Syria

Have Months of Trump-Russia Hysteria Now Shut the Door on Avoiding War in Syria?

The Trump administration is slouching toward war with Syria, and Congress, as usual, is failing to assert its constitutional role.

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Olivier Douliery/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

In the last 24 hours, the Trump administration has sent a number of signals indicating it was preparing for a possible military response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against its people, but, unsurprisingly, a formal request for a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) has not made its way to Congress. The apparent lack of any substantive congressional action is an abrogation of Congress' constitutional role in war making—par for the course for a Congress that has for decades failed to meet its constitutional obligation, but as dangerous as ever.

Months of Russia-Trump hysteria, meanwhile, have made it far less likely that the U.S. and Russia could cooperate in the way they did in 2013, the last time the U.S. was this close to a military intervention in Syria aimed at the Assad government. Back then, the Assad government perpetrated an even larger chemical weapons attack, but an off-handed remark by Secretary of State John Kerry opened the door for Russia to offer to facilitate a voluntary disarmament of chemical weapons by Syria.

Russia this week called on an investigation into the chemical weapons attack in Syria, and has also indicated that its support for Assad, crucial to the regime's survival, was "not unconditional." Russia has a lot of leverage to reel Assad in, and it would cost the U.S. far less in blood and treasure if Trump reached out to Putin to encourage him to reel Assad in, rather than building an international coalition to launch a war against the Assad government, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears to be doing. Yet neither Trump nor Putin have much incentive left to do this, thanks in large part to the Russia-Trump hysteria. Neither wants to be perceived as being in the pocket of the other.

A bipartisan effort launched earlier this year to get Congress to consider AUMFs for the war on ISIS and the war in Yemen has gone nowhere, despite Donald Trump indicating he would be open to seeking authorization from Congress for military action when he was a candidate The U.S. has been engaged in military actions across the Muslim world for the last 16 years, but the last time Congress authorized the use of military force was in 2002 against Iraq.

A 2001 AUMF against those responsible for the 9/11 terror attacks and their "associated forces" was used for the war in Afghanistan, and is now used to justify military actions in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, even Iraq, and elsewhere. Decades of under-use have weakened Congress' constitutional role in declaring war. Were the U.S. preparing the 2003 invasion of Iraq today, it's unlikely the executive branch would even need to seek a specific AUMF—today's interpretation of the 2001 AUMF would seem to cover wars like the one in Iraq. We may get to see that if the Trump administration continues down the path to war and the Congress continues to ignore the capture by the executive of its constitutional war powers.

Any potential intervention by the U.S. against the government in Syria requires authorization from Congress. President Obama's failure to seek authorization from Congress, and the Republican Congress' failure to do anything about it, does not change that requirement. But Congress has been setting a precarious precedent—the Obama administration did not even pretend the U.S. intervention in Libya was covered by the 2001 AUMF. Instead he pointed to resolutions by the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League. Proponents of intervention in Syria point out that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international law. After years (decades, even) insisting the U.S. should not be the policeman of the world, Trump is on the verge of entering the U.S. into yet another police action, after he spent the first few months of his presidency escalating the police actions he inherited. He was always the interventionist. Perhaps his unpopularity, particularly in Congress, could compel it to finally act.

Of note too, is the general disappointment in the Trump administration's turn toward war with Syria by some of Trump's most vocal supporters, those on Twitter.

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  1. So, do you think that the Russia hysteria may have forced his hand to confront Russia? Hindsight is a bitch

  2. Trump is on the verge of entering the U.S. into yet another War,

    1. Will this be the 5th or 6th.
      I’m losing count.

      1. At some point it’ll be faster to list the countries we’re not at war with.

      2. I believe it’s all part of the same war. Just a new front

        1. How are things on the Malabar Front?

    2. Weren’t we already dropping bombs in Syria? I lose track.

  3. Yet neither Trump nor Putin have much incentive left to do this, thanks in large part to the Russia-Trump hysteria. Neither wants to be perceived as being in the pocket of the other.

