On April 13, 2018, President Trump announced that U.S. armed forces, along with the militaries of the U.K. and France had begun launching air strikes against the military of Bashar Al-Assad. This was done in response to reports that the Assad government had again gassed its own people, leaving dozens dead and far more injured.
Since this announcement, I’ve noticed a schism on social media. I’ve seen many, many people on the right and left cheer this decision. I’ve watched libertarian pages be excoriated by Trump supporters for not being “real libertarians.”
I saw people say things like, “This is what happens when you mess with America!”, and “Trump isn’t going to let America be jerked around”, along with other confusing pro-war sentiments regurgitated across all platforms. America wasn’t being messed with, at least, not by Syria, and we certainly weren’t being jerked around.
Others, such as Representative Justin Amash and Senator Rand Paul have both pointed out that Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, and gives the president command of the armed forces.
The Constitution does allow the president to launch attacks against another country if there is an imminent threat to the U.S.
The president also has the right under the War Powers Act to send troops into combat for 90 days; after that time he must ask Congress for permission to stay longer. But, this does not negate the responsibility of the president to reserve military action for when America is being threatened.
Unfortunately, many presidents ignore Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and the War Powers Act altogether.
The most ironic thing I’ve found is that, prior to him attaining the presidency, Donald Trump was actually quite anti-war. It’s one of the reasons he had support from some libertarians.
Here are tweets from the Donald himself, ridiculing former President Obama on his proposed Syrian conflict
The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria-big mistake if he does not
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 30, 2013
What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2013
President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your “powder” for another (and more important) day!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2013
all show that Trump, at one time, knew that the executive branch needed approval from Congress, that entering a conflict in Syria was foolish and costly, and may lead to a larger conflict.
Libertarianism is a wide tent, we all have slightly varying beliefs, but one thing we can all agree on is this: the government is too large and too powerful, and they have repeatedly trampled the Constitution under toe.
Libertarians in general do not support wars of aggression. We have too often been involved in wars, or “military engagements” as the government likes to call them (Congress hasn’t declared an actual war since 1941), that only succeeded in costing American lives, adding to our despicable $21 trillion debt, costing civilian casualties (500,000 in Iraq alone) and costing valuable resources.
Syrians are not attempting to take the liberty of Americans, the Syrian government does not pose an existential threat to the US, and President Trump did not seek authorization from Congress to bomb sovereign Syrian land. Therefore, these bombings, no matter how limited or far-reaching, are both illegal and immoral. Russia immediately began levying threats against the US after these attacks began. The Russian Ambassador to the US warned of consequences, and Vladimir Putin declared the American-led attacks to be an “act of aggression.”
Bombing Syrians to protect Syrians from chemical attacks is asinine. There is more reason in an alcoholic trying to drink himself sober.
If you value the Constitution, if you value liberty and a limited government, you should stand against these unconstitutional and immoral bombings, and reject the urge to cheer on the ever-growing power of a corrupt and unjust state.
- Manuel “Manny” Gutierrez is an uncle, brother, son and best friend. He became a libertarian about 4 years ago, and works for the dreaded Amazon. This is my second time writing for Being Libertarian.
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