Striking Syria Again Would Be a Grave Mistake for America (and President Trump)
America faces two grave consequences if the president unilaterally attacks Assad.
Syria is not one of those cases. Even if attack proponents are correct that chemical weapons uses anywhere can quickly metastasize into a direct threat to America, a response in days or weeks will be no less effective at signalling U.S. intentions. There is plenty of time for the president to seek Congressional authorization. Congress is even in session this week. If the threat is truly grave, they will surely drop everything to empower the president to take action. And their authorization would make clear that Trump is not alone in his desire to punish chemical weapons users, amplifying the strategic message sent by the strike.
The threat to America from gas attacks in Syria is limited, and therefore a strike is not necessary. But if I’m wrong, it is not a threat that requires the president to act instantly. A few days or weeks are not enough for a total breakdown in any norm against using chemical weapons. There is no excuse for the president to go around the Constitution and Congress to strike Syria.
John Allen Gay is executive director of the John Quincy Adams Society, a national network of student groups centered on a vision of foreign policy restraint. He is a former managing editor of the National Interest.