President Trump's decision to strike Syria left much of the world stunned and many of his most ardent supporters disillusioned. There's so much at play that it's not nearly as simple as outrage over images of little children being gassed.
There are two things we have come to know about Donald Trump: 1) His reaction to being wronged tends to lean toward a knee-jerk reaction, and 2) Hardly anything he does isn't carefully calculated.
From a casual view of the past week it appears that Trump saw the images of dead and dying children in Syria, was distraught and outraged over the images, and ordered airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad's airbase. To see it as only that would be missing so much of what's at play.
Before I get to what is at play, it needs to be pointed out that no matter whether Assad was behind the most recent gassing of Syrian rebels, we know definitively that he's a bad man. He has killed tens of thousands of his own people with chemical weapons, conventional weapons, and starvation. Thousands more have been executed in mass hangings. Remember Obama's red line? Assad thumbed his nose at it and attacked his own people with more chemical weapons. Obama did nothing.
Trump's position has been it's none of our affair, but the most recent gassing changed that. It is odd that the day before the attack Trump said Assad should be left alone. At that point, Assad had the support of Russia and Iran and the assurance that we would not interfere in the Syrian civil war. By all accounts, Assad is winning that war against the rebels. And the rebels have now been taken over by jihadists, many of whom were fighting the Americans in Iraq. This is no longer a civil uprising over human rights. It's ISIS and other Muslim extremists who now own the rebel cause.
Why in the world would Assad invite worldwide condemnation by gassing some innocent children? Some say he didn't. There are intelligence reports that say the Obama administration had been running weapons to the Syrian rebels for some time. Those weapons, they say, included chemical weapons. There's evidence suggesting that's what the Benghazi attack in 2012 was all about. If that's true, the Syrian rebels, now controlled by Muslim extremists, are in possession of chemical weapons. After seeing Trump pull back from deposing Assad, it's possible the chemical attack was actually an act of desperation on the part of the rebels to bring to pass exactly what happened: airstrikes against Assad.
I hope and pray that our intelligence information showing Assad was responsible for the attack is accurate. Let's assume that it is. Trump could've waited days, if not weeks, to formulate a response. He didn't. Nor did he act immediately. He waited until the visit by Chinese President Xi to act. I believe this was on purpose.
What was the primary reason for the meeting with Xi? Talks about our trade imbalance, yes, but the main focus was on North Korea. Everyone knows North Korea is a puppet regime of China. The airstrikes against Syrian were a not so subtle message to Xi that this is what happens to tin-horn dictators that hack off the president.
Xi heads back to China with one certainty. Donald Trump doesn't play. It also makes it clear that Trump's no Putin puppet. Every bad actor around the world has to be sleeping less soundly now.
For those who fear escalation, I think this airstrike should actually ease your mind. Trump has demonstrated that he can punish Assad any time he wants to and never set one pair of boots on the ground. We don't want to invade Syria. We don't need to invade Syria. If Assad decides to get out of line again he can expect a night sky filled with Tomahawk missiles. It's a marvelous behavior modifier.
But make no mistake, those missiles weren't meant for just Assad. They were a message to Kim Jong-un, the ayatollahs in Iran, ISIS, and every other despot around the world. Don't screw with the U.S.A.