Following through on threats issued in the wake of a Syrian gas attack on a civilian target, President Donald Trump ordered a strike on three chemical warfare targets in Syria, including a “science research center” and storage facilities. The raid was carried out by naval and air units of the United States, Great Britain, and France. By all accounts the attacks were successful, and the targets were destroyed. Despite boasting to the contrary, Syrian air defenses were impotent against the strike. Russian air defenses, despite a promise to shoot down missiles and aircraft, did not engage.

Why did Trump do it?

The gentle reader should put out of his or her mind that this was a “Wag the Dog” scenario, a conspiracy theory advanced by Rachel Maddow and others based on a movie from the 1990s by the same name. The military strike only gave Trump’s many enemies (and some friends such as Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham) something more to complain about. The media is not going to leave off Russian collusion, Stormy Daniels, and all the rest just because the president hammered a Middle Eastern tyrant and mass murderer.

Trump ordered the strike, just as he did last year, to reach Bashar Assad a lesson that using chemical weapons would not be tolerated. After the horrors of World War I.

chemical weapons have been banned for use in wartime, a prohibition that has mostly been adhered to (with certain exceptions, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein against the Kurds, and of course Assad in Syria.) Allowing Assad a pass on gassing his own people would have been a signal for other bad actors that the practice would be tolerated.

What will be the aftermath of the strike?

Assad, especially, has some soul searching to do. He now knows that his alliance with Russia and Iran does not protect him in the slightest against attack by his many enemies, To be sure, he was able to hide his air force on a Russian airbase. But, by and large, the United States and its allies can attack him at will.

Russia has been taught a lesson in the limits to twisting the eagle’s tail feathers. Despite threats of “consequences” Putin has very few options in responding to the allied attack. His military is a shadow of what it was in the glory days of the Soviet Empire, and his economy is tattered and on the brink.

Trump has likely gained a little street cred as a strategist, to be sure with the help of people like Mattis, Bolton, and Nikki Haley. The criticisms of his various enemies on the left and the right seem like mindless carping. What the president did was no different than what his predecessors did going back to Reagan when dealing with bothersome tyrants. Indeed he looks pretty good compared to Bush 43, who blundered badly in Iraq, and especially Obama, whose incompetence and arrogance set the Middle East and North Africa ablaze. Who would have thought that Trump, of all people, could teach a lesson in strategy?