Biden's Syria Strike was Neither Defensive Nor Defensible | Opinion

The recent U.S. airstrike on Iran-linked militias in Syria, launched in retribution for rocket attacks on American forces in Iraq, was not the first such attack of this administration, contrary to reports.

President Joe Biden inherited U.S. military interventions of varying scale in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, and only in the latter has he taken limited steps to extricate the United States.

This was the first strike Biden authorized in Syria, and it demonstrates the hypocrisy, lawlessness, perversion and futility of U.S. foreign policy in the greater Middle East.

The hypocrisy is evident.

In 2017, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki questioned by what legal authority then-President Donald Trump attacked Syria, a sovereign country not at war with the United States.

After another Trump attack in Syria in 2018, now Vice President Kamala Harris described herself as "deeply concerned about the legal rationale of last night's strikes" and demanded Trump immediately "lay out a comprehensive strategy in Syria in consultation with Congress."

And there's Biden himself, who in 2019 condemned Trump for "order[ing] a military strike without fully understanding the consequences," among them increasing the risk of war with Iran. In 2020, Biden appealed to war-weary voters by insisting the "last thing we need is another war."

Now that Biden is in office, these scruples conveniently melt away. The United States is still not at war with Syria, and Syria remains a sovereign country. One might reasonably suppose that fighting Iran-linked militias could heighten tensions with Iran.

Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual call on March 4, 2021. Oliver Contreras-Pool/Getty Images

The White House sought no congressional permission for the strike, as the Constitution requires. Sure, the usual congressional voices objected—among the Democrats, Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Representatives Ro Khanna (California) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota); in the GOP, Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Representatives Thomas Massie (Kentucky), Nancy Mace (South Carolina) and Peter Meijer (Michigan)—but so far there's no suggestion of congressional leadership bestirring themselves for even a toothless rebuke of the dereliction of presidential duty Biden once decried.

The administration, correctly anticipating the failure of basic constitutional accountability, has made the absurd excuse that this was a "defensive" strike to "de-escalate" the situation.

Here is where we see the perverse logic of U.S. foreign policy: U.S. troops are vulnerable to Iran-linked militias because they are occupying Iraq. They are lingering there nearly two decades after an invasion and forcible regime change, which are almost universally agreed to be severe mistakes with grievous unintended consequences.

The U.S. regime change created a power vacuum which permitted the rise of the Islamic State. ISIS now serves as the chief justification for continued U.S. intervention in Iraq, though it is an increasingly open secret that threatening neighboring Iran has become an equal or greater reason for keeping U.S. troops on the ground, where neither American nor the Iraqi people want them to be.

Yet instead of bringing those troops home, where they'd be safe from militias which pose no credible threat to the U.S., the Biden administration has chosen to launch an attack in a third country, Syria, which is an Iranian ally. This is not what defense and de-escalation look like.

If those were the president's priorities, he would have skipped this recent strike and instead ended the U.S. war in Iraq, depriving the militias of an American target while disentangling us from a fight we cannot win—a fight with no realistic notion of "victory" and or meaningful connection to U.S. security.

Prolonging the U.S. war in Iraq and expanding it to Syria or, God forbid, Iran isn't necessary to keep Americans secure. It is not ethical. It is not lawful. It is not integrous. It is certainly not defensive—it is not defensible.

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing editor at The Week, and columnist at Christianity Today. Her writing has also appeared on CNN, NBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and Defense One, among other outlets.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.