Let me begin where I last ended:
Just exactly what are America’s war aims in Syria? And how will I be able to tell when those war aims have been achieved? Here the issue is stated in the way I think of it and the kind of questions that need to be answered before sending the military into conflict:
The outstanding politico-military lesson is an old one: that one clarify one’s aim before one embarks upon a military operation; ruthlessly and objectively dissect and analyse where it will lead, what is to be gained from it, and what one will be faced with when it is over.
So the conclusions I have come to reading the comments to the previous post, which I found very helpful, and from others are these.
1) The missiles had virtually nothing to do with the use of poison gas on civilians. Useful as a focus and explanation, but not in any way the actual reason.
2) The actions have almost nothing to do with Syria itself. The Syrian conflict remains as it was. ISIS is getting pounded and will eventually be ground into dust. That’s what the Russians are doing and will continue to do. What happens to Assad is of no real concern to anyone.
3) The actual point was the restoration of American red lines as something others should start paying attention to. There are other issues everywhere, with North Korea, Iran and the South China Sea high on the list. When the United States now says they have a view on something, others are going to start paying attention. Obama has gone and a the defence of Western values is now back on the agenda.
4) Beyond the actual conflict, this is a statement in defence of Western values and our way of life. Trump is not just focusing on military matters and international conflicts but our freedoms and its political system. He is saying don’t mess with us, and dare I say it, because with all our flaws, we have the only way of life that can allow different peoples from different cultures with different backgrounds to live together in peace. But first you have to accept our rules, and if you don’t like them then find somewhere else to live. And that goes for the UN as well, whose hypocrisies are now anathema.
5) Strangely, this might well have been an action that has potentially cemented an American alliance with the Russians. This was never going to lead to World War III. But beyond that we may be heading to an American-Russian foreign policy condominium which would be a very good outcome. Who can tell on that one, but our interests there and elsewhere are often closely aligned. Because of the American left and its media enablers this confrontation in Syria may well have been the sole means to bring such an outcome into reality. Why not be an optimist?
Let me give the last word to Tom Cotton, who is destined to succeed Donald Trump in 2024.
The world now sees that President Trump does not share his predecessor’s reluctance to use force. And that’s why nations across the world have rallied to our side, while Russia and Iran are among the few to have condemned the attack.
The threat of the use of force — and its actual use when necessary — is an essential foundation for effective diplomacy. Mr. Obama’s lack of credibility is one reason the United States watched in isolation as Russia and Iran took the lead at recent Syrian peace conferences. It’s also why Iran got the better of us in the nuclear negotiations and North Korea has defied us for years.
With our credibility restored, the United States can get back on offense around the world. In Syria, Mr. Assad knows that we have many more Tomahawk missiles than he has airfields. So do his supporters in Moscow and Tehran.
You will notice if you read the article, other than a passing reference at the start to poison gas in Syria, the rest is about the re-establishment of American power. And there is nothing sentimental about that.