Last week, the Trump administration authorized an attack in Syria, where a barrage of ballistic missiles struck an airfield. This action was unprecedented because this was the first time the United States was directly involved in the Syrian civil war. News of this incident took the world by surprise, as America now awaits the complete response of Syria’s regional allies, namely Russia.
This attack has raised several questions regarding the level of involvement the U.S. should maintain in Syria. But before I explore the idea of future participation in this war, it is important to provide context with the ethics of such participation by analyzing the legality of the missile strike and how Syria relates to the interests of the United States.
Thus, I attempt to answer the following question: Is our current and future participation direct operations in the Syrian Civil War justifiable on an ethical basis?
Strictly Speaking Constitutionally
When we assess the ethics behind participating in war, we must first assess the will of the people– more importantly, the consensus in Congress.
As the Commander in Chief, President Trump has the right to lead the army and make many major decisions for how to handle conflict. However, Congress holds the right and power to declare war. But it’s difficult to determine whether President Trump’s authorization a direct act of war that required congressional approval at that moment. This doubt becomes more ambiguous by the fact that Congress did not object to Trump when he informed them that he would be taking this action. In the end, this did not matter, as several congressmen approved or remained neutral on the decision, and there were only few others that challenged the legality of this action.
Historically, there have been presidents that acted without congressional approval, such as The Korean War, part of the Vietnam War, and the Libyan airstrikes in the early 2010s. In this case, the Syrian missile strike is a less dramatic exercise of executive powers because it was a one-time act. and based on the response of congressmen—should not necessarily be heavily criticized on the grounds of constitutionality.
Should Trump have asked Congress for approval prior to authorizing the missile strike? Perhaps, but this is not a significant issue. If many people in Congress are supportive of his actions, then I have enough reason to believe that Trump made a relatively appropriate decision based on his rights. However, as stated by the Senate leaders and many others. it is important that Trump consults Congress before taking on further military actions in Syria.
Is Attacking Syria in Our Best Interest?
Why did Trump feel that it was necessary to attack Syria at this moment? Was he waiting for an excuse to become directly involved in Syrian affairs? Or was he simply reacting to the events based on what he was told?
Assessing the situation while considering these questions is another way we can determine whether the missile strikes and subsequent operations in Syria are justifiable.
First, we can look at the surface-level reasons as to why America should not war with the Syrian regime: It would provoke America’s enemies including Russia, Iran, and even ISIS. and war would be a measure that is contrary to populism, which would frustrate many of Trump’s supporters.
These possibilities make war with Syria a very uninteresting idea. But these circumstances don’t raise ethical red flags about America’s involvement in Syria. Something that would raise red flags is the U.S.’s indecision to act in a similar fashion in other countries, where war and criminals rule the lands.
If Trump decided that he needed to teach the Syrian forces that they would not violate war ethics, shouldn’t he also be intervening in other countries such as South Sudan, whose inhabitants are facing similar threats of terror, displacement, and destruction by warring factions? But, of course, South Sudan doesn’t have the same geopolitical effect as an existing household name like Syria.
Choosing to participating wars is certainly not ethical, especially when both wars that I have mentioned demand the attention of a powerhouse like the United States to intervene and end the madness that has consumed their nations.
What is the Verdict based On Ethics?
When the throes of the children of Syria was answered by the 59 tomahawk missiles, it made some sense in a warzone where violence and treachery has spoken far more loudly than diplomacy ever did.
But during these tribulations, it is important to realize the extent of our ability to aid those willing for democracy in a place where laws do not matter. Is it in the best interest to oust a dictator while provoking de facto enemies, or is it better to avoid dangerous waters as we look for ways to further the interest of America? Some would say yes, and others would say no
Is it ethical to choose to participate in one war over another—Syria over South Sudan? Some would say yes, and others would beg to differ. And that’s because the ethics of war are perplexing.
Surely, no warmongers that kill children with nerve poisons should escape with impunity; but it would also make sense that we act in other countries to try to defend our morals. After all, the U.S. has traditionally been the moral police officers of the world and is still assuming this role.
We should also exercise caution when intervening in the affairs of another nation so that we don’t create dire consequences. I cannot help but think of the destabilization of Afghanistan after we invaded and tried to establish a government that would maintain western values. It was unfortunate, and we cannot repeat this mistake in Syria or any other nation if we are going to support the ethics of the Constitution and of war.