The reaction to the cruise missile attack on Syria has been highly encouraging for President Trump. First, Democrats have generally acknowledged that it was a justified action in response to the brazen atrocity of murdering civilians and particularly children with Sarin gas. Second, it has attracted some criticism from the isolationist right, which makes it harder for the president’s opponents to attack him for being an isolationist. Third, although the Russians were advised to remove their personnel from the target area, it clearly debunks the theory that Trump is in dishonorable cooperation with Russian leader Putin.
Trump has therefore managed to cover all the bases with a simple military exercise that put no Americans at risk.
Putin, who has been made to look strong by the pandemic of feebleness in Western leaders in recent years, especially the infamous fiasco of the Obama-Biden-Clinton “reset,” (though George W. Bush’s nonsense about “Vladimir” rescuing his rosary from his burning dacha should not go unremembered), is now on notice that Russia will pay a price if its protégés are guilty of such unpardonable barbarity as gassing children en masse. This is not a provocation of the Russian bear, as it was warned to avoid casualties (a warning it seems not to have shared with its host and ally); it is a proportionate slap on the bear’s nose with a plank.
Domestically, the sane Democrats, who have not scrambled their brains chasing the itinerant party base to the left in hot pursuit of Bernie Sanders, recognize that it was a well-measured and unimpetuous gesture to deal with a moral outrage. It was, in its way, the most faultless intervention in the Middle East since President Eisenhower’s magnificent intervention in Lebanon in 1958, when he inserted 14,000 troops for a few months without suffering a single casualty. It was also the first use of American military force above a Navy seal detachment size (the bin Laden elimination), since the successful surge in Iraq ten years ago. America and the world had begun to wonder if there were any practical use, or resolve to use, the vast human and military resources of the U.S. armed forces.