    Maybe that is the purpose of the Russia hysteria.

    Although that seems dumb on their part. Much more effective to defuse the claims by having a productive partnership. “Colluding” with Russia takes on a different light when it involves avoiding war. At least to the peasants.

  4. ‘Back then, the Assad government perpetrated an even larger chemical weapons attack’

    From which tabloid does Eddie pick up his Assad intelligence?

  5. Wow, those twitter people sure seem to think that chemical attack was a hoax. Or maybe the war in Syria is a hoax? Or maybe the existence of Syria is a hoax? I’m not sure how to read hashtags.

    1. Existence itself is a hoax.

    2. “America, [Arthur Dent] thought, has gone. He couldn’t grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He’d never seriously believed it existed anyway.” —The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    3. Wow, those twitter people sure seem to think that chemical attack was a hoax.

      Is there any consensus around whether this recent chemical attack is more or less hoaxy as when it was Obama’s “Red Line”-incident?

      I confess, part of me suspects that it was something that Syrian rebels have had as a possible “back up plan” for years now….

      e.g. if/when it looks like the US has set the ground for a political opportunity to make their entree… stage a chemical attack giving them the cover they need.

      That said – i tend to hate that sort of thinking (even from myself), especially sans any evidence.

      1. I don’t know of evidence, other than having the capability, that the Syrians did this on purpose. Their story of hitting an ammo dump that contained chemical weapons is as plausible as The War Party’s line. Doing this would seem to be a finger in the eye of their Russian backers. Putin doesn’t need this shit, does he?

  6. Operation ‘For the Children’ begins in 3,2,1 ….

  7. The 2001 AUMF needs to be repealed. It’s essentially become a carte blanche justification for intervention anywhere in the world as long as the president can somehow tie the targets to al-Qaeda in some way. If Congress is ok with wars in Syria, Yemen, Lybia, Somalia, etc. then they need to vote to authorize them instead of letting the president (whether Trump, Obama, or anyone else) get away with making military intervention decisions unilaterally.

  8. 1#Invade middle east. 2# ??? 3# ??? I don’t have any idea how to end this

    1. That’s the secret,there in no end.

  9. War is so last century, these are kinetic military actions. You don’t need approval or an end for these, just bigly audacity and it’s mission accomplished – again.

  10. it would cost the U.S. far less in blood and treasure if Trump reached out to Putin to encourage him to reel Assad in

    Reel him in to where? What the fuck does that even mean? You didn’t even mention the interests of Iran, Hezbollah or the Iraqi militias fighting there. What would you have Assad do?

    Months of Russia-Trump hysteria, meanwhile, have made it far less likely that the U.S. and Russia could cooperate in the way they did in 2013, the last time the U.S. was this close to a military intervention in Syria aimed at the Assad government

    The US was only as close to military intervention as the US wanted to be. Our leaders are in complete control of our armed forces. There has never been public pressure compelling military intervention in Syria. If Trump chooses to attack Assad it’s on 100% on Trump and nothing else.

    1. Memory Hole|4.6.17 @ 9:23PM|#
      “it would cost the U.S. far less in blood and treasure if Trump reached out to Putin to encourage him to reel Assad in”

      Reel him in to where? What the fuck does that even mean?

      Whatever it means, you’re entirely too stupid to understand.
      Go away; let the adults discuss things.

  11. Trump-Russia “hysteria” = Information that would embarrass our president must be suppressed. Got it.

  12. Look at this shit. Trump attacked Assad. Talk and action to form a coalition to overthrew the Syrian regime. Unfucking real.

    1. Look at this shit. Barry attacked Libya and did overthrow Quaddafi. Unfucking real.

  13. et neither Trump nor Putin have much incentive left to do this, thanks in large part to the Russia-Trump hysteria. Neither wants to be perceived as being in the pocket of the other i dot know how he reach for this position
    ??? ????????

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