It is also unclear what legal authority Trump used to order the strikes in Syria. News reports Thursday said Trump had told some congressional lawmakers he was considering a military option in Syria, but none had been sought. The U.S. strikes against ISIS, for instance, are arguably covered by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), but the AUMF doesn’t cover strikes against the Assad regime. Still, Trump might receive retroactive congressional approval for the strikes in Syria, just as Obama did in 2011 in the ultimately ill-advised operation in Libya.  

Trump won’t be the first president to campaign against war and yet wage it, as David noted: Both Woodrow Wilson, who took the U.S. into World War I exactly a century ago this week, and George W. Bush, whose interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are being felt even today, did just that. Whether the U.S. action in Syria will be confined to Friday’s action was unclear—even to the president. Speaking Thursday to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump said of Assad: “He’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen.”

The U.S. Strikes in Syria (The Atlantic)

I think it’s understandable (if wrong) that Trump took military action in Syria, but the way he did is once again ill-advised and reckless. I also can’t get over the fact that a billionaire just ordered military escalation in a complex, international conflict from a golf club in Florida.  

I know, I know (as Kurt Vonnegut used to say when people told him that the Germans attacked first). It sounds crazy. It sounds like a fantastic last-ditch effort to make sense of a lunatic universe. But there is so much more to this book. It is very tough and very funny; it is sad and delightful; and it works. But is also very Vonnegut, which mean you’ll either love it, or push it back in the science-fiction corner.

From the 1969 NYT review of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, via Literary Hub 

This is not simply a war language; this is an American language. In Sharif’s rendering, “Look” is at once a command to see and to grieve the people these words describe — and also a means of implicating the reader in the violence delivered upon those people.

A Poet Subverts the Defense Department’s Official Dictionary Natalie Diaz reviews Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection Look for the New York Times.

There is really only one bright spot and that is what happened in Iran. We have not been able to finalize the next stage of our disarmament agreement with the Russians. The North Koreans are surely going to test again. The Indians and Pakistanis are modernizing their arsenals. There is evidence that some Belgian terrorists had their sights on stealing nuclear material. And in the middle of this there is Trump, a colossus of ignorance.

The Trump Bomb by Jeremy Bernstein for the New York Review.

What this may mean is that the war will be endless – since there will always be some terrorism (as there will always be poverty and cancer); that is, there will always be asymmetrical conflicts in which the weaker side uses that form of violence, which usually targets civilians.

Susan Sontag, acceptance speech Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, 2003
(via)

Sixteen-hundred US military families have gotten the call that they’ve had their loved ones deployed to Iraq, they’re flying those missions right now,” Maddow said. “But Congress? Heading home for another seven week break, because they can’t be bothered to think about that right now. They’ve got more important business to tend to – they’ve gotta get re-elected. Because that’s the most important thing they do, right?

Rachel Maddow Is Repulsed At Congress For Taking A Bajillion Days Off While New War Is Launched

Maddow’s got a point.
At the very least, Congress can now no longer criticize when the President spends a few days “on vacation” – my guess would be that the office of a Representative doesn’t travel with them to the same degree the White House does. Adding this to Republican obstructionism and Democrats fumbling the midterms, it gets difficult to argue against political apathy.

Biological and Chemical Weapons in the US Civil War.

One can argue that the U.S. civil war was, or developed into, the first modern war, the first war that was fought in the manner that was to sadly dominate the 20th century. Maybe the ‘style’ of war has fundamentally changed again, with the fragmentation of fronts between states and terrorist groups, guerrilla warfare, or the rise of drones and similar technology, cyber warfare… As a pacifist who chose to serve in emergency medical services, I’m really out of my depth here.

Jeffery B. Roth wrote a fascinating piece on the use of biological (e.g. sending infected clothes to enemy lines) and chemical (e.g. Greek fire artillery shells) weapons in the civil war for the New York Times’ “Disunion” series. 

https://player.vimeo.com/api/player.js

Mine Kafon

This is absolutely brilliant: Afghanistan-born product designer Massoud Hassani developed a revolutionary new tool to clear mines – especially in windy desert areas like in Afghanistan – that is based on a simple toy. What a great design. The project is nominated for a Focus Forward award.

(by  Callum Cooper/Focus Forward Films/ via Kraftfuttermischwerk)