“It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” ~ Sir Winston Churchill
In one way, it’s smart to not overstate the military impact that the Syrian strike can have, which is limited. But the main goal is not military in nature. It’s to send a message about US military power, and the mindset of the current President. Plus something along the lines of, “Don’t use chemical weapons. That’s a red line”, and actually mean what you say.
Talking about red lines, Assad used to be a quasi-secular leader, to the point of even protecting Christians. That’s pretty rare in the Middle East, and my personal opinion is that’s why Obama hated him so much. Now President Trump is stuck with Obama’s mess, and is doing what he thinks is right to clear things up, chemical weapons stash or not.
I do see the upside to this. A strong message was sent that President Trump will not dither. He will pursue with force if need be. It also puts paid to the lies about President Trump and the “Russian Connection”. There are STILL whimpers about him warning Putin 2 hours in advance to remove Russian soldiers from that base.
Trump’s strike wasn’t a big military move, didn’t put troops on the ground, didn’t fix anything in Syria’s horrific civil war.
As Andrew Malcolm writes in McClatchy:
After the sarin gas attack with photos of babies gasping for air, Trump acted swiftly and decisively. But not, as critics fretted last year, wildly. He could have attacked all six Syrian airfields. He could have ordered Special Forces to simultaneously move in eastern Syria.
Instead, Trump targeted only the specific airfield that launched the gas attack. It was a measured response. No new ground troops. Not even pilots risking capture.
U.S. missiles were programmed to ignore structures storing gas components and barracks housing several hundred Russians. In fact, U.S. officers gave them an hour’s notice to get out of the way, one reason Moscow’s subsequent denunciation was measured.
Even chronic critics like Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York found it hard to argue with the approach.
It was in striking contrast to President Barack Obama, who on Aug. 20, 2012, said of Syria, “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
That was one of several times Obama got himself in trouble when not using a teleprompter. A year later Assad used chemical weapons again, killing more than 1,000. Obama threatened an attack as Secretary of State John Kerry reassured how minor it would be.
Then they allowed Putin, Assad’s chief backer, to placate them with a plan to allegedly remove Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile. In the end, Obama did nothing, blaming congressional inertia.
Clearly, that Russian guarantee was not honored, a point hammered home by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week: “Either Russia has been complicit, or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.” Tillerson’s upcoming scheduled visit to Moscow could prove interesting.
In case you didn’t notice, we’ve been at war with ISIS for quite some time, including “Mr. Red line” who half the nation voted for in 2008 and 2012. Remember the time he droned an American? And I’m sure you also forgot when boy wonder-blunder declared “a red line that won’t be crossed” and then lied to the nation’s collective face when he reversed himself and said “ah, ah, ah, I didn’t draw the red line – the world did”. And boy wonder-blunder did nothing.
So we purposely didn’t strike the storage depots of Sarin gas? If the intelligence agencies know of chemical storage facilities, what was all that bloviating by Obama, Kerry and Rice congratulating themselves for removing ALL chemical weapons from Syria? Mmmmmmm?
Is this the end of it? Not likely. With the help of Russia and Iran, Assad is still winning. He could take the missile lesson. Or he could defy it and risk further attacks, as warned by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Trump’s staff must now include congressional consultations on his thinking.
But Trump’s action has also now become a new certainty that other international troublemakers must include in their assessments of American power. And if that is all that the strike achieved, it has been well worth the risk.
See also Syria’s Aftermath: The New Trump Factor