Letter to the Editor: President Trump must come to Congress before going to war

In this April 2018 file photo, explosions light up the skies with anti-aircraft fire, over Damascus, the Syrian capital, as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the Syrian capital Damascus, Syria, April 14, 2018 | AP photo by Hassan Ammar, St. George News

OPINION — President Trump announced airstrikes in Syria in a televised address last Friday.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, shown in this undated profile photo, said President Donald Trump should obtain Congressional authorization before conducting military operations | Photo courtesy of the Office of Sen. Michael S. Lee, St. George News

The airstrikes, carried out by American, British and French forces, targeted sites associated with the chemical weapons stockpile of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad.

Sophisticated attacks like this require coordination with our allies. They require planning, unity and resolve.

According to the Constitution, they also require express authorization from Congress.

Yet for the past decade, presidents from both parties have ignored the Constitution in order to carry out unauthorized military strikes in Libya, Yemen and other hotspots.

That dangerous trend continued on Friday.

President Trump consulted foreign powers before the attack, but he did not consult the American Congress.

Fortunately for the nation, the unauthorized strikes were carried out without casualties to civilians or American troops. But it would be a mistake to think this operation was a slam dunk. No act of war is risk-free.

And indeed, in the run-up to this attack, a Russian diplomat warned that Russia would “shoot down U.S. rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.”

Imagine what could have happened if Russia had followed through on this ominous threat.

Russia could have attacked the American destroyers, submarines and bombers used in this operation. American personnel could have died.

In an instant, our “methodically planned” attacks could have spiraled into a bigger conflict with the world’s second-largest military — all without input from Congress or the American people.

Victory in war requires sobriety and, above all, national unity, which is precisely why the Constitution established a collaborative procedure for going to war in absence of an imminent threat to the U.S.

The Constitution empowers Congress to make decisions about whether or not to go to war. It empowers the president, as commander-in-chief, to lead the troops once war has been declared.

The founding fathers divided these responsibilities to ensure that the nation would be united in purpose when it went to war. They did not want a solitary figure to make those fateful decisions without consulting his fellow Americans.

Think of the Constitution’s war-making process like a game of baseball.

In America’s sport, the most successful pitchers work in perfect unison with a catcher, who sizes up the batter and determines his weaknesses. The catcher can see the entire field, while the pitcher’s focus is on the batter in front of him.

The catcher flashes hand signals to the pitcher telling him which pitches to throw and where to throw them. Sometimes the catcher will even advise the pitcher to walk a particularly threatening batter.

The Constitution established a similar relationship between all the players on Team USA.

When the president is facing down an opponent, he needs to get the signal from Congress before proceeding.

In his address last Friday, President Trump stated he is “prepared to sustain” airstrikes in Syria until chemical weapons attacks stop.

It is far from clear that Congress and the American people are willing to assent to a sustained military campaign of this kind.

While many of my colleagues have expressed support for the president’s unauthorized strikes, it is unclear how many are willing to go on record by voting for another dangerous and costly war in the Middle East.

If these colleagues believe a war in Syria is in the best interests of the country, they are free to bring a specific authorization for the use of military force to the floor in Congress. While Senator Corker’s proposal for authorization is a valiant effort to reassert Congress’s authority, the current language is too broad.

Similarly, if President Trump truly believes a war in Syria is in the best interests of the U.S., he must convince the nation of that fact. And I applaud those who spoke out, encouraging the president to come to Congress first.

Securing authorization from Congress is the most important step he can take to rally Team USA for what surely will be a dangerous and costly endeavor.

Written by SEN. MIKE LEE, Washington, D.C.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News.

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Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • comments April 22, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    I’d say Bashar al Assad having “chemical weapons stockpiles” is exactly as likely as saddam huessaine haveing “WMD stockpiles”. It sounds like the exact same fairytale, with a very similar purpose: war just for the sake of war $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

  • Craig April 22, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    Heck, im just impressd a member of Congress recognized that we have a Constitution.??

  • Craig April 22, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    I do believe the evils of Assad and his use of chemical weapons. He has done this before; and, he will do it again.

    Does this go back to Bush or even further? I believe our last three Presidents have been quite loose defining something as not war.

    To discuss the Constitution is absolutely wonderful. I hope there are serious dscissions about this and it gets nailed down.

    We’d be in much better shape if we regularly followed the Constitution. What a great idea this congressman had.

    • SSTEED April 22, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      You believe it because you are getting your info from the MSM. Their biggest advertising clients are the military industrial complex so they have little interest in taking an anti war stance. I recommend getting a second and possibly a third opinion; your best bet is sources outside the US.

  • utahdiablo April 22, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Yeah Mikey, just like Obama did huh?…oh, but that was different….

  • PatriotLiberal April 23, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I have ti give this to Trump. Agree or disagree at least he acted. All Congress would have done is trash talk each other on CNN and Fox instead of actually doing anything.

  • vintagehippie April 23, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Please don’t get me wrong on this. I strongly support following the Constitution. But If President Trump had gone to Congress for support in this attack, given the lack of support from both the Democratic and Republican parties, he would have most certainly been denied “permission” to act. In doing so Congress would have broadcast to the world that the U.S. is nothing but a paper tiger at best. It would have also established that President Trump is unable to lead our country due to our political divisions. The lack of action would be especially more significant due to Obama’s failure to enforce the “Line” which he said must not been crossed. As we know that line was crossed by Assad on several occasions in the past and there was no consequence for him.

    If President Trump had not acted it would have emboldened Russia, Iran and North Korea to do as they wished knowing that there would be no opposition from the U.S. I wonder if the fact that Kim Jong-un has suddenly become much more interested in negotiating with the U.S. might have something to do with this? Who knows, but it is interesting…….

    • comments April 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      aren’t “vintage hippies” supposed to be anti-war. you are an msm tool.

      • vintagehippie April 23, 2018 at 2:32 pm

        How did my posting lead you to believe that I was “anti-war” or than I am a MSM tool? Maybe you didn’t read the posting? I use “Vintage Hippie” due to the fact that I liked the music of the day…. FWIW, I am very pro-American and love this country.

        • comments April 23, 2018 at 6:27 pm

          you’re probably very pro-Israel too. Like I said, you’re an msm tool.

  • DB April 23, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Go to Congress for permission to launch an attack? It takes a week for Congress to decide what to have for lunch tomorrow. I feel that this line of thinking is more about our current President than anything else.

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