Monday, May 15, 2017

The Tomahawk War

19th Century Native American Tomahawk 

The Tomahawk War 
Mick Kleber

Our federal legislators should be up in arms about Trump's un-Constitutional authorization of Tomahawk missile airstrikes against Syria without Congressional approval. While the strikes may have been morally justifiable, they were indisputably an act of war. But in our nation only Congress has the power to authorize such acts. The strikes were also in direct violation of the prohibition of unilateral attacks under the United Nations charter.

Granted, Presidents Truman (Korea), Clinton (Kosovo), Obama (Libya) and others have also violated the Constitutional process, but repeated violation does not make these acts legal. When the Assad regime used chemical weapons in 2013, President Obama followed the rules, asking Congress to authorize a U.S. military response. Congress demurred. Ironically, Donald Trump tweeted at the time: "The President must get Congressional approval before attacking Syria -- big mistake if he does not!" Yet Trump sought no Congressional approval and claimed that Obama's inaction was in part to blame for Assad's atrocities. Of course, self-serving hypocrisy is a sickening Trump trademark that now passes for business as usual.
Unfortunately, the majority of our Congressional "leaders" have given Trump a dangerously irresponsible pass on the un-Constitutional bombings because the general public believes Assad should be punished (no argument here). But the $80 million dollars worth of airstrikes failed without question to achieve that purpose. 

Within hours the military airfield was back in operation because the strikes intentionally avoided damaging the runways. Secretary of State Tillerson confirmed that the attacks specifically targeted only Syrian aircraft -- 20 were destroyed, most of them non-operational -- and refueling capability, and that the timing of the strikes was intended to avoid human casualties. Of the 15 reported fatalities, nine were civilians in nearby villages, four of them children. The Pentagon confirmed that the Russians were warned an hour in advance of the strikes, and no Russian aircraft or personnel were at the airfield when the strikes took place. Syrian intelligence also received prior warning, and much of the facility's equipment was relocated prior to the attack.

Thus, the missile strikes were a totally symbolic show of force with no significant damage to Syria's airstrike capability and no other discernible tactical or strategic military effect. The White House and Tillerson subsequently stated that our national policy with regard to Syria remains unchanged. 

Last week, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross jokingly characterized the strikes as free after-dinner entertainment at Trump's Mar-a-Lago summit with China's president Xi Jinping. Xi reportedly told Trump he understood the rationale for the airstrikes because children had been killed or injured by Assad's heinous indulgence in chemical warfare. 

But the Chinese media immediately pegged the strikes as a blatant attempt by Trump to distance him from mounting accusations of a cozy bromance with Putin's regime. Subsequent statements by Trump and Tillerson that US-Russian relations are "probably at an all-time low" appeared to be an extension of this tactic. Many world leaders, as well as Congressional figures from both sides of the aisle, applauded the strikes, and media pundits have largely agreed that Trump succeeded in positioning himself as "more Presidential" and less pro-Russian.

Now several weeks later, has the Assad regime been weakened or chastened in any significant way by the airstrikes? No. 

And is our country any safer? Just the opposite. Dangerous threats to our national security -- such as North Korea's impetuous Kim Jong-un and cagier players like Putin -- are only emboldened to use military force with impunity by what can convincingly be deemed an unlawful act of international aggression by the United States. 

21st Century United States Navy Tomahawk 

Bashar al-Assad 

Note about the author:  Mick Kleber is a graduate of both the United States Army and Yale University.

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