While President Trump is openly said to be planning a possible attack on Syria, and is discussing options for such an attack with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Sen. Rand Paul (R – KY) is warning that any such attack would first require Congressional approval.
Sen. Paul cited assurances from US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that she would not advocate war without congressional authority. While the current and recent administration have used the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force as a blanket attack everywhere authorization, this particular attack on Syria wouldn’t be even tangentially related to al-Qaeda, and would stretch the AUMF far, far beyond incredulity.
The need for Congressional authorization for a war of regime change in Syria, already killed the Obama-era effort in 2013, as after Britain’s parliament voted against joining such a war, Obama Administration officials started courting Congress for their own vote, and when it became clear they had no chance of getting an authorization, they dropped the matter, despite arguing that they could’ve unilaterally attacked without Congress.
The modern penchant for US presidents to unilaterally start wars without Congress rests heavily on Congress not openly challenging such moves, and the huge scope of a potential Syrian War, including the possibility of getting sucked rapidly into a war with Russia, would make it difficult for Congressional leaders to eschew their role in such a decision.
Sen. Paul also warned that the US war of regime change might make things worse, as it might back the Assad government into a corner and force him to make more rash actions.