U.S. military strike delivers political victory

If there remained any doubt about the dangerous world we live in, events that have unfolded over the past week should be enough to convince even the most skeptical among us.

The world was shocked last week by pictures of men, women and children gruesomely killed in a chemical weapon attack by the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The attacks were condemned the world over and resulted in a retaliatory strike by the U.S. military.

U.S. President Donald Trump ordered 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to be launched into the Shayrat Airbase where the chemical attack originated. The attack brought widespread praise onto the embattled U.S. president who had seen his approval ratings drop into the mid-30s. But the strike provided no relief to the Syrian people.

The Russian and Syrian governments were given advanced notice of the attack, limiting the number of casualties and severity of the damage – the biggest cost of the attack will be borne by the U.S. in picking up the tab for the 59 cruise missiles. As if to prove the point, within a day of the attack Syrian planes were again taking off from the airfield – killing and maiming civilians by more conventional means.

Atrocities are nothing new to the Syrian people, who have witnessed an estimated 400,000 of their people killed over the past six years while another five million have been forced to flee their homes.

Those killings were no less a tragedy to the mothers who lost their children, but previous attacks generated little more than a shrug from then-candidate Trump. Those fleeing the conflict were even painted as the villains, looking to bring terrorism to the unsuspecting U.S. people.

But this latest airstrike has brought something the U.S. president values more than an end to the violence in Syria – praise. The missile attack has been the subject of little critical attention, either at home in the U.S. or around the world. American politicians on both sides of the aisle, the media and allies around the world have all praised the U.S. actions, calling Trump’s decision ‘presidential’.

So the next time the president’s poll numbers begin to slide, one has to question what his response might be. There seems to be clear evidence that a missile attack can deliver a political victory, no matter the military objectives. And that should have us all more than a little concerned.

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