My first major disappointment with President Donald Trump occurred this week, with the cruise missile attack on Syria.  Certainly, I have not agreed with or approved of everything our new president has done.  However, in my mind at least his errors and missteps have until now largely been overshadowed by his defiant attitude toward the liberal media, his serious approach to border control, which has already led to a drastic decrease in border crossings, and his appointment of Neil Gorsuch, who we have reason to hope will be a good constitutionalist along the lines of the late Antonin Scalia.

Trump’s unilateral attack on Syria, however, small though it was on a military scale, is very troubling on a number of different levels.  I still optimistically believe he will not be foolish enough to insert a major ground force into Syria and put our nation in another military quagmire like Vietnam or Iraq, but still he has at least stuck a finger into what is a major hornet’s nest.  More importantly, he has acted completely outside the bounds of the Constitution, just as President Obama did when he applied US military force to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.  The whole world can see what an epic disaster that turned out to be.

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It is greatly to be feared that the same thing would happen if we were to do what the neocons have been urging for years, and overthrow Bashar Assad.  No doubt, Assad is a wicked and cruel dictator, along the lines of Saddam Hussein or the aforementioned Gaddafi.  But the plain fact is that it is the secular (more or less) dictators like Gaddafi, Assad, and Hussein who have protected Christians and other minorities within their territories, while everywhere that we have rooted out dictators repression, chaos, and violence have followed.  It is utterly preposterous for the warmongering mouthpieces in Congress such as Lindsey Graham and John McCain to try to pretend things will be better off if we are able to remove Assad.  Past experience shows us that it is extremely unlikely any kind of moderate government, friendly to the United States, would take over in Damascus.  Almost certainly, it would be some terrorist group along the lines of al-Qaida or ISIS, and the international situation will deteriorate even further.  President Trump has acknowledged these realities in the past; my fear is that the neocon elements within the administration are beginning to exert a dangerous influence that will lead us to commit some of the same mistakes of the past.

The most serious issue at stake here is the utter lack of constitutional authority for the missile attack on Syria.  No matter whether Assad used chemical weapons or not (I personally am dubious), the Constitution is very clear that the United State Government has no authority to commit acts of war without authorization from Congress, except in cases of immediate, dire emergency.  Clearly, this was no case of national emergency.  We could have an honest debate over whether there should always be a direct congressional declaration of war, or whether it is constitutionally acceptable for Congress to simply authorize the president to take military action.  But in this case, President Trump does not have any line of legal authority to which he can appeal.  The missile strike was done unilaterally, which is the act of a lawless dictator rather than a constitutional executive.  We may perhaps be inclined to give Trump a bit of lenience because he is not a constitutional scholar, as his predecessor purported to be, but if he did not realize it was a lawless action, some of his advisers should have.  Meanwhile, I do applaud the small minority in Congress and the media, such as Rand Paul, Thomas Massie, and Michael Savage, who have called out this attack for the unconstitutional act and grave error that it truly is.

So why did President Trump move away from his campaign rhetoric and embroil the United States in another international war?  There are a number of explanations, and nobody except perhaps the president and his closest advisers know which is true.  There is some evidence that the president was emotionally moved by photographs of children victimized by the gas attack, and felt impelled to do something to alleviate the suffering.  I think it is very likely that part of the reason he did it was to deflect some of the ridiculous criticisms concerning his relationship with Russia.  If he is willing to attack one of Putin’s closest allies, Assad, clearly he is not the toady of Putin, as his political enemies have charged.  My greatest fear is that, rather than draining the swamp, he is being drowned in the swamp, and is falling under the spell of the warmongering Neocons, who pushed for the disastrous invasion of Iraq, and advocated for other US foreign policy disasters in places like Libya and Egypt (only a military dictatorship has kept Egypt from going the way of Iraq and Libya).  At any rate, whatever Trump’s reasons, there is no justification for him allowing a singer bullet to be fired in the Syrian war apart from congressional authorization.  We all have much reason to pray that our president would exercise wisdom, caution, and restraint, in these troubled international arenas, and not ask for trouble by taking a dog by the ears in an international dispute where we have no vital national interests, but rather should seek for peace by acting according to the rule of law and the Constitution.

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