So that was that. Insert question mark here. In an awesomely unshocking military strike that lasted all of "three to four minutes," the Trump administration took out some Syrian aircraft hangers, a couple gas tanks, perhaps a radar installation or two. The objective, said a U.S. military official in a bemusing flourish of the colossally self-evident, was "to send a signal to Mr. Assad about the United States’ intention to use military force if he continues to use chemical weapons."
That much, we get. What the U.S. official omitted was that our "signal" likely would have been unnecessary had not the Trump administration previously signaled that Assad was free to do as he chose. His political position, as our secretary of state had announced, would properly "be decided by the Syrian people." In the beginning, the U.S. signal was one of hands off. Thus did Assad do as he chose. Naturally, Trump blamed Assad's monstrous decision on President Obama.
Trump's four-minute military strike was, of course, the easy part. As every foreign policy analyst has asked in the last 12 hours: What of the strike's political objective? Did it possess or even envision one? Did it in any way further the cause of a Syrian civil war resolution? I've no way prove this beyond boundless empirical evidence of Trump's ruthless self-promotion, but I suspect his objective was mostly domestic; to prove himself a tough guy of action, and to stanch his hemorrhaging poll numbers (for a day or two; but hey, it's always one day at a time for incurable narcissists).
Fareed Zakaria acutely summarizes the ultimate futility of martial moments: "The United States’ problems in the Middle East have never come from military weakness, but rather from the fact that after tactical victories, the United States has been unable to achieve any kind of political settlement or stability." Those problems are tragically amplified by Trumpism, which harbors little to no belief in the arduous but eventually more effective tactics of diplomacy and soft power.
Those aren't sexy enough for this president, who also harbors absolutely no grounding in foreign affairs or understanding of global historical developments. For that matter, he has no grounding at all. Trump can swing from dedicated non-interventionist to fanatical neoconservative in a Fifth Avenue minute, for he is intellectually vacuous and fundamentally reactive.
From his Florida resort (where he was being fleeced by China's capable president), Trump "said his decision [to launch a missile strike] had been prompted in part by what he called the failures by the world community to respond effectively to the Syrian civil war." One groans in near incredulity. It was the Trump administration — the leader of the most powerful nation in "the world community" — that repeatedly "signaled" that America's Syrian policy was one of indifference.
What next? Who the hell knows. One thing, however, is clear as Waterford crystal. Because Trump is so intellectually and historically rootless, his foreign policy, as Zakaria adds, "seems to change with every meeting, event and crisis" — as well with whose voice he last heard, or whatever he last saw on television. This does not bode well. Our pretend-presidential rabbit may have just plunged his head into the hole's opening.