The U.S. missile attack on Syrian forces on Thursday, April 6 shows President Donald Trump’s lack of clear goals and raises the question of the travel ban’s sinister legacy in the wake of humanitarian aid.
While some may say his actions were justified because of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s cruelty toward his citizens and chemical weapons attack, how can Trump justify his actions when he banned refugees from Syria from seeking shelter in the U.S.?
Until the recent attack, Trump has opposed attacking Syria. Most notably, he criticized former President Barack Obama for his militarism against Syria.
“The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria, fix U.S.A.” Trump said in a tweet in 2013.
In the 2016 presidential debates, Trump again opposed attacking Syria and said “you may very well end up with worse than Assad.”
After the attack, Trump said, “It is in this vital, national security interest of the U.S. to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
While this sentiment is important, Trump’s emphasis on security and morality to “end the slaughter and bloodshed” stands pale in the face of the travel ban signed Jan. 27, banning entry for 90 days of citizens from Syria, as well as Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The ban indefinitely stopped refugee entry from Syria, according to CNN.
These two conflicting actions speak loudly. According to Trump, it is okay to bomb a country with missiles in the name of humanitarian aid, but if the suffering and scared citizens seek to find shelter in the U.S., we can shut the door in their faces.
Additionally, the attack was implemented without approval from Congress. This sets up a dangerous precedent for other attacks or even war to be started without the proper checks and balances.
According to The New York Times, the United Nations Charter, which the U.S. has agreed to, only lists two reasons for using militarism on another country: the approval of the Security Council or the country acting out of self-defense. Trump’s attack on Syria is neither, which makes it illegal in international law.
“Most legal scholars agree that the founders wanted Congress to decide whether to go to war, except when the country is under an attack,” according to The New York Times. Because the U.S. was not directly threatened by Assad, the attack is a step too far for Trump because he did not seek the approval of Congress.
In 2013, Obama asked Congress to approve his strike against Syria before he decided to attack them for the government’s chemical weapon use. However, Obama did not seek approval from Congress when he took action against Libya in 2011.
Any unprovoked militant force against another country should not be decided on a whim by a president. Trump’s argument that the U.S.’s security is at stake from Syria is weak at best.
While it is important to help citizens who are in danger, militarism is not necessarily always the best route and Trump’s decision seems more political than out of true concern.
The recent failure of the GOP healthcare plan put a dent in Trump’s ego, and perhaps now he is looking for a way to seem tougher than his predecessor.
With most military attacks on countries of this nature, there are civilian casualties. Time will tell whether the benefits outweigh the losses, but the most unnerving aspect of the travel ban is the precedent it sets up.
If Trump can schedule an attack on another country on his own authority, what else can he do? What else will he do? And what does it mean for the U.S. if war is an imminent possibility with Trump’s leadership?
Trump’s unsettled and unorganized administration should give us a clue.