My view of the Trump administration’s action is not much different from my reaction to the previous strike on Syria. I don’t have any strong objection to a one-time punitive strike in reaction to an atrocity, as long as it is a discrete action not undertaken with a view to any wider war. Importantly, it should not serve to promote any illusion that we can use military force to bring about a solution to the Syrian tragedy. Sometimes, there is realistically nothing we can do to right wrongs in different corners of the world. I think we need to be smart enough to face that reality with regard to Syria.
At the same time, I can’t help noting the hypocrisy inherent in the US and its allies claiming to be the world’s enforcers of humanitarian values. Any such claim, to be credible, would require at the very least a cessation of this country’s aid to Saudi Arabia’s brutal conduct of its intervention in the Yemeni civil war. Also, the Trump administration’s loosening of safeguards against civilian casualties in its drone strikes and other military operations around the world has very probably already resulted in more deaths than Assad’s most recent atrocity. So, let’s recognize this strike on Syria as an assertion of American power more than as an expression of a humanitarian mission.