There is a saying in Hollywood, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” It means, don’t make a movie the purpose of which is to send a message to the audience.
It would appear that Trump violated that rule. He used $84 million of cruise missiles to send a message. In this case, probably neither a movie nor Western Union would have been believed by the intended audience. The exploding missiles were believed.
Military intimidated by Trump?
My main reason for not liking draft dodgers in chief like Clinton, Bush II, Obama, and Trump is they seem to be intimidated by the career military. If you judge by the attack on Syria, the career military seem to be intimidated by Trump. How else to explain the classic mission creep in Iraq and Syria, abandonment of the element of surprise, and lousy bomb damage assessment result after the recent attack?
Destroy the air force, not the runways
If you want to diminish the Syrian Air Force, you either destroy all their aircraft or all their pilots. Destroying runways, fuel storage tanks, hangars, anti-aircraft missiles are mere annoyances to an air force.
The logic of the attack seems to be that we punished the Air Base from which the chemical attack Syrian planes took off! Will we be trying the base in a Nuremberg-style trial? Are we going to execute the air base if it is convicted at that trial.
Only humans are culpable. The human in charge is Assad. One cruise missile through his bedroom window would be the appropriate action if we are now in the punishment-for-atrocities business.
No pilots, no air force
We defeated Japan and Germany to a large extent by killing their pilots. They still had planes at the end of the war, but just worthless rookies to fly them. Bombing runways and fuel tanks and hangars did not reduce their ability to fight us.
We did another thing not relevant to Syria. In World War II, the enemy kept their best pilots in the fight, where they were killed. We sent our best pilots back to the states to be flight instructors. That made our rookie pilots better.
Emotional, not military
Trump’s motive was not military. It was that he was angry about the use of chemical weapons and the deaths of innocents. We won’t use chemical weapons in the future, but we most certainly will blow humans, including infants, to bits. What happens to our self-righteousness then? War is hell.
Most atrocities are okay?
And our reaction to these atrocities is arbitrary. IS, whom we did not attack with cruse missiles, takes great pride in their beheadings, burning alive and drowning murders. Or how about the sheer scale of Assad’s war crimes? He has reportedly murdered a half million innocent citizens of his country. He has also tortured, starved, and displaced far more of his citizens.
China murdered nearly three thousand of its citizens in the Tienanmen Square massacre. Are we going to punish them? What is so special about chemical weapons? Dead is dead.
The Medlock version of this attack
If my fictional “Mike Medlock” were forced to attack Syria, he would target the chain of command, their oil and gas infrastructure, and eliminate their entire air force—and the whole operation would cost less that Trump just spent.
He would NOT target their navy (obsolete), army (they won’t get far on foot), or anti-aircraft defense (we don’t plan to fly the kinds of aircraft they can shoot down over those AD weapons). If Syria has submarines, Medlock would order them sunk at sea with their crews.
After those actions were complete, Syria would be looking for a new leader and would be an impoverished, Third World, desert country with an 18th century military. In other words, they would be insignificant. That is meaningful military action. Scorching hangars and destroying 20 planes borders on insignificant in contrast.
Losing power matters
If a misbehaving dictator dies or loses power, you get the attention of the other bad guys. I remind readers of Ghadafi watching what happened to Hussein and his sons. Leaving the dictator in power makes less of an impression on the other dictators. If you want to “make a difference,” you must significantly degrade the enemy’s capability to wage war. Trump did not do that.