Trump joins lineage of US presidents utilizing American military might

After Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allegedly used chemical weapons in a deadly attack on men, women and children in the rebel-held Idlib province, President Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes on Thursday -- marking one of the more pivotal military actions for the commander in chief since taking office.

With his decision to launch 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayat Airfield, Trump asserted his joining a lineage of American presidents utilizing the force of American military might.

"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," Trump said in remarks from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after the attack. "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."

Trump's airstrike decision technically wasn't his first military move (Trump approved a raid in Yemen that took the life of a US Navy SEAL and dozens of civilians), but it is certainly noteworthy after he changed his position on intervention in Syria.

Former President Barack Obama first took military action in February of 2009, when he announced that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would increase with 17,000 new troops. A few days later, he made another military announcement, promising an end to the war in Iraq by August of 2010. Obama later made a speech in December of 2011 (one year later than promised) declaring the end to the war.

Perhaps the most memorable military moment of Obama's presidency, though, came May 2, 2011, when the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden -- officially named "Operation Neptune Spear" -- was deemed mission accomplished.

Click through to see major military moves of American presidents throughout history:

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Early military moves of American presidents
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Early military moves of American presidents

President Donald Trump

On Thursday, April 6, President Trump ordered an airstrike against Syria, firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayat airbase. This is was not the first military move of Trump's presidency, but it is certainly a pivotal one given the president's previous stance on intervention in Syria.

President Barack Obama

On February 18, 2009, Obama made the first substantial military move of his presidency when he announced that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan would increase with 17,000 new troops by summer. A few days later, he made another military announcement, promising an end to the war in Iraq by August of 2010. Obama later made a speech in December of 2011 (one year later than promised) declaring the end to the war. Perhaps the most memorable military moment of Obama's presidency was the successful mission to capture and kill of Osama bin Laden.

President George W. Bush

As president, George W. Bush ordered America's entering into a war with Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 -- after the 9/11 terrorist attacks rocked the United States. Throughout the course of his two full terms, Bush would oversee the escalation of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Bill Clinton

As president, Bill Clinton oversaw the deployment of military forces in multiple displays of humanitarian intervention -- including sending troops to Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia, Herzegovina. On June 26, in retaliation to an attempt to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush, the United States bombed Bagdad, Iraq.

President George H.W. Bush

Aside from overseeing what both he and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev called the "end" of the Cold War, Bush ordered a series of military actions throughout his presidency. On November 8, 1990, Bush increased the number of American troops in Saudi Arabia to 400,000. Most notably, though, Bush oversaw the beginning of the Persian Gulf War in January of 1991 -- which commenced with an American-led air attack on Iraq.

President Ronald Reagan

President Reagan oversaw a pivotal moment for U.S.-Middle East relations and ordered the invasion of Grenada to oust Marxists who had overthrown the government -- and to protect U.S. medical students on the Caribbean island.

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While Article II of the American constitution grants the president military privilege as commander in chief, Article I grants Congress the power to "provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions." The line on what kind of military actions fall under a president's realm of power, versus that of Congress, is murky. As Charlie Savage writes for the New York Times, there is a clear split between "the apparent intent of the Constitution and how the country has been governed in practice.

Savage explains this, saying:

"Most legal scholars agree that the founders wanted Congress to decide whether to go to war, except when the country is under an attack. But presidents of both parties have a long history of carrying out military operations without authorization from Congress, especially since the end of World War II, when the United States maintained a large standing army instead of demobilizing."

Trump addressed Congress in a letter after his decision to launch airstrikes on Syria, saying he "acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."

As president, George W. Bush ordered America's entering into a war with Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 -- after the 9/11 terrorist attacks rocked the United States. Throughout the course of his two full terms, Bush would oversee the escalation of wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Each president has a unique experience when it comes to addressing the role military action plays with respect to national security and foreign policy, and only time will tell how President Trump will wield the power of America's armed forces.

RELATED: Launch and impact of US airstrikes in Syria

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US airstrikes in Syria -- launches and impact
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US airstrikes in Syria -- launches and impact

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017.

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Shayrat Airfield in Homs, Syria is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image released by the U.S. Defense Department on April 6, 2017 after announcing U.S. forces conducted a cruise missile strike against the Syrian Air Force airfield. DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. MANDATORY CREDIT.

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea on April 7, 2017.

(Robert S. Price/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Shayrat Airfield in Homs, Syria is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image on February 18, 2017 and released by the U.S. Defense Department on April 6, 2017 after announcing U.S. forces conducted a cruise missile strike against the Syrian Air Force airfield. 

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Porter, forward-deployed to Rota, Spain, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/Released)

Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017. 

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTER)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Battle damage assessment image of Shayrat Airfield, Syria, is seen in this DigitalGlobe satellite image, released by the Pentagon following U.S. Tomahawk Land Attack Missile strikes from Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, the USS Ross and USS Porter on April 7, 2017. 

(DigitalGlobe/Courtesy U.S. Department of Defense/Handout via REUTERS)

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

(Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS)

Syrian shepherds tend their flock near the damaged Shayrat ('ash-Shairat') airfield at the Syrian government forces military base targeted earlier overnight by US Tomahawk cruise missiles, southeast of the central and third largest Syrian city of Homs, on April 7, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken on April 7, 2017 shows a view of the damaged Shayrat ('ash-Shairat') airfield at the Syrian government forces military base targeted earlier overnight by US Tomahawk cruise missiles, southeast of the central and third largest Syrian city of Homs. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
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