So I’m curious: on what basis is the President of the United States able to issue orders to attack the armed forces of Syria?

It is not on the basis of the 2001 “Authorization for Use of Military Force,” cited in many instances, because there has been no claim that Syria was involved in the 9/11 attacks. (Bush and then Obama both stretched this basis incredibly, and worryingly, far. But both took care to trace back to an authorization.)

It is not on the basis of an emergency use of force because the United States was directly threatened.

Which leaves us with, as the NY Times reports:

Mr. Trump authorized the strike with no congressional approval for the use of force, an assertion of presidential authority that contrasts sharply with the protracted deliberations over the use of force by his predecessor, Barack Obama. (“Dozens of U.S. Missiles Hit Air Base in Syria.”)

Or, as Donald Trump once said:


Seriously, what is the legal basis of this order?

Have we really arrived at a point where the President of the United States can simply order the military to strike anywhere, anytime, at his personal discretion?

2 thoughts on “Syria

  1. The President of the United States can do a lot of stuff on his own. It’s a legal rathole very few of us understand. But what citizens should demand with some consistency is a broad and principled foreign policy doctrine that lets us all know what he is likely to do, or not. Every day the State Department and the DOD have rules of engagement which reflect what legal actions they can take under what conditions. What I think you and I are struggling to comprehend is why Obama left us with so little clue as to what sort of agreements with Russia, Turkey, Israel and other nations were made over the Syrian civil war. Materially can you identify what military commanders could and could not do in that region? No, you probably cannot. Not because the law or orders cannot be clear but because the political communication of principle is a casualty of domestic political horseshit.

    Understanding the legal basis for the action cuts out the citizenry anyway. You and your buds are not going to sue the White House. What you can do is demand some geopolitical principle that is clear enough to apply to things like, oh I don’t know, how about weapons of mass destruction? Unfortunately, we’ve lived through a period of our history where such talk was discouraged.

  2. Once upon a time, back in the Age of Enlightenment, The Founders composed our Constitution based on ideas that had been widely and rigorously debated in a serious tone by serious men, many of whom had recently risked life and fortune in a protracted and successful insurrection against the mad (or at least erratic) King of England. Plainly, the American people have moved past such things. To demand that actions ordered by the Executive or legislation passed by Congress have a legal, principled, or even rational basis marks one as out of touch with ThePeople.

    Orwell’s two-minute hate is now a self-important industry of 24-hour news channels competing to indulge your fear and despair. That feeling of satisfaction derived from footage of American missiles killing BrownPeople who killed other BrownPeople, even though we wouldn’t let them into our country, is going to drive a lot of purchases over the next few days. And if Michael Bay decides to get into the television journalism business, what’s it gonna hurt?

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