Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...


Everything but tech support.

1150, 14 Apr 18

Western Allies Strike Syrian Chemical Weapons Facilities

All things considered, Trump got this exactly right.

The US, UK and France attacked three government sites, targeting what they said were chemical weapons facilities.

More than 100 missiles struck in response to a suspected deadly chemical attack on the town of Douma last week.


At a Pentagon briefing on Saturday, Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie listed the three targets that had been struck in a “precise, overwhelming and effective” manner:

  • The Barzah chemical weapons research and development centre near Damascus was hit by 76 missiles, 57 of them Tomahawk cruise missiles, and “destroyed”
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons storage facility near Homs was hit by 22 “weapons” – US, UK and French
  • The Him Shinshar chemical weapons bunker facility near Homs was targeted with seven Scout missiles and was “successfully hit”

Gen McKenzie said the “initial indications are that we accomplished the military objectives without interference from Syria”.

The Syrian civil war is highly complex and there are no good options. The world has also returned to a state of Big Power geopolitics and Russia has clearly planted its flag in Syria. The struggle for America is that we have no real national interest in Syria other than to protect our allies in the neighborhood should the war spill over. We do, however, have a moral interest in protecting innocents and a strategic interest in keeping the conflict from spreading.

So what were the options?

  1. Do nothing
  2. Launch a ground invasion
  3. Covert action aimed at regime change
  4. A measured, surgical, retaliatory strike

There is no appetite in America to get into another war in the Middle East. Plus, launching an invasion in Syria risks escalating into a full scale with Russia. Option 2 is off the table.

Option 3 is interesting, but then what? There are no good sides left in Syria and removing Assad just leaves a vacuum for some other tyrant to fill.

Option 1 is one that I would have been satisfied with. It is difficult for me to justify expending more American treasure and possible lives in the morass of Syria. The downside is that both Obama and Trump promised the world that we would react if Assad used chemical weapons again. To not follow through on a threat would be to weaken America’s stature and ability to influence future events – especially in the face of a tyrant like Putin.

So we are left with option 4. The Trump Administration gathered our allies in France and Britain and stuck at specific targets related to Assad’s ability to conduct chemical warfare. They made it clear that this is not the start of a larger conflict and it is not designed to change the regime. It was just a hard spank from the Western Powers to make it clear that using weapons of mass destruction to kill innocent people is not acceptable. This approach also has the added advantage of dispelling the myth of Russia’s impenetrable air defenses. Perhaps Assad will be having a chat with Putin about this technological failure.

Again, there are not any good options left in Syria for America. Any good options evaporated within the first year of the conflict. Now it is just a matter of trying to prevent it from spilling out into the larger world any more than it already has.


1150, 14 April 2018


  1. dad29

    We do, however, have a moral interest in protecting innocents

    Please define “moral interest” and reconcile it with current just-war theory.  Please do so in less than 500 words.  You will not be graded on grammar.

  2. MHMaley

    I agree that there are no good options .
    But there have been 9 confirmed chemical strikes since our last missle strike . Why now and is there a specific number of civilians that has to die to generate a missile response from us?

    Also Candidate Trump said Obama had to got to congress to get authorization to initiate strikes ( which he did ) . What changed ?

  3. Owen

    Dad29, I don’t disagree. The value of maintaining that moral authority has a realpolitik value in garnering allies for future conflicts, but it doesn’t justify, if and of itself, war.

    Maley, good points. The only real difference is the level of international condemnation this act had reached – likely driven my emotional responses to horrible pictures of dead kids. As for the authorization, I think we all know what changed.

  4. Pat

    But killing hundreds upon thousands with bombs is ok??

  5. Owen

    I’ve often puzzled over the focus on the instrument. The moral outrage is in killing noncombatants. The weapon used to do that – bombs, guns, machetes, nuclear bombs, etc. – is somewhat irrelevant in the moral question. They just determine the scale.

    The same thing happens in the “gun” debate where people obsess over the instrument used to murder someone instead of the moral outrage that a murder was committed in the first place.

    In both cases, the focus and force that motivates action should be on the act itself and the people perpetrating it – not on the mechanism used.

  6. Kevin Scheunemann

    I think the problem is the moral cowardice of the liberal mindset to label people as evil. They value tolerance over all else, and that means tolerating evil actions by people most often.

    It is much easier to ascribe evil to the object, or weapon, involcved in the killing. No object will lecture them about tolerance, or lack of tolerance. Ultimately, the liberal mindset also hates criticism. That is why the object becomes so important to them.

  7. Kevin Scheunemann


    Some people are capable of maturing, spiritually, from their evil coddling position, to challenging and defeating evil.

  8. Le Roi du Nord


    So now trump has “matured” and is following the same policies that he criticized Obama for following?  Or is it a flip-flop?  How do folks that voted for trump based on his “un-matured” position feel now?

    And I am pretty sure that “spiritually” isn’t in trumps vocabulary.

  9. Kevin Scheunemann


    He’s not coddling evil.   That is a form of spiritual maturity.   I agree he has other moral failings, but he is a political leader, not a religious leader.

  10. Le Roi du Nord


    So now that trump has adopted the same policies that Obama had, that happened to be the target of trumps scorn, that’s OK?  No acknowledgement that Obama was right all along?

  11. Jason

    I’ll turn that right around on you Average Joe. This morning talking head Chuck Todd, and countless others, are telling the country how ineffective missiles strikes would be. And yet those countless other partisan hacks never said a thing of the sort while Obama was doing it. Instead they lambasted right wing neocons and fox news for saying it was ineffective. So you worry about some guy posting on a single internet blog, instead of the hypocrisy rampant around the nation by Today, CNN, etc.

  12. Le Roi du Nord

    Sorry j, but it wasn’t just one blogger.  It was the guy, now POTUS, who was campaigning.  trump is now doing the same thing he condemned Obama for.  Hypocrisy?  Flip-flop?  Short memory?  You make the call.

  13. Jason

    Don’t be dim, I’m talking about you and your Kevin infatuation. You’re not taking to POTUS on this webpage so you can knock that off.

  14. Le Roi du Nord

    Sorry j, but you aren’t making any sense.  You on the right thread??

  15. jjf

    Scale is irrelevant in the moral question? So the fellow who kills one person and Stalin and Pol Pot are just the same?

    There’s a reason the government doesn’t let you own nerve gas and A-bombs, no? What’s wrong with questioning whether an AR-15 is just fun for plinking or just too easy to kill fifty?

Pin It on Pinterest