So why attack in the first place? Once again, we’re being told by military officials that their actions are intended “to send a message.” What nonsense this is. Will Bashar al-Assad now cease his murderous actions because he’s just been delivered “a message”? How are we supposed to believe there is any strategy to Trump’s actions anyway? Just last week, Nikki Haley, Trump’s UN ambassador, said of Assad: “Do we think he’s a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No.”
What the erratic flip-floppery of Trump’s foreign policy really means is that America’s foes can easily manipulate the Trump administration into greater and greater military quagmires.
Has the administration considered how Lebanon’s Hezbollah will react to the US bombing their close ally Bashar al-Assad? Is the Trump administration prepared to put large numbers of troops on the ground to accomplish its goals? Will it militarily challenge Russia if needed? Or does the US military now only “send messages”?
The administration seems to have no vision of what it wants to accomplish or what it can accomplish. Trump ended his announcement of Thursday’s strike with the modest goal of ending “terrorism of all kinds and all types.” Good luck with that. Meanwhile, the heart of the problem is that the United States seems always to have only one solution to war: make more war.
None of this exonerates the murderous, thuggish and brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad. The moral and strategic imperatives of our world today demand that the Syrian civil war be brought to a swift and just conclusion. And we must recognize that the end of Syria’s civil war will not be found through military means but through careful deliberation between many different parties.
But we are moving farther away from those goals. At its best, Thursday’s reckless and largely ineffective bombing does little but make US lawmakers feel good about themselves. At its worst, it deepens a war which the US has no idea how to end.