[guest post by Dana]
Since last night’s actions in Syria, I’m sure a number of us have been asking the same question. Charles C.W. Cooke certainly has, and he provides his thoughts about the issue. His observations are likely to be met with objection from certain corners.
Quoting David French, we are reminded of this:
If Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution means anything, it means that the president must obtain congressional approval before taking us to war against a sovereign nation that has not attacked the U.S. or its allies and is not threatening to attack the U.S. or its allies…. As Senator Paul said, “The first thing we ought to do is probably obey the Constitution.”
Well, plain and simple, we were not attacked nor were we threatened with attack by Syria.
Last night, in his statement regarding the air strikes, President Trump said:
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield 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.
If we weren’t attacked, nor threatened with attack by Syria, were the strikes an issue of “vital national security interest of the U.S.,” or was the action a humanitarian issue as our response was compelled by the the grotesque assault on the Syrian people by the Assad regime? As Cooke points out, the arguments against this being an act of war run along the lines of, it’s just a “minor military operation,” or “a targeted strike,” or, as I’ve been reading, the airstrikes were simply a justified warning. No more, no less. And yet, consider this:
If a country were to lob 59 missiles at an U.S. military installation in the middle of the California desert, we would rightly regard that as an “act of war.” We certainly wouldn’t say, “don’t worry, it’s just a minor military strike.” Does the fact the Syria’s government is gassing its own people change that? No, it does not. Why not? Because the question here isn’t whether America is morally justified in hitting Assad’s air bases (it is), or whether doing so is a good idea (it may be), or whether America is a more virtuous country than Syria (it is). Rather, the question is of constitutional legality. If the United States had been gassing Americans in Hawaii at the time Japan hit Pearl Harbor, that strike would still have been an act of war — yes, even if Japan had used it as its casus belli – and Americans would have rightly seen it as such. We should not set a double standard when the roles are reversed. If we need to hit Assad, I’m open to the argument. But Congress must be asked for permission.