President Donald Trump’s missile strike on a Syria airfield was one of the most forceful actions the U.S. has taken in the Syrian civil war and has elicited a multitude of reactions from those on the left and the right. When it comes to Congress, opinions on the attack are mixed. Some believe the attacks were a necessary response to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against rebels in the north. Others believe that President Trump’s missile strike was unconstitutional.
The strikes received support from senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) issued a joint statement expressing support for the strike:
Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) also expressed his approval: “I support the administration’s strike on the air base that launched the chemical attack,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “I hope this teaches President Assad not to use chemical weapons again.” Even Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) – a vehement Trump critic – set aside partisan politics and offered his support:
“Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do. It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it. I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today.”
Of course, not everyone is happy with President Trump’s decision to strike Syria. House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) said, “it does concern me that we have an impulsive administration, that is ready to completely change direction, that isn’t necessarily thinking through what are the consequences here.” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) pointed out that Assad is still in power. He then asked, “what was the purpose of the strike? How much did this cost? Was Assad a threat to US homeland? How does this achieve peace?” The harshest criticism of all, though, came from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI):
It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government, this escalation is short-sighted and will lead to more dead civilians, more refugees, the strengthening of al-Qaeda and other terrorists, and a direct confrontation between the United States and Russia—which could lead to nuclear war.
President Trump’s decision to order the missile strike on Syria will undoubtedly be a major source of debate in the days to come — especially when discussing the legality of the attack. This issue is always prominent when a president orders a military attack without first seeking approval from Congress.
The War Powers Resolution is the law that governs the use of military force by the president and requires the president to seek approval from Congress before deploying armed forces in combat. CBS News explains:
The War Powers Resolution, enacted in 1973, long after American troops began fighting in Vietnam, required the president to consult with Congress before sending U.S. armed forces into combat unless there already had been a declaration of war. The troops could not stay more than 90 days unless lawmakers backed the decision. The law also sought to give the president “leeway to respond to attacks or other emergencies,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
It could be argued that President Trump did not violate the law because he did not send U.S. troops to invade Syria. It was only a missile strike on one military target. Additionally, there is no indication that the president intends to increase our involvement in the Syrian conflict. When explaining the War Powers Resolution, The New York Times states:
It says a president may only introduce forces into hostilities with congressional authorization or if the United States has been attacked. But, confusingly, it also requires presidents to terminate deployments after 60 days if they lack authorization, which could suggest that one-off strikes and brief operations are allowed.
The War Powers Resolution does appear to give the president some latitude when it comes to ordering limited military strikes. Former President Barack Obama justified military action in Libya by using the fact that we were taking a more supportive role in the campaign, and President Trump’s single missile strike against Bashar Al-Assad was a far less substantial military operation. It should then be easier for the Trump administration to justify their decision to use military force.
On April 6, President Trump did far more than just carry out a military strike. This missile attack doesn’t just make it more difficult for the Syria dictator to use chemical weapons; it also sends a clear message to the rest of the world. Intended or not, President Trump has just made an important statement: he is not afraid to take action when he believes it is necessary.