The United States' launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria Thursday marked a policy reversal for Trump, who previously berated former POTUS Barack Obama on the topic. Trump, no stranger to frequently contradicting himself in public remarks and on social media, once said "attacking Syria" without congressional approval would be a "big mistake."
In the weeks surrounding that 2013 tweet, Trump frequently criticized Obama's stance, calling him a "very foolish leader" and repeatedly urged him to refrain from attacking Syria:
In 2013, Obama ultimately chose not to strike Bashar al-Assad's regime after facing resistance from Congress. Trump's airstrike Thursday, however, took a different path. Democrats (and even some Republicans) have expressed concern over whether Trump possesses the authority to launch such strikes without approval. Sen. Rand Paul addressed these concerns Thursday evening, CNN reported. "The President needs Congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution," Paul said. "Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different." In 2014, Obama did launch airstrikes in Syria.
The War Powers Resolution of 1973 requires a POTUS to "consult with Congress before sending U.S. armed forces into combat" unless a declaration of war has already occurred, Bloomberg and others explained Friday. If lawmakers didn’t back the move, troops "could not stay" longer than 90 days.
The hypocrisy of Trump launching a strike while attempting to block refugees has also been pointed out, with Rep. Seth Moulton criticizing the former Apprentice host for not caring enough about the Syrian people to allow them refuge in the U.S.:
The Trump administration has insisted that the Syrian strike does not mark a policy change. "This clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday, according to the Hill. "I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status."