We seem to have gone with Option 1, Limited Punitive Strikes.
Such action is meant to impose a modest cost on Mr. Assad or to send a message that future chemical weapons use will not be tolerated. At the same time, it is meant to avoid any risk of changing the course of the war, which could lead in unanticipated directions — like embroiling the United States in a larger conflict, or collapsing the Syrian government, which could, in turn, spread chaos that would risk millions of lives.
But past efforts at these kind of strikes have failed for two reasons. First, they do not change Mr. Assad’s calculus because, to Mr. Assad, this war is a matter of personal and national survival. If he believes chemical weapons are necessary to his survival, he will abandon them only in the face of some threat to his survival greater than the benefit he thinks they offer him. That requires an existential threat, which the United States is unwilling to impose because of the risks.
Pentagon Sucks the Air Out of Trump’s ‘Mission Accomplished’
by Spencer Ackerman, Daily Beast
In reviewing the Pentagon’s assessment of what U.S. warplanes and cruise missiles did last night to three suspected chemical storage and production facilities, U.S. defense representatives defined success in the most tactical of terms. That formulation resolved none of the relevant questions over the ultimate impact of a strike that Trump ordered after a substantially similar one last year failed to deter Bashar Assad from launching a chemical attack.
But the objective of the mission wasn’t to hit three Syrian chemical sites in and of themselves. It was, like last year’s strike on the Shayrat airfield, to deter Assad from future chemical attacks. And that depends on calculations that last night’s strike won’t resolve. Last year, for instance, Assad held off chemical attacks for a whole three months – resuming them, conspicuously, after Trump and his then-secretary of state signaled that they would work with Russia on a political resolution to the Syrian civil war and back away from a demand Assad relinquish power.
“We did the same strike last year,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat on the intelligence committee. “He still used chemical weapons on his own people. Why would this be different?”
Assad retains the capability to do so, the Pentagon conceded. While White said Assad’s ability to produce a chemical arsenal was “crippled,” her Joint Staff colleague, Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie acknowledged, “I would not say they’d be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future.” The strikes, McKenzie added, ought to make Assad “think twice” before doing so.
That calculation remains outside the U.S.’ control. Assad’s hold on power is guaranteed by sponsors Russia and Iran, who are now diplomatically supported by America’s NATO ally Turkey in retaliation for Washington’s sponsorship of Ankara’s Kurdish enemies. The Syrians sent signals almost immediately after the strike that they considered it a flesh wound.
Beyond the strikes themselves, the Trump administration has not decided on its objectives on Syria – beyond a proximate defeat of Islamic State, which is unrelated to the fate of Assad – let alone a strategy to achieve them.
A tale told by an idiot. Full of Sound and Fury. Signifying nothing.