What Is It with Presidents and Illegal Airstrikes?

“No matter who is President, there must be a legal rationale for military action.”

Less than fifty days into the Biden presidency and the Biden administration is already setting a bad precedent on foreign policy. The recent airstrikes in Syria, marking the first military action under President Biden, did not receive necessary congressional authorization – raising questions about what Biden’s foreign policy will look like over the next four years.

Have We Forgotten About the Constitution?

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed that the strikes were ordered in response to continuing threats to American personnel but the legal justification for the airstrike is weak. The Constitution only allows for extreme military action during extraordinary circumstances, and there is no general authority for the President to launch airstrikes without consulting Congress.

Biden himself has acknowledged this multiple times. In 2007, he commented to the Boston Globe that, “[the] Constitution is clear: except in response to an attack or the imminent threat of attack, only Congress may authorize war and the use of force.”

Biden’s Blatant Hypocrisy

More recently, in 2019, Biden said that even small-scale uses of force in the Middle East could escalate into a larger war and should be approved by Congress. Biden actually criticized President Trump in a tweet for doing similar actions in Syria, calling them “erratic” and “impulsive.”

It begs the question then, why has Biden changed his mind? Why is intervening in Syria’s civil war and meddling in a sovereign nation without proper authorization no longer “erratic” and “impulsive?” No matter who is President, there must be a legal rationale for military action, especially when done without congressional approval. This should not change based on which party controls the White House.

Biden and the Department of Defense have a lot of questions to answer regarding the Syrian airstrikes. Even if you are a supporter of airstrikes as a means of intervention, Biden’s lack of congressional authorization should raise red flags. Any offensive military action should go through Congress rather than be decided unilaterally by one person.


Susannah Barnes is a senior economics major from Midland, Michigan. Susannah has loved politics and policy since she began speech and debate in eighth grade. Since then, her passion for economic and political freedom has only grown. On campus, Susannah is the co-captain of the Debate Society and serves as the Executive Administrative Editor for the Grove City College Journal of Law and Public Policy. Additionally, she works in the Admissions Office and as a Public Relations manager and Teacher’s Assistant for the Economics Department.

Susannah interned at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University as a Media Relations Intern first through the Koch Internship Program in 2019 and again in 2020. Before that, she interned as a Communications Intern at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. After graduation, Susannah hopes to work in communications for a think tank and get a graduate degree in economics.