It’s striking when our Very Serious foreign policy mavens will defend military actions without even pretending that they will accomplish any objective:
So to review:
- The attack will not stop the civil war in Syria.
- It will not have a meaningful deterrent effect on al-Assad.
- It will, indeed, not accomplish any concrete or material objective.
- It is illegal under international law. We will leave aside the question of whether it is authorized under domestic law tastefully unanswered.
- But it was the right thing to do because we had to do something to say “enough” and this is something.
OK. Not to belabor the obvious, but:
When you bomb to “send a message” the recipient may not hear what you were hoping for. https://t.co/p17Cfo9QNr
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 14, 2018
Bombing to “send a message” makes about as much sense as voting for vanity candidates to “send a message” does, sometimes with the same results.
But even though Trump said the strikes were intended to be a “strong deterrent,” and British Prime Minister Theresa May said they didn’t constitute an attempt to intervene in the civil war, Trump suggested the strikes might continue until the regime’s use of the weapons stopped. Given the depth of evidence suggesting that both the regime and opposition forces have used chemical weapons steadily over the years of the war, it is hard to see that as anything but an invitation to regular bombing runs with a risk of escalation and retaliation, and accompanying questions about whether each round of strikes is legal. It’s hard to see that as a step forward for the people of Syria. Trump’s understaffed administration is ill-equipped to handle the security challenges it faces. It can’t help that Trump appears to be deploying abroad the strategy that he has adopted domestically — improvisational chaos.