strikes)so there was no legitimate reason to do it.

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 4/14/2018 @ 7:43 pm

  9. I agree, Arizona CJ. I’m also willing to give all Presidents the benefit of the doubt regarding whether military action is an emergency and should be undertaken without first consulting Congress.

    But as Mike Lee points out, a President can request authorization from Congress if further use of force is contemplated. However, modern Presidents have decided they don’t want to do that because they don’t want any limits on their power. I understand that dilemma but I think it’s wrong.

    Comment by DRJ — 4/15/2018 @ 6:44 am

  10. @ DRJ, it’s an awkward problem, isn’t it?

    I agree that requesting authorization from congress if further use of force is needed is a good idea, and more importantly a strict-constructionist reading of the constitution. (and it does not take away the ability to strike by surprise, because it’s an after-the-fact issue).

    Comment by Arizona CJ — 4/15/2018 @ 2:06 pm

  11. I think it’s easier to believe the Constitution doesn’t work and should be ignored because (new technology/the world moves faster now/fill in the blank). But it does work, and it’s important to follow it or change it rather than ignore it. If something about it is wrong then we need to deal with it. It is not helpful to ignore things that need to be changed.

    THus, if the war powers rules need to be changed then we should do it. Until then, we should demand Congress follow the process the Constitution and laws contemplate, if anyone even knows what the process is anymore.

    Comment by DRJ — 4/15/2018 @ 3:41 pm

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