And so the president has launched 50 Tomahawk missiles against Syria tonight.
I’ll say the same thing I said when the previous president was considering launching airstrikes against Syria: “I don’t know what the hell to do about Syria.”
And when that previous president chose not to strike?
The situation in Syria seems to me a case of stumble-recovery. I didn’t think the drawing of the “red line” regarding chemical weapons use was that big of deal, not least because there were multiple responses besides that of a military strike. (And as for the alleged loss of presidential/American credibility, well, christ, if actual air strikes on Qaddafi didn’t deter Assad, why would threats do so?)
Assad is a menace, no doubt. Did he gas (again!) his people? No doubt. Has he ruined his country in order to preserve his own rule? Yeah, he has.
It is not at all clear to me, however, that anything that the US may do, short of invasion, which would change anything. Sending missiles might make anti-Assadists feel better, might cheer the hawks, might bolster those who think the strike shows “resolve”, but beyond that, what?
Was this a one-off? If so, to what end? If not, then escalation?
Assad is supported by Iran and Russia, so unless the Trump administration is willing to take them on—and pray to Athena it is not—it is difficult to see that this will appreciably alter Assad’s behavior. He will continue to bomb his own people, continue to starve them, continue to kill them.
Chemical weapons are a horror, at a level beyond that of barrel bombs and blockades, but they are not the only way to kill.
So, we’ve “punished” Assad for his chemical attack, but it is enough to deter future attacks?
I don’t see it. I didn’t see it when Obama proposed it; I don’t see it now.