Feeling that some display of force was needed, US president Donald Trump issued orders on Friday to demonstrate some form of muscle, albeit exercised some thousands of miles away. “A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.” The United Kingdom and France also mucked in.
What was it all in aid of? There would be no redrawing of borders, no toppling of Assad, and even a possible aggravation of the security tangle that exists in a beleaguered country. It all pointed to staged outrage resulting in indulgent punishment, an act of violent scolding at the end of missiles for a claimed chemical attack by Syrian government forces last weekend that left over 40 people dead. In Trump’s words, “These are not the actions of a man. They are the crimes of a monster.”
UK Prime Minister Theresa May eschewed notions that the assault was “about intervening in a civil war” let alone initiating some effort at regime change. “We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.”
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis insisted that the assaults were confined to “the chemical weapons-type targets. We were not out to expand this; we were very precise and proportionate. But at the same time, it was a heavy strike.”
Earlier in the week, there had been muttering, concern, and retraction. Trump…