The vote that Congress took before the United States invaded Iraq proved very important in American democracy. Barack Obama was able to beat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries in large part because she had supported the Iraq War. And Donald Trump triumphed over the establishments of both the Republican and Democratic parties partly by pointing to their support for the catastrophe and exploiting the fact that he was never forced, as a reality-TV star, to go on record.
Put another way, the life-and-death judgments of legislators had consequences, as the Framers intended when they vested Congress, not the president, with the power to declare war. In contrast, there was no congressional vote or pick-a-side public debate about attacking Syria with missiles or sending American troops to fight there.
Yet last April, President Trump fired 59 tomahawk missiles at regime targets in Syria. And today, roughly 2,000 American troops are fighting ISIS in the country.
That figure, released this week by the Pentagon, is four times higher than what the Obama administration misleadingly claimed. And it excludes troops assigned to classified missions, special-operations forces, and aircrews flying from outside Iraq and Syria.