Syria's aftermath: The new Trump factor
Donald Trump's Syria strike wasn't a big military move, didn't put troops on the ground, didn't fix anything in Syria's horrific civil war. As Andrew Malcolm writes:
After the Sarin gas attack with photos of babies gasping for air, Trump acted swiftly and decisively. But not as critics fretted last year, wildly. He could have attacked all six Syrian airfields. He could have ordered Special Forces to simultaneously move in eastern Syria.
Instead, Trump targeted only the specific airfield that launched the gas attack. It was a measured response. No new ground troops. Not even pilots risking capture.
U.S. missiles were programmed to ignore structures storing gas components, and barracks housing several hundred Russians. In fact, U.S. officers gave them an hour's notice to get out of the way, one reason Moscow's subsequent denunciation was measured.
The logic of it was powerful enough, in Trump's own words:
"It is in the vital national security interest of the United States," Trump said, "to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons[.] ... Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies."
But it changed the strategic calculus every bad actor in the region must consider before planning another atrocious move, argues Malcolm in his must-read Monday column. The region's bad actors have been thrown on their back foot with this move. From now on, they will have to consider the Trump response to everything they do and have, up until now, been getting away with under the spineless President Obama.
We are in for interesting times.