It is easy to overanalyze the #Cruise Missile bombardment of Shayrat Airfield, which is what most of the media is doing. The purpose of the attack was to send messages to multiple players in the #Middle East and around the world in the wake of a sarin gas attack on innocent civilians by Basher Assad’s regime.
To Basher Assad, the message was, “#President Trump, unlike his predecessor, is really serious about not using chemical weapons. You lied to Obama about not having these kinds of weapons. This president will not be lied to or trifled with.”.
To Assad’s Russian sponsors, “You might want to consider curbing your dog. Or better yet, maybe you should get out of Syria before things get out of hand.”
To the other players in the Middle East, including the Sunni Arab states and Israel, “There is a new sheriff in town, and he is not afraid to use force. America has you back against local bad actors.”
To North Korea, who is building ballistic missiles and is threatening to nuke its neighbors and the United States, “This is a taste of what you will get if you continue to misbehave. You might want to consider giving up your missiles and your nukes.”
To Iran, “Ditto, ditto.”
To China, with whose president Trump was dining even as the airfield was exploding, “You really should put a harness on North Korea. If you don’t, we will.” The dinner conversation must have been interesting depending on when Trump informed his guest of what was going on.
The reaction in the media and among political circles to the attack was, sadly, typical.
Many were satisfied to the United States was at last behaving like a superpower again. Others, though, are wringing their hands and wondering if Trump is going to march on Damascus to do regime change and all that implies. To be sure, no one would be sad if someone put a bullet in Assad and he was replaced by someone else who recognized that there are limits to the death and mayhem he is allowed to commit.But is is unlikely that Trump is going to go full George W. Bush and try to reshape Syria at the point of a sword. We have seen that movie and do not like the ending. The better effect will be how Reagan put Libya's Muammar Qaddafy back in his box where he remained until Obama put a match to the country by overthrowing him and delivering the place up to wrack and ruin.
The same effect could be had if Assad gets the message and agrees to some kind of diplomatic solution to the Syrian Civil War. Yes, that would mean treating with a war criminal who gasses his own people. But Assad might be useful in the war against the real enemy in the Middle East, ISIS. Maybe later he can be called to account for his various crimes against humanity.