Attacking Syria Is Still a Huge Mistake
Nikki Haley says that the U.S. may attack the Syrian government:
Holding photographs of dead Syrian children after a suspected chemical bomb attack, the United States ambassador to the United Nations warned on Wednesday that her country might take unilateral action if the Security Council failed to respond to the latest atrocity in the Syria war.
The proposed attack on Syria in 2013 was a dangerous idea when there were no Russian planes and air defenses in the country. Any similar “action” against the Syrian government now would be even riskier, and the U.S. could be drawn into a major war. By itself, launching an attack on the Syrian government would obviously mean committing acts of war against that government:
Military action means committing acts of war against the Syrian government https://t.co/VaNhNwbo1y
— Daniel Larison (@DanielLarison) April 5, 2017
Pretending that “action” in Syria isn’t war is an attempt to demand that the government initiate hostilities against another state without owning up to the implications of what that means. Even if the purpose of the action were simply punitive and intended to make their government “pay a price,” the U.S. will not be in control of how the other parties to the conflict respond to that action. That risks sparking a wider conflagration that could prove very costly for us and the entire region, and doing it just for the sake of punishing the Syrian government is not a good enough reason to take such a huge gamble.
We also know that once so-called “limited” interventions begin they often do not stay “limited.” The war on ISIS began initially as a defensive response to a threat inside Iraq, but has since expanded into Syria and beyond. Once the U.S. makes the mistake of attacking the Syrian government, the clamor to “finish the job” will grow louder. And there are always unintended consequences in war, some of which none of us will have expected at the beginning, so it is possible that there are even greater dangers from taking such action that we don’t yet appreciate.
In addition to being unwise and risky, the U.S. has no authority to attack the Syrian government in the absence of a U.N. resolution. Nor would Trump have any authority to initiate hostilities against the Syrian government without Congressional authorization. We know that there won’t be any U.N. resolution, and it is doubtful that Congress would give Trump this authorization. If Trump does what Haley is suggesting, he will be illegally starting a new conflict, and he will be attacking a government that doesn’t pose a threat to the U.S.