I've got a longer post up about this at the MilPub, but I couldn't help laughing at the latest in Little Theater at Camp Runamuck; the Great Syrian Air War!
Thursday cruise missile strike on the Syrian government airbase at Shayrat is such an utterly perfect summation of the U.S. "foreign policy" in the Middle East as to be a tiny little exploding jewel-box-like portrait of foreign policy derp that it just makes me want to walk around smiling all day in that grim, sickly, "isn't that fucking special" kind of smiley way.
Militarily useless? Check. Because, although he may be a grifter with the soul of a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee Spaghetti and Meatballs, the Tangerine Toddler isn't clinically insane his administration is