President Trump said Saturday that it was “Mission Accomplished” in Syria after the U.S. joined the UK and France in heavy round of airstrikes against Syria, but some are left wondering what, exactly, the coalition strikes actually accomplished. To be sure, the U.S. and its allies can create a lot of havoc and devastation with our precision missiles, but this isn’t the first time that President Trump has authorized a strike against Bashar al-Assad in retaliation for the dictator’s use of chemical weapons. This weekend felt like a rerun from one year ago, and if Assad really did unleash a chemical attack on Douma, it’s clear that he didn’t get the message. Is there any reason to believe that this time will be different?
“A perfectly executed strike last night,” said Trump. “Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
According to Pentagon officials, the strikes, while limited, were somewhat more expansive than last year’s barrage. They told reporters that this series of missiles targeted “the heart” of Assad’s ability to produce sarin gas and chlorine weapons. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that despite Syria’s attempts to respond to the attacks, the U.S. military suffered no losses in this weekend’s strike.
“So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars, the finest that our Country has ever had,” Trump tweeted Saturday. “There won’t be anything, or anyone, even close!
That certainly goes without saying. But military pride may not be enough to quell the voices of dissent, many of which originate among some of Trump’s biggest supporters. Commentators like Ann Coulter and Mike Cernovich blasted the president for going back on his promise to extract the U.S. from hopeless Middle Eastern conflicts. Cernovich tweeted out “Donald Bush,” insinuating that Trump was behaving more like his Republican predecessor than the maverick “America First” president that voters were sold.
There is also distinct but corollary criticism coming from a significant number of Americans who do not feel there is enough proof that Assad was actually behind the chemical attack in the first place. It is difficult to get reliable information out of war-torn Syria, and a healthy campaign of Russian disinformation doesn’t help matters. But if there is one logical thread coming from that disinformation, it is that a chemical attack right now – just as Trump was getting ready to pull the U.S. out of Syria – does not seem to be in Assad’s best interests. And there is no doubt that at least some of the rebel forces that the U.S. is backing are affiliated with some of the worst Islamist terrorist groups in the world, including Al-Qaeda.
Fact is, though, there are no easy answers in this quagmire. We don’t love the idea of escalating a war in Syria to the point that it puts us in direct conflict with Russia. Nor do we think it’s a particularly American idea to stand aside and simply let this maniac gas civilians whenever he decides he wants to. We agree with those who say Trump’s strike was moral and justified…but we also agree with those who say that we’d be better off moving authority for acts of aggression back to Congress where they belong.
And above all of this looms the question: If Assad does this again, what do we do then?