Mission Accomplished?

“Mission accomplished” was the description of Friday’s attack on Syria that we heard from both the White House and the Pentagon. In my mind that is a matter of conjecture at best. Let’s explore.

Let me begin with some positive comments. I am glad to see that we didn’t go it alone instead involving both French and British forces. While the morality of the mission is unquestionable I can’t say the same for its legality. (I’m just talking about under international law. I don’t want to get into the debate about under American law.)

It appears that we did more than just destroy the landscaping at a semi-abandoned base this time.

It also appears that Secretary Mattis’ call for some restraint won the day. My question is did he win over John Bolton and company or did the British and/or French make a more limited action a condition of participation. Germany’s decision not to participate makes me think the Europeans may have been the moderating force.

Just what was the mission? If it was to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities it was at best a partial success. It appears the raid did significant damage to several facilities but that is far from Assad’s entire stockpile and manufacturing capacity. To my knowledge the attack did nothing to lessen Assad’s delivery capacity. Not a single airplane, helicopter or air base was destroyed.

If the mission was to get Assad to stop killing his own people it was a complete failure. I contend it had the opposite effect. The message was that he can kill as many of his people as he wants anytime he wants as long as he doesn’t use chemical weapons to do it.

If the mission was to change the course of the Syrian “civil war” (which I don’t believe it was) it was an abject failure. Every authority on the region I have heard agrees that the war is effectively over and Assad has won. This action won’t even merit an asterisk when its history is written.

On Monday President Trump vowed action in 24 to 48 hours. I did not major in math in college but he missed the mark. I wonder if the delay was caused in part by the gutting of the State Department and we simply lacked the necessary experienced diplomates with established relationship to swiftly form a coalition.

As previously stated I think it is wonderful and important that we had allies involved. My concern is the conspicuous absence of any nations from the region. I realize that Israel’s inclusion would have caused major problems but what about other Arab nations? The image of a bunch of what are perceived to be Christian nations bombing a Muslim nation is not a good one.

Talking about perception, the motivation for America’s involvement is open to speculation. Many people are advancing the wag the dog theory that Trump only got involved to create a distraction to take his scandals out of the headlines.

While this raid is certainly an improvement over the 2017 version I can’t call it mission accomplished unless the mission was a one act play without a theme.

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