Was the Cruise Missle Attack on Syria an Act of War?

I am crushing your little elegantly shaven head John T. Bennett. Squeezing your cerebrum between my forefinger and thumb. Crushing you Mr. Roll Call! Mr. oh-so-agile journalist!

Sorry.

Here's the problem. Anything Trump does will be attacked by much of the media. Some in outright partisan fashion with a righteous, dismissive, smirking glee. Like CNN's Don Lemon. Some, in a little more nuanced fashion like Roll Call's Mr. John T. Bennett. Who basically front-loaded his piece at Roll Call with insinuations that we are one step from WW III thanks to the 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles launched against a Syrian air force base from where the gas attack on civilians was apparently launched. Not mentioning until much later in the piece that Senator Schumer and Minority House leader Pelosi supported the action.

America has unleashed it's terrible swift sword and we are at the brink, seems to be Bennett's angle on the cruise missile attack.

But not quite as swift as you might think. America actually told the Russians the attack was coming and planned the attack meticulously to avoid precisely the type of incident everyone is now worrying about. In the words of Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis:

Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risks to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.

Did you catch that? Russian and Syrian personnel were told to git the heck outta there before the cruise missile attack. The base was likely empty before the missiles hit. This was theatre. Explosive theatre, literally, and political theatre that delivered a very clear message to Assad.

So the question is: was this an act of war? And thus should Congress authorize any further action? Hardly a trivial constitutional question given Congress does have the power to declare war. One that has atrophied since the end of WW II and the start of the Korean police action (it was not a formally declared war remember).

Or was this an incident? It hardly seems an incident given it was a planned attack on the military forces of a foreign state. So further involvement in Syria should require Congressional consultation at the very least. But in today's world of undeclared wars - often against mobile terrorist groups - around the globe, is Congress able to deliver timely decisions with regard to something precisely like this attack? Imagine a Rand Paul filibuster in the Senate, as Syria launches further gas attacks on civilians. Would Senator Paul be right?

Yes. Constitutionally he would. It would be exercising his duty, you might even say. And cautious skepticism is in order for any prolonged (and they all end up being prolonged ... look at Afghanistan) military action in the Middle East. But President Trump has done the right thing. Now he needs all the top level advice (even from fricking Chuck Schumer if need be) to decide on whether to further involve American troops and assets in the Syrian Civil War.

Think carefully Mr. President. Syria is one big I.E.D.

Posted by Keeley at April 7, 2017 12:40 PM
Comments
Comment #415121

Let me see. We cross into his territory. (We might have told them we were coming, but if Japan telegraphed Pearl Harbor, would that have made it not an act of war?) And then after crossing into his territory, we rain dozens of explosive warheads on a military base.

That pretty clearly is an act of war. It’s not even ambiguous. The question is what Syria and Russia’s response will be, and on our side, whether this served our purpose at all.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 7, 2017 4:22 PM
Comment #415123

Everyone was warned to evacuate prior to the attack, and aircraft are already taking off from the airfield we attacked.

What a failure.

Posted by: phx8 at April 7, 2017 4:24 PM
Comment #415138

Not a failure at all, the media took a break from the Trump/Russian connection so Trump thinks this is one for his team.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 8, 2017 1:28 AM
Comment #415142

j2t2,
That seems to have been the point of the whole exercise. Trump needed a distraction and some way to stop his 35% approval rating from dropping even lower. Putin needed to create the appearance of distance between the US and Russia. He needs to do that in order for Trump to lift sanctions without appearing to be in cahoots. The Syrians get recognition from the US government- in this case, the statements by Ambassador Haley and Secretary of State Tillerson- that Assad will stay, that the Syrian people will decide. The US policy is no longer regime change.

Everybody wins. Except the villagers who got gassed.

Trump presumably stops his tanking polls numbers and changes the subject from Russian influence in electing him. Looks tough. Sheds some of the weight of all those comments in 2013 about not attacking Syria, and how the president needed to go to Congress first.
Cost: 59 cruise missiles costing something like $80 million

Russia: Creates the illusion of distance between Putin and Trump, thus making a successful ‘tough negotiation’ to life sanctions possible. Appears to stand up for smaller countries at the UN.
Cost: Client state uses chemical weapons despite Russian guarantee that they were not supposed to have any.

Syria: US change in policy from regime change to allowing Assad to stay.
Cost: Yet another violation of sovereignty. Loss of some out-of-commission aircraft, several aircraft hangars, buildings, and radar arrays, and the inconvenience of moving personnel and aircraft away from a base for a few hours.

Everyone can see this is theater, but it makes everyone happy anyway, except the villagers who got gassed.

Posted by: phx8 at April 8, 2017 11:55 AM
Comment #415143

I often wonder why war makes people in this country so happy. I don’t get it. It seems like we need to be bombing someone to be relevant.

Posted by: Weary Willie at April 8, 2017 12:44 PM
Comment #415162
I often wonder why war makes people in this country so happy. I don’t get it. It seems like we need to be bombing someone to be relevant.

Weary I’m impressed, such an insightful comment from a conservative. But it seems to me you should be answering this question not asking it, being conservative and all.

Posted by: j2t2 at April 8, 2017 11:02 PM
Comment #415168

You don’t know what a conservative is, j2t2. To you it’s someone who disagrees with a liberal.

Posted by: Weary Willie at April 9, 2017 10:41 AM
Comment #415170

I think cruise missle attack on Syria is not a sensible act and yes may it start of an war. America must review their policy towards the Syria and must know war is not the solution of any problem. They must go with dailouge. Any how, I try to get essayhave discount code but i found this one very helpful and useful points related to this latest issue.

Posted by: Arianna at April 9, 2017 10:50 AM
Comment #415173

Get one that teaches you proper grammar.

Posted by: Weary Willie at April 9, 2017 11:45 AM
Comment #415216

Weary Willie-
She’s probably a bot. Maybe analyzing the the text around it, and tossing a word salad that will fool people long enough to get them to click on the spam link.

The issue with the attack, what I think made people approve of Trump’s action, at least with it’s superficial appearance at the start, is that as the most powerful nation in the world, we don’t like to look at something that evil and wrong and just stand back and do nothing. We have good intentions in wanting to strike. Good intentions, though, do not necessarily add up to good results or welcomed interventions.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at April 10, 2017 11:15 AM
Comment #415229

It’s like we just got to the next level in a video game.

It’s just another lie we’re being fed by the powers that be. They tell us they’re keeping the peace yet we haven’t had 25 consecutive years of peace in the history of our country. There’s some war with someone at least every decade. Now we’ve graduated to perpetual wars that never end.


Posted by: Weary Willie at April 10, 2017 5:27 PM
Comment #417191

Great blog post. I like it a lot

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Posted by: rergan at June 10, 2017 6:16 AM
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