What Do the Missile Attacks Mean?

If Trump’s latest missile attack on Syria satisfies him that he has acted strongly and effectively against past and future chemical warfare, and if that was his only and narrow aim as James Mattis has suggested and as Theresa May has said, then he now actually has an enhanced power to withdraw from Syria. He can claim that he did what had to be done, and that he can always do it again.

But if Trump maintains a residue of ill-will toward the “animal” Assad, and if people like Bolton and Haley and countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel keep raising the level of concern over Iran, then this attack signals a stronger resolve to keep U.S. forces in Syria and commit to Assad’s defeat.

This incident is going to delay American withdrawal until the dust settles. In the meantime, however, there are going to arise new confrontations of American forces in Syria with Syrian forces, Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah as Assad continues to regain territory. Trump should get out while the getting is good.

Trump twittered too hastily and locked himself into a position where he had to follow through. The missile attacks get him off that particular hook. His habit of shooting off his mouth is sometimes an asset for him and often a liability. Will this incident alter his habit? That’s doubtful.

What other red lines are in Trump’s mind that we do not know about? If rebels in Syria or elsewhere use chemicals, will he vigorously respond?

The Syrian war will continue unabated, and Syrian forces will continue to extend their recovery of lost territory. Their resolve will be strengthened by this attack. The inability of air power to create battlefield victory without ground forces present will be underscored again.

If evidence should turn up that clears Assad or implicates jihadists or foreign interests, Assad’s position will be strengthened. The West’s position will be weakened.

We have learned again that our leaders do not consult us or share their information with us in major decisions of war and peace. We are at the mercy of a system that can and does ignore and mislead us.

We have learned again that the President has enormous power at his disposal, and that he can deploy it according to his personal tastes, temperament, values and whims.

The U.S. missile attacks on Syria are an act of war. They are not an act of self-defense, since Syria didn’t attack us. They are an aggression, as Assad has asserted.

Taking some of the sting out of the attacks is that the Syrian coalition had time to figure out where attacks might come and evacuate. Russia warned Syria ahead of time.

Congress didn’t declare war on Syria. Trump’s attacks on Syria are illegal under U.S. law.

The missile attacks, being illegal, are impeachable offenses. Trump has provided ammunition to his opponents who thirst for his impeachment and conviction. However, it’s doubtful that this angle provides much grist for their mill because of its virtue signalling against chemical warfare.

Unless Trump or Macron of May release information that clearly establishes Assad’s guilt, the doubts about what happened at Douma and the doubts about the justifications for these missile attacks will linger.

Were fears of World War III overdone? No: They were healthy and may have had a restraining effect. No: Bolton and Haley need to be restrained. No: The Empire has a forward momentum that needs restraint. Yes: Neither Putin nor Trump are madmen. Yes: Neither wants to die just yet or be remembered by surviving genetic mutants as the men who destroyed Earth. Yes: World War III over a place like Syria and an incident of this magnitude immersed in high uncertainty is hard to imagine.


9:47 am on April 14, 2018