Trump mulls response to Syrian gas attack

Donald Trump is seriously considering a military response to the poison gas attack on civilians in Douma and has pledged "forceful" action against Syrian president and "animal" Assad.


The United States is weighing a multinational military response to the suspected Syrian poison gas attack, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday, as experts listed several key facilities that could be viable targets.

U.S. President Donald Trump promised forceful action on Monday, saying a decision would be made soon following the suspected chemical weapons attack late on Saturday in the Syrian city of Douma that killed at least 60 people and injured more than 1,000 others. ...

U.S. intelligence officials said they believed a chemical attack did take place but that Washington was still gathering information.  Trump said he was getting clarity about who precisely was responsible for the attack, but did not elaborate.

Experts speculated that the retaliatory strikes, should they happen, would likely focus on facilities linked to past reports of Syrian chemical weapons attacks.

Last April, the U.S. launched a missile strike against a Syrian air base where it was believed that a poison gas attack on civilians originated.  This response, if there is one, is shaping up to be much more devastating. 

Sebastian Gorka, Trump's former national security adviser, appeared on Hannity's show last night and said the U.S. must respond in order to deter all states in the region from using chemical weapons on civilians.

Will a military strike really deter anyone from using poison gas on civilians?  Conventional wisdom says yes.  But the dynamics in the region are so complex that, apart from the cathartic release of hitting an evil bully like Assad, we have to ask what good it will do.

It won't help civilians still trapped in rebel-held areas.  It certainly won't help the rebels looking to overthrow Assad.  They are already defeated and can only annoy Assad and his Russian-Iranian allies.  It won't help regional stability, and it won't help Israel, nor will it help our Arab allies who worry about Iran gaining strength and influence in Syria.

Gorka has a point about not letting Syria get away with gassing its own people – if, indeed, it was Assad who ordered the attack.  But even a coordinated, international response to the gas attack will amount to little more than a pinprick.  President Assad has Vladimir Putin in his corner, which means there is little likelihood of a large-scale attack that would severely damage Assad's military.  Putin is Assad's regime change guarantee – even if that were our goal in striking Syria, which it's not going to be.

Trump is already frustrated with Syria.  He will probably be a lot more frustrated after an attack on Assad.

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