Secretary of Defense General Jim Mattis was hoping the Trump Administration would get Congressional approval before launching last week’s attack on Syria. The New York Times reports Mattis pushed President Donald Trump on going to Capitol Hill for authorization but obviously failed.
Mr. Trump, the officials said, wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action, but was warned that an overly aggressive response risked igniting a wider war with Russia.
Friday night’s limited strikes on three targets, which lasted under two minutes, were the compromise.
The debate reflects a divide between Mr. Trump and the defense secretary, who, like no other member of the cabinet, has managed to maintain a cordial relationship with the president even while reining him in…
As he pressed his case last week, before the allied strikes with Britain and France, Mr. Mattis lost the battle over getting congressional authorization. But he won the larger war.
Mr. Mattis prevailed in limiting the strikes to three targets that did not risk endangering Russian troops scattered at military installations around Syria. Nor did the 105 missiles hit Syrian military units believed to be responsible for carrying out an April 7 suspected chemical weapons attack on Douma, near Damascus.
At least one person in the White House is interested in actually following the Constitution when it comes to going to war, albeit only because Mattis wanted public support before launching any offensive. It should be pointed out ‘Mad Dog’ and Trump did disagree on what to do with troop levels in Syria earlier this month after the President suggested it was time to remove the military from Syria. So Mattis is still a hawk but a cautious one who’d prefer making sure no other animal- like say a Russian bear- will get its fur up in a dander should the hawk decide to swoop down on prey.
What will be very interesting to see in the next few months is whether there will be more of a push in certain circles in Washington to delve further into Syria. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker attempted to get a new war declara-um-Authorization for Use of Military Force introduced in Congress this week which Ed noted didn’t really go so well. Corker’s reasons for the new AUMF push can be seen in two lights: he wants to follow the Constitution, but he still wants the U.S. to be Team America: World Police or at least Team America: World Buffer. Via AFP:
A frustrated Corker spoke after exiting a classified briefing by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and top generals, who explained the Pentagon’s strategy to lawmakers following last weekend’s missile strikes on Syria.
“Syria is Russia and Iran’s now. They will be determining the future,” he said.
“We may be at the table, but when you’re just talking and have nothing to do with shaping what’s happening on the ground, you’re just talking.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, expressed alarm about a lack of US engagement in the country where insurgents have waged a brutal civil war against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“Everything in that briefing made me more worried, not less,” he said.
I’d still like to hear from Graham and Corker why the U.S. has to even be involved in Syria since Bashar al-Assad isn’t exactly a danger to America. A couple friends of mine have argued the U.S. was right to bomb Syria without Congressional approval because there are American citizens in the region trying to assist refugees. I understand the argument but disagree, because the bombing was an offensive action. This isn’t the early 1800s, when President Thomas Jefferson had military forces defensively protect citizens near Tripoli until Congress authorized war. Louis Fisher from The Constitution Project expounded on this during testimony in 2008 before the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight.
In your hearing on March 13, a question was raised whether President Thomas Jefferson exercised unilateral power to engage in military actions against the Barbary powers in the Mediterranean…his actions were of a defensive nature. He reported to Congress on what he had done, asking for legislative guidance. He told Congress that he was “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanctions of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.” Congress passed ten statutes authorizing Presidents Jefferson and Madison to use military force against the Barbary nations, resulting in a series of treaties in 1815 with Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli.
This is why Congress needs to vote on whether America should get more involved in Syria should the White House decide it’s time to hit Assad again. Mattis isn’t such a crazy pooch for wanting Congressional approval. It’s too bad no one listened to him this time before the attack was launched.
Update: Not true, the White House claims:
“Reports that Secretary Mattis urged the president to seek congressional approval before last week's strikes in Syria are categorically false,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders says in statement.
She argues Trump “appropriately ordered the strikes under his constitutional authorities.” https://t.co/WGz9Ca9myc
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 18, 2018