Biden's latest reasons for bombing Syria defy logic and the Constitution

Biden's latest reasons for bombing Syria defy logic and the Constitution
US soldiers walk to an oil production facility to meet with its management team, in Syria, October 27, 2020. US Army/Spc. Jensen Guillory
  • The Biden administration says its latest airstrikes in Iraq and Syria were defensive, meant to keep US troops safe.
  • Those US forces are at risk precisely because they're still in the region, and, in the case of Syria, there illegally.
  • Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities.

The Biden administration launched airstrikes against Iran-linked militias in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Sunday, reportedly killing five militia members and, if Syrian state-run media accounts are correct, one child.

The administration cast the strikes as a defensive measure to keep US troops in the region safe from the militias' drone attacks, proof that "President Biden … will act to protect US personnel."

This characterization is consistent with the Biden team's broader messaging on Iraq and Syria, which is that Iraq wants our military to stick around indefinitely, that ongoing occupation of both nations is right and needful to defend against Iran and the last remnants of ISIS, and that these wars aren't analogous to the "forever war" in Afghanistan Biden promised to end.

That messaging is misleading at best. The notion that Iraq wants US forces to stay put is particularly easily dispelled.

Biden's latest reasons for bombing Syria defy logic and the Constitution
Joe Biden, then-vice president, with soldiers at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, July 4, 2009. REUTERS/Khalid Mohammed

Baghdad promptly and vehemently condemned the June strikes on its soil as "a blatant and unacceptable violation of Iraqi sovereignty and Iraqi national security" in a statement from the prime minister's office. A foreign ministry representative went further, castigating Biden for prolonging the failures of his predecessor.


"The US still continues the wrong path in the region," he said. "What we see today is not only the sanctions but also following the wrong policies of the previous administration with actions they carry out in the region."

This censure is but the latest in a growing list of efforts by the Iraqi government to dislodge the 18-year US military intervention in its country. Last year, the Iraqi parliament voted to expel all US troops, a decision then-President Donald Trump ignored.

Biden's latest reasons for bombing Syria defy logic and the Constitution
A US Army crew chief looks over the Tigris River in Iraq from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, March 3, 2021. US Army/Capt. Travis Mueller

This spring, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi expressed hope that new US-Iraq dialogues would focus on "the redeployment of [US] forces outside of Iraq." And Iraqi military officials in May indicated to the Post that they're unhappy with US-Iraq relations, "feel[ing] like a junior partner in a relationship largely centered on reducing Iranian influence in the region."

Baghdad is saying with ever more clarity that it wants the US intervention to end.

The legitimacy and necessity of further American military meddling is also a myth. The Obama, Trump, and now Biden administrations have all operated illegally in Syria, where Congress never authorized war.


This strike, like the Syrian interventions of the past two presidents, was unconstitutional. Like the two presidents before him, Biden has no business bombing Syria.

Biden's latest reasons for bombing Syria defy logic and the Constitution
A US soldier gives candy to children in Syria, February 5, 2020. BaderKhan Ahmad/Getty Images

Bizarrely, Biden has also endorsed a bipartisan congressional effort to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq, which has passed the House but not yet the Senate. That means he soon may be without legal authority for the strikes in Iraq as well.

Even now, however, while the AUMF remains intact, it's worth recalling this is a war begun under false pretenses, one which never had significant import for US national security and does not to this day. (Operations against terror threats in either country which could affect vital US interests do not require a permanent ground presence.)

Though the Pentagon claimed these recent strikes were defensive (the same rationale deployed for Biden's first strike on Syrian soil earlier this year), this is twisted logic.

The reason US forces are at risk of violence by Iran-linked militias, the remnants of ISIS, or any other malicious group in the region is precisely because US forces are in the region. If we end these interventions, we end that risk.


US forces are in harm's way from the militias' drones because they are fighting in Iraq and Syria - bring them home, and this will be a non-issue. The drones cannot cross the Atlantic. There would be no need for the "defensive" strikes in Iraq and Syria were Biden not extending US military action in Iraq and Syria.

Biden's latest reasons for bombing Syria defy logic and the Constitution
US Marines fire 81 mm mortars in Syria, September 18, 2018. US Marine Corps/Cpl. Gabino Perez

But he is, and he's doing so on the grounds - as CENTCOM commander Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said in April - that we shouldn't compare the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That's a strange claim, because the many excellent reasons Biden has supplied to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan apply equally well to withdrawing US forces from Iraq (and Syria).

In those countries, too, as Biden said of Afghanistan when he announced his September plan for departure, we "cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence … hoping to create ideal conditions for the withdrawal, and expecting a different result."

These too are no-win forever wars, one already unauthorized and one soon to be. Instead of more airstrikes, Biden should approve more troop transports home.


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