Foreign Policy

Trump’s Dangerous Escalation In Syria


Download PDF version

On April 6, 2017, Donald Trump stunned the nation by unilaterally launching missile strikes against a Syrian base with no Congressional authorization, no explanation of his legal justification prior to the attack, and no apparent strategy for what happens next.

The decision to use military force is the single most important responsibility of any President. Donald Trump has made a mockery of these solemn duties by launching missiles as impulsively as he launches tweets. Congress must reassert its constitutional responsibility to determine when and if the United States goes to war, and prevent our belligerent, war-mongering President from escalating this conflict and dragging us into another open-ended war in the Middle East.

The use of chemical weapons in Syria is a grave atrocity. It’s an atrocity that may have been in part triggered by the Trump administration’s previous signaling that Assad continuing his reign of terror would be acceptable to the United States. An airstrike against an air base will not stop the killing, and it risks further escalating the crisis. Moreover, Trump cannot claim that he is acting to protect the people of Syria when he simultaneously bars them from our shores and cuts funding for refugees.

The Trump administration has failed to bring forward a real strategy that accounts for the potential risks, and includes a plan to actually help the people of Syria:

  • Zero Respect for the Rule of Law – Trump has kept the U.S. public in the dark about his plans to fight ISIS or take on Assad. As the ACLU points out: "President Trump has unilaterally launched strikes against a country that has not attacked us, and without any authorization from Congress. Doing so violates some of the most important legal constraints on the use of force."
  • Zero Strategy Trump has acted impulsively, without asking what comes next. The Trump administration’s contradictory statements on the role of Assad in Syria’s future show it lacks a political strategy to end the civil war peacefully or stabilize Syria once ISIS is defeated. The Iraq War showed us the huge risks of getting embroiled in a foreign war without a plan to win the peace.
  • Zero Caution for our Troops – Trump’s decision to escalate U.S. involvement in Syria is reckless, particularly without seeking congressional authorization. His actions make our troops bigger targets for retaliation by the Syrian government, or their allies in Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.
  • Zero Actions to Protect the People of Syria Trump claimed that he launched strikes due to humanitarian concern for Syria’s civilians. But Trump continues to turn his back on Assad’s victims by banning refugee admissions from Syria. And his recent budget slashes funding for Syrian refugees and humanitarian assistance.  As Senator Warren pointed out, “if President Trump wants to take unilateral action to help the Syrian people, he can start by dropping his misguided efforts to ban children and families fleeing these murderers from entering the United States.”

Congress must exercise close oversight to block any unilateral, U.S. military escalation by the Trump Administration and stop the march into a war that will end in disaster.

Where’s the Plan, Donald?

Trump’s lack of a strategy in Syria is a dereliction of duty.  The deadly consequences of the Trump Administration’s lack of a strategy in Syria was made clear when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley reassured the brutal Syrian regime that Assad could stay. The Syrian dictator responded with gas attacks.

The subsequent missile strikes against Syria push America further down a slippery slope of an ever-escalating major foreign conflict. Congress must pressure Trump to use U.S. leverage with Russia, Gulf countries and other regional players to de-escalate the conflict and build momentum for a peaceful, political solution.

Congress Is the Authority for Military Force

The Constitution requires the President obtain Congressional approval before taking the country to war against a foreign nation that has not attacked us.

In 2013, Trump tweeted, “The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria - big mistake if he does not!” Now that he is in office, he has forgotten that only Congress can authorize war.  But Trump still has a duty to follow our laws and the Constitution. He must not take any further action without requesting from Congress an Authorization for Use of Military Force.

Moreover, we know that Trump is a thin-skinned, belligerent lunatic with an itchy trigger finger, and we simply cannot trust him to drag us further into conflict. Congress must not give him the authority to escalate this conflict or drag us into war.

Taking Action With Your Member of Congress

Donald Trump has shown no respect for the solemn duties of a Commander in Chief, and has given no indication he can be trusted to manage any military action in Syria that doesn’t turn into a debacle.  But it’s not up to him alone – you have the power to hold him accountable by speaking to your Member of Congress (MoC) and asking that they follow the Constitution, and exercise oversight on Trump’s actions in Syria.

Townhall or Office Visit Questions

ALWAYS try incorporating a personal story when communicating with your MoCs. Below are sample Yes and No questions for your MoCs on Syria:

  1. I’m appalled by Trump’s dereliction of duty by failing to seek Congressional authorization for escalating military actions in Syria.  We need Congress to exercise oversight - and we need to stop Trump from recklessly marching us into war. Will you promise to follow the Constitution and demand that Donald Trump not take any further military action without Congress voting on an Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria? And, given Donald Trump’s demonstrated recklessness, erratic behavior, and lack of judgment, will you vote no on that Authorization?
  2. For the House: I’m appalled by Trump’s dereliction of duty by failing to seek Congressional authorization for escalating military actions in Syria.  We need Congress to exercise oversight - and we need to stop Trump from recklessly marching us into war. Will you promise to cosponsor the bipartisan bill H.R.1473 which would block the deployment  of U.S. ground troops into Syria for combat?
  3. Donald Trump gave humanitarian reasons for launching strikes in Syria. But hypocritically, he has attempted to temporarily ban all refugees and to cut the number of refugees the U.S. will admit this year from 110,000 to 50,000, and submitted a budget that would slash humanitarian support for Syrian families in refugee camps. Will you publicly commit to opposing budget cuts to our refugee programs and to Trump’s Muslim and refugee bans?
  4. For MoCs who have flip flopped since 2013. When President Obama considered a strike against Assad for a chemical weapons attack, he asked Congress to authorize it, but ultimately decided not to strike the Assad regime. At that time, you opposed military action. Do you now trust Trump to escalate this conflict? Do you believe Trump should be subject to the same standard as President Obama?