While the country has been fixated on the ever-growing Trump- Russia scandal, healthcare and the latest wacky Trump tweets, we’ve quietly begun to go to war with Syria.
Earlier this week, a US F/A 18 fighter jet shot down a Syrian regime war plane after it dropped bombs near US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the area around the city of Tabqah in Northern Syria. Just days later, US forces downed an Iranian made, pro-regime armed drone operating near the Syrian-Jordanian border.
Three pro-regime aircrafts have now been shot down by US forces in the month of June alone, marking a significant escalation with the Russia-backed regime of Bashar Al Assad.
Of course, Donald Trump also authorized the launching of 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in April after Assad reportedly deployed chemical weapons in rebel-held territory again.
Following this week’s downing of regime aircrafts by US forces, the Russian Defense Ministry said it will begin treating any US aircraft operating in the Western region of Syria as “air targets,” and threatened to sever a communication channel set up with US forces.
Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has questioned the legality of military attacks on Syrian Government forces, arguing that such actions require congressional approval. Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell agrees, saying this week, “"It looks like we are at war in Syria. But this would be a war that would be without the authorization of Congress, and it's time that Congress votes on: What is the timeline? What is the troop commitment? And what is the terrain that is covered?"
Both Obama and Trump have justified the use of military force in Syria by citing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda, and it’s difficult to imagine that striking Syrian government forces not aligned with terrorist organizations would be covered under such legislation.
Legality aside, these events have made an already volatile situation worse, putting the US right up to the precipice of a disastrous situation with Russia or Iran that could turn the Syrian civil war from a proxy conflict into a direct one.
This is where having Donald Trump at the helm is the greatest risk. With enormous stakes and an incredibly complex international crisis, how could anyboduy feel good about having this man managing the situation? Any blunder, any ill-conceived, reactionary, compulsive outburst could be disastrous and irreversible.
If Trump were voted out in 2020, there is a lot that could be undone, or at least corrected to some degree. But when it comes to military force, wheather in Syria, North Korea or elsewhere, on any given day, Trump could make an irreversible decision that results in disaster, and that’s the scariest part of our new reality.