We can't trust Donald Trump with authorization to strike Syria

Josh Barro
Donald Trump military gun

Richard Ellis/Getty Images

Donald Trump ran for president promising to order the military to commit war crimes — and insisting servicemembers would follow his orders to do so.

He has proposed ideas for military action that are equal parts reprehensible and impractical, such as that the U.S. should "take the oil" from countries like Iraq.

As his Republican opponents periodically pointed out during the presidential primary campaign, he is not a person you should trust with nuclear weapons.

He is impulsive, quick to anger, and prone to lash out when he feels embarrassed or threatened.

Unfortunately, he is the commander-in-chief of America's armed forces. It is conceivable that a situation could arise where intensified American military operations are so essential, our best option will be to entrust Donald Trump with the power to lead them.

Syria does not present such a situation.

The gas attack in Syria is an atrocity. Bashar al-Assad has been committing atrocities for years, but as Josh Marshall notes, there are reasons that the United States has not engaged more aggressively in Syria, under Barack Obama or Trump.

Acting against Assad could strengthen ISIS, which is one of his opponents. We likely couldn't stop the multi-front war in the country without an Iraq-style occupation, which we would have good reasons to resist, even if it were not the case that Syria is full of Russian troops on Assad's side.

As we saw in Iraq and Libya, our greater intervention could make a bad situation even worse. Syria presents an added risk that escalation could lead to armed conflict with Russia. These would be good enough reasons to be cautious in Syria under any president. 

They are even better reasons for caution under a president who is both malevolent and incompetent, who demonstrates neither strategic thinking nor moral clarity, and who has threatened to use the military in ways that would endanger both servicemembers and the country as a whole.

Trying to make the Syrian situation better through military action would be really hard. Do you think Donald Trump is up to the task?

On Thursday, Republican Senators have been pointedly urging Trump to seek congressional authority before any military escalation: Mike Lee, Rand Paul, John McCain, Bob Corker.

Congress should insist that he seek such authorization — and should deny it.

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