Opinion: Attack on Syrian airfield changes very little


So President Trump launches a much-ballyhooed air strike against a Syrian airfield used to launch a chemical weapons attack, a decision that his fellow Republicans quickly rush to embrace as proof of a new American resolve.

“I think that this is an important, decisive step that was taken,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio on the night of the attack. “It is not a message. It is an actual degrading of the capability of the Syrian regime to carry out further chemical attacks against innocent civilians. … There is now an American president willing to do what it takes.”

Or, as it turns out once the smoke has cleared, not so much.

We now know that several hours before the attack was launched, U.S. officials had told Russian and thus Syrian officials that it was coming and that the target would be Shayran airfield. That was wise in the sense that it helped to avoid Russian casualties, but it also allowed equipment and personnel to be moved to safety and significantly undercut the military effectiveness of the operation.

The attack did not target suspected sarin gas depots at the airfield, nor did it target the field’s Russian-supplied air-defense system, again for good reason. The only Syrian aircraft damaged in the attack were reportedly those that were already inoperable and could not fly away in time. And while the 59 Tomahawk missiles did extensive damage to concrete structures at the airfield, the cost of repairing those facilities will be considerably less than the $100 million that we spent buying those missiles. The airfield’s runways were left largely untouched.

In short, rather than change the military equation or degrade Syria’s military, the attack highlighted and confirmed the extreme limitations of U.S. military options against Assad. Indeed, Syrian jets were once again taking off and landing at the Shayrat airfield within hours of the attack, dropping bombs on the same village that had been hit earlier with sarin gas.

That too sent a message. As translated by Sen. Lindsey Graham: “Here’s what I think Assad’s telling Trump by flying from this base: ‘F you.'”

I can’t help wondering: What would conservatives be saying today if Barack Obama had pulled what turns out to be a hapless, militarily ineffectual publicity stunt, particularly at a point when he was struggling badly in the polls? The question is especially pertinent given the clear lack of strategy or goal driving the attack. Even now, nobody knows what that strategy might be.  At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley is describing the attack as the beginning of a U.S. effort to oust Assad, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is once again stressing that the United States will leave Assad’s fate to the Syrians.

In a competent administration that actually had a plan, that scale of public contradiction would be unthinkable. It could happen only in a policy vacuum, and everyone in the diplomatic world recognizes that vacuum, including the Assad regime, and is poised to take advantage.

Four years ago, you may recall, international pressure after a previous gas attack on civilians forced Syria to surrender thousands of tons of chemical weapons and their precursors to an international commission, which then destroyed the material. The Syrian government, Russia and the Obama administration all claimed at the time that all of Syria’s supplies had been declared and surrendered.

Was that true? We don’t know. The sarin gas used last week certainly could have been secretly retained for later use by the Assad regime. On the other hand, sarin degrades pretty quickly and is relatively easy to produce, meaning that Assad might have surrendered everything back in 2013 and then secretly restarted a smaller-scale chemical-weapons program.

We do know that in the four years between that 2013 agreement and last week’s attack, Assad had not used nerve gas such as sarin against his own people. He has used barrel bombs and other brutal means, including occasional use of readily available chlorine gas, but he did nothing to publicly call into question his adherence to the chemical weapons ban.

Something happened to change that calculation. As Rubio, John McCain and others have pointed out, that something” was probably the Trump administration incompetence and lack of seriousness.

Reader Comments 1

1196 comments
Dwayne Johnson
Dwayne Johnson

Bookman needs to go back to his cellar office in the Jefferson's apartment building.

Mark Lee
Mark Lee

Liberals just stop it.I certainly trust the word of General Mattiss over you bunch of idiots.

Stewart Coleman Speights
Stewart Coleman Speights

Trump has failed at all three military missions he's ok'ed since becoming president. #1 The raid on Yemen resulted in a dead Navy Seal and innocent children killed. #2 A drone strike in Iraq killed over 200 civilians last week. #3 Forty nine cruise missles fired on a Syria airbase two days ago accomplished nothing. Syria flew jets from the same airbase the next day and bombed the same city. And please don't comment back to me anything about Obama, Trump is president now.

carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

Trump may be unhinged, but at least he's trigger-happy. His statement that we don't win wars anymore is nothing more than letting us know he's itching to use his power. Be very afraid, now. Kim Jun Un just said he's ready. Are Trump voters ready to send their sons, nephews, daughters, nieces and grandchildren off to war? Shame on you.


Two world wars should have taught mankind that war should have been made obsolete for all time. We never learn.



RantNRave
RantNRave

@FIGMO2 @rimsky


Conservatism has nothing to


do with happy children.


It's the parents who raise


them.


“A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones.”





StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

“What White House insiders cannot come to grips with, and I talked to three of the presidents’ top people yesterday, they do not understand what happened to Steve Bannon. Why he decided to start attacking the president’s family. The word I heard from all three was ‘he just snapped.’”

~~~~Joe Scarborough


https://youtu.be/f0787hMj7BA


Lee Griffith
Lee Griffith

Because drawing a red line and doing nothing is much more effective! Right bookman?

Stephfon Btrutou
Stephfon Btrutou

So why were drumpf and the republicans against President Obama doing the EXACT SAME THING (launch an attack on Syria) for the EXACT SAME REASON (Assad gassed his own people)?

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

United’s market capitalization, essentially the current value of the company, has fallen by more than $750 million from $22.5 billion after a video showing a bloodied United passenger who was dragged off a flight made headlines on Monday.

At the time of publication, United’s market cap has slid to $21.70 billion

rimsky
rimsky

@BuckeyeGa  $750 million

Oh that is such a piddly amount.  LOLOLOL

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

would've better to increase the value of the vouchers to get volunteers

rimsky
rimsky

@Philo_Farnsworth I did not know Netherland is pronounced UN.  I learn something new in this blog......

Mary
Mary

Putin will not meet with Rex. What will be the lefts narrative today? "Putin and Tillerson avoid meeting to debunk their close relationship "

Mary
Mary

Which has been ongoing for 8+ months. Clearly, there is nothing to find that attaches trump to collusion. Move on guys, move on!

rimsky
rimsky

@Mary Tillerson will leave the cash with the butler.  Good optics.

Mary
Mary

When the russian investigation is complete and there are no findings to support the claims of collusion you assert, what will the left do then? There will be such a void. What's the next pivot point?

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Mary 8 months is nothing when the President is involved, it took 24 months to get Nixon.  Until it is complete stop pre-dermining what will be found. You have no evidence of what you and the other Trumpers post everyday to counter the investigation. The question is what will you do if someone is locked up at the end?  Still defend Trump?  What's the next narrative?  He didn't know?  

Mary
Mary

Will never defend wrong doing. But, I've yet to even sniff the hint of evidence. If the FBI's evidence is based off the comments I read here, I need not worry about defending trump. There is no there-there. Time to move on SNC.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Mary Clearly we do not know what the FBI has but we do know that U.S. Intelligence  is rounding up cyber criminals in other countries which started over the weekend after connecting them to the Trump campaign and Russian hacking.  I call that progress and a lot of smoke from a fire.

rimsky
rimsky

@Mary Call up Comey in speed dial.  He will tell ya.  LOL

Mary
Mary

Allegedly connected. And, trump campaign versus trump himself is a reach. You guys personally accuse trump of being in collusion with putin. Never happened. But, when this goes away, and it will, I think the left will have done immeasurable damage to itself. You will be left with only anger and disappointment. Might want to consider a plan B.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@rimsky @Mary The investigation is not going to just disappear no matter how hard Trump and his supporters click their heels.  The charges are very serious and the intelligence community is treating them as such.  Something that Trump and his supporters are failing to realized.  

Mary
Mary

To be continued. Off to a meeting. Have a nice day SNC.

PS - save my meds for later. I'm not dead yet!!

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Mary It was his got damn campaign, how much closely connected can he be?  All roads lead to Trump no matter how much you spin it.  Wow you are hopeless Mary, as I stated before talking to you is just like trying to give medicine to a dead person.  

Mary
Mary

That hillary lied, and was extremely negligent? Comey only says there is an investigation. So what? Nothing there but a bunch of hyperbole ginned up by the DNC.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Mary The intelligence community, the ones who are actually doing the investigation, are separate from Comey, they are just giving the evidence to him.  

rimsky
rimsky

@Mary "Hillary lied" you learn so much horse crap in this blog.

Mary
Mary

Trump cannot be responsible for the actions of every single person that worked within his campaign. I'm not suggesting that anyone has done anything wrong. But, you guys say without merit or evidence that Trump colluded. That's my point. No evidence he colluded. BO's on guy said that. No evidence. To me, you guys are doing Putin's dirty work for him. Creating false narratives and blaming Russia. He loves that. Makes his ego even larger.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@Mary Trump ran his campaign from top to bottom.  Like I said all roads lead to Trump. 

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

Having fun yet Trumpets?  How great is Trump's America?  How is that swamp draining coming along?  


Your Money, Your America Russia could soon control a U.S. oil company

In a crazy twist of international events, Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft might end up owning Citgo, a US energy company based in Houston, Texas.  Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are highly alarmed. In hotly worded letters to the Trump Administration in recent days, members of Congress and senators warned that it could be a big problem for US national security if Russia gets a hold of Citgo.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

You have to forgive Philo, he's just figuring out that the Senate is a part of Congress. lol

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@rimsky @StraightNoChaser Just one more thing that Fox news is not reporting to keep the uninformed ignorant to facts.  Inquiring minds will be waiting to see how Trump responds.  

Philo_Farnsworth
Philo_Farnsworth

I guess the only alternative is to nationalize big oil, huh?

Trackbacks

  1. […] On April 10, 2017, I posted the following remarks on Jay Bookman’s AJC blog, in response to his article in the following link: http://jaybookman.blog.myajc.com/2017/04/10/opinion-attack-on-syrian-airfield-changes-very-little […]