U.S., Britain and France strike targets in Syria

trump announce

Trump just did his announcement, so I thought I’d put this up so you can have a place to discuss it.

Here’s the news:

President Trump ordered a military attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Friday, joining allies Britain and France in launching missile strikes in retaliation for what Western nations said was the deliberate gassing of Syrian civilians.

The coordinated strike marked the second time in a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

Trump announced the strikes in an address to the nation Friday evening. He said, “The purpose of our action tonight is to establish a strong deterrent” against the production and use of chemical weapons, describing the issue as vital to national security. Trump added that the U.S. is prepared “to sustain this response” until its aims are met.

Trump asked both Russia and Iran, both Assad backers, “what kind of nation wants to be associated” with mass murder and suggested that some day the U.S. might be able to g”et along” with both if they change their policies….

I was curious to see what the leaders of Britain and France had to say about this. But when I go to British and French newspaper sites, it’s all about what Trump said (“Donald Trump annonce des frappes contre la Syrie, en coordination avec Paris et Londres“), not Theresa May or Emmanuel Macron. It’s like their involvement doesn’t matter, and they don’t feel obliged to explain it to their people — leave it to Trump. Is that the normal pattern?

15 thoughts on “U.S., Britain and France strike targets in Syria

  1. bud

    Why are we committing acts of war without congressional authorization? There’s no urgent security issue here that couldn’t wait for congress to vote.

    Reply
  2. Harry Harris

    Bud, I think your knee just jerked.
    We’ve been engaged in Syria on a limited basis for a long time. The action is regrettable because it involved an attack, and will likely cause a reaction. It was probably necessary as an attempt at deterrence. It involved allies, and that is a good thing in light of President Trump’s solitary, uncooperative tendencies. His mouthy public pronouncements prior to the attack are the real mistake. I think a case for a more aggressive attack, including Assad’s top army unit can be easily made, considering the way they’ve been used and that they’ve taken some heavy casualties in battles recently. Limiting the strikes to chemical sites is likely intended to decrease the risk of escalation and retribution by Russia.
    Trump is horrible on most issues. This one may show some sign of listening to his military leaders.

    Reply
    1. bud

      We’ve been engaged in Syria on a limited basis for a long time.

      All the more reason to get congressional authorization. These actions all seemed to be based on the resolutions passed in the aftermath of 9-11. If we’re going to continue involvement in the ME (and I don’t think we should) then damn let’s have that debate in congress and decide as a nation that that is the direction we want to take. No president should have that much blanket authority.

      Reply
      1. Bart

        bud, unfortunately the lines have been blurred since Clinton sent forces to assist the UN and bombed a “baby food factory” in Iraq without congressional approval and Obama used the so-called presidential power when he was in office. Trump is the never ending example of being two-faced when he declared that Obama should have sought congressional approval when he was considering using missile strikes against Syria.

        If Trump notifies Congress within the 48 hour window, then by implication he has complied with the rules and therefore in compliance.

        However, I agree with you that anytime a president considers ordering action against another country whether it is a missile strike, direct troop involvement whether in advisory or combat action, or any other interference with a sovereign nation via military means, he or she should have prior congressional approval.

        Too often presidents abuse and misuse their powers especially when it comes to executive orders that can establish something as the rule of law during their time in office. But, this is what we have and until we stand up and demand changes, not one thing will ever change and the political battle with rage on and on and on and on.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I both agree and disagree with the congressional approval point. I agree that it’s important to have consensus before taking military action. I’m also mindful that there are situations in which time is of the essence, and waiting for Congress could be impractical.

          I’m ambivalent across the board.

          For instance, I can see the argument that when Assad crosses Obama’s red line, there should be a quick response that shows there is a consequence to such actions. Under President Obama that did not happen, and I think his and the nation’s credibility were harmed as a result.

          But… in this case, was effective action actually taken? Did Assad really pay a price? As Marc Thiessen wrote:

          The U.S.-led strike did not hit a single airplane, airfield or delivery system, and it left Syria with chemical weapons capabilities. Even at the sites we did hit, the Syrians had plenty of time to move equipment and chemical stockpiles. There were no reported casualties on the ground, suggesting that the regime had evacuated the targets.

          The Syrians know that they won. The Post reports that “on the streets of Damascus, there was jubilation as government supporters realized that a more expansive assault would not materialize.” Retired Gen. Jack Keane, former vice chief of staff of the Army, said the Syrians had good reason to celebrate. “The response is very weak in my judgment,” he said. “It should have been decisive, it should have been consequential,” he continued….

          So I don’t know…

          Reply
          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Over the weekend, Lindsey Graham expressed his doubts that these strikes will make a difference. Of course, he only said so after giving Trump an attaboy:

            Statement from U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Syria Strikes

            WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement.

            “I applaud and admire the bravery of our men and women in uniform. They continue to carry out their duties and responsibilities in a manner which makes all Americans proud.

            “President Trump deserves credit for working with our allies and ordering this strike against Assad. He is a ruthless butcher who has murdered hundreds of thousands of Syrians and should be considered a war criminal.

            “But I fear that when the dust settles this strike will be seen as a weak military response and Assad will have paid a small price for using chemical weapons yet again. Assad has likely calculated a limited American strike is just the cost of doing business. Russia and Iran will view the limited action as the United States being content to drop a few bombs before heading for the exits. We seem to have settled on and be comfortable with being the chemical weapons police.

            “It’s not the type of sustained, game-changing strategy that will lead to Assad, Russia, or Iran changing or reevaluating their strategy in Syria. It is clear our military response was a tactical response meant to deter future chemical weapons attacks. That’s a positive. But it was not part of an overall strategy to degrade Assad’s war making capability or counter Iranian and Russian aggression.

            “To those who believe the administration does not have a strategy when it comes to Syria, I respectfully disagree. The administration does have a strategy – and it’s to withdraw from Syria as quickly as possible.

            “To do so will be letting the radical Islamists off the mat to regroup and organize, put Israel at increased risk from Iran and its proxy Hezbollah who will now have two neighboring countries (Syria and Lebanon) to use as bases of operations, strengthen the role of Putin’s Russia in the Middle East, and create havoc for our Arab allies in the region. At the end of the day, this will be seen as a victory for Russia and Iran. It’s a nightmare for the Syrian people and our regional allies, both Arab and Israeli. We have seen this movie before. It does not end well and is a recipe for disaster.

            “Ignoring the situation in Syria, simply saying — Not Our Problem — was a losing strategy when President Obama adopted it five years ago. And it’s a losing strategy still today.”

            ####

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              By the way, just as an illustration of the difference in levels of understanding among members of Congress, here’s Joe Wilson’s entire statement:

              Springdale, S.C. – Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) released the following statement regarding the U.S. action tonight in Syria.

              “Tonight, the United States stood with our allies Great Britain and France to take decisive action against a murderous Syrian regime. I am grateful for the leadership of President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis in taking the use of chemical weapons seriously and responding appropriately, as well as the bravery of the members of our armed services who carried out this mission.”

              Reply
          2. bud

            One of Obama’s best moment as President was when he refused to authorize an attack on Syria without congressional authorization.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, he refused to authorize a strike, period. And that’s one of the worst things he did. We can debate whether having drawn the bogus red line to start with was worse, of course. But you don’t do that and then not act when the line is crossed — as Hillary Clinton and the rest of his national security team would probably have told you, had they been frank

              Reply
              1. bud

                The red line thing was dumb. Attacking would have been even dumber as we’re now finding out. These strikes are costing hundreds of millions of dollars with pretty much zero results. We just can’t conduct foreign policy simply because it might “send the wrong signal”. Some times substance actually matters.

                Reply
                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  In international affairs, sending signals is EXTREMELY important. The right signals can save lives. It’s a hell of a lot better to have a potential adversary trust your resolve than to have to prove it with a nuclear exchange…

            2. clark surratt

              Perhaps, then, his worst moments were allowing troop commitments in Yemen, Somalia and Libya (among others). Under his watch, the U.S. recorded record arms sales to other nations. Obama expanded the armed footprint of the United States.

              Reply

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