On April 13, President Donald Trump addressed the nation to announce that he had ordered missile strikes on Syria. His rationale: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons to kill civilians in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian allies, denied the use of chemical weapons. The Syrian government had requested that a fact-finding mission be conducted by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, but Trump launched missiles before any fact-finding mission could occur. Those missiles are said to have targeted Syrian military installations allegedly involved with the use of chemical weapons.
“Once again, the United States is getting involved in a civil war in the Middle East,” said Libertarian National Committee Executive Director Wes Benedict. “Once again, this is a war being conducted without a congressional declaration of war. Once again, we are at war because of the impulsiveness of one man, the president of the United States. The magnitude of Trump’s impulsiveness can be illustrated by his tweets.”
In 2013, Trump tweeted, “We should stay the hell out of Syria, the ‘rebels’ are just as bad as the current regime. WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO.” A couple of months later, he tweeted, “Let the Arab League take care of Syria. Why are these rich Arab countries not paying us for the tremendous cost of such an attack?” He followed that on the same day with, “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.”
Trump’s tweets express significantly different sentiments when we fast-forward to this week: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Trump’s opinions may have changed since he joined the political establishment, but the drawbacks of war with Syria remain the same.
“Trump was right in 2013,” Benedict said. “He is wrong now. If this is a ‘wag the dog’ war to deflect attention away from Robert Mueller’s Department of Justice investigation, as well as from his own repeated scandals with women, he is doubly wrong. The United States has no business getting more involved with a civil war in Syria. Assad is obviously one of the bad guys, but so are the Islamic State and the literally dozens of other rebel groups in Syria. Given that Syria is allied with Russia and Iran, Trump’s rash decisions here could potentially spark another World War.”
One of the reasons that the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the sole authority to declare war was to prevent precisely this kind of impulsive warfare. The “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists” (AUMF) passed by Congress in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, gave the executive branch power to use the military against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the 9/11 tragedy, or harbored them. The Barack Obama administration interpreted that authorization to apply to terrorist groups that had nothing to do with 9/11, and that interpretation continues in the Trump administration. By allowing this extension of power, Congress is derelict in its duty to assume responsibility for authorizing the waging of war.
“The Libertarian Party calls upon Congress to repeal the AUMF immediately,” Benedict said. “If America is attacked, Congress should declare war as a matter of self-defense. If America has not been attacked, though, we should not give impetuous presidents the power to risk American lives and resources on no-win civil wars in other countries. If we’ve learned nothing from Korea to Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya and dozens of smaller conflicts in between, it’s what Trump tweeted in 2013: ‘WHAT WILL WE GET FOR OUR LIVES AND $ BILLIONS?ZERO.’”
The Libertarian Party will run more than 2,000 candidates for local, state, and federal office in 2018. Unlike Democrats and Republicans who invariably support the interests of the military-industrial complex, the intelligence-surveillance regime, and the expropriating welfare state, Libertarians will support the interests of the people.