The New Yorker:
On Saturday, President Trump revelled in the military efficiency of the joint strike by the United States, Britain, and France on three chemical-weapons facilities in Syria. The tightly choreographed multinational operation—involving aircraft and ships in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, and Persian Gulf—took less than two hours. More than a hundred missiles—nearly double the size of the 2017 U.S. strike on Syria—hit their targets. A production site, command post, and storage facilities were obliterated. Neither the Russians nor Iranians tried to stop the strike or intervene militarily. Syria’s air defenses failed miserably. All allied aircraft and personnel returned safely to their bases. “A perfectly executed strike last night,” Trump tweeted, on Saturday morning. “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
Technically, that’s true. The limited military operation—far smaller than the advance hype suggested—did degrade Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to use weaponized toxins against civilians. But it did not eliminate Syria’s entire stock, the Pentagon acknowledged, in a press briefing on Saturday. “The program is larger than what we struck,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie told reporters. “We could have gone to other places and done other things.” The six-day run-up to the strike may also have allowed sufficient time for Syria to relocate equipment and personnel, the Pentagon said.
More fundamentally, however, Trump’s strike was a tactical response that lacks a long-term strategy to help restore stability to turbulent Syria. A country that is the geostrategic center of the Middle East, Syria has been ravaged by seven years of a war that has killed an estimated half million people and displaced more than half of its twenty-three million citizens. The U.S.-led military operation did nothing to change those realities—or even challenge Assad’s brutal rule or his growing military grip on the country.
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