That President Donald Trump would exercise US military might should come as no surprise to anyone who paid attention to candidate Trump back on the trail.
An integral piece of his New York tough-guy persona was his willingness to invoke, literally, the nuclear option as a solution for everything from terrorism to trade agreements.
And whether you believe last week’s missile attack on Syria was in response to the emotions the president felt after seeing the aftermath of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s sarin gas attack on his own people — the very same demographic that Trump swore would not be allowed to enter this country as refugees — or as a more figurative smokescreen to distance the president from his ties to Russia and its president, Vladmir Putin, we should all agree on the sham of it.
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles, each equipped with 166 sub-munition clusters, makes for a pretty heavy payload, enough to easily wipe out the Syrian airfield and give us all a nice kaboom to watch on the evening news — or, more likely, YouTube or Facebook.
But, as a Pentagon spokesperson testified the next day, Russian forces were warned in advance of the attack by the US military — to “minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel.”
This is not unique to the Trump administration; it actually has a name. It’s called “roof-knocking,” popularized by the Israeli army, which as far back as 2006 would drop non-explosive devices on Palestinian neighborhoods to give them advance warning of an impending bombing in the area. The US has been using the technique in its war against ISIS since last year.
It’s not quite the same thing, though, as tipping off a military target in the hours before launch. And if Putin knew about the attack, it’s reasonable to assume he passed this information to the Syrian forces with which his country is aligned in this civil war.
The Syrian airfield, after absorbing the US missile attack, resumed operations less than 24 hours later, launching a squadron of warplanes the very next day.
So it seems that the only actual purpose served by this intervention into a bloody civil war was to get rid of some old weapons so we can commission some new ones — and perhaps rack up what might look like a win to the uninformed, as well as distract from several Trump controversies embroiling the president and the people around him.
And though the repercussions of this attack will likely have global consequences and be used to justify all sorts of further hawkish action, it was a big nothing down on the ground. In Trump’s America, even war is fake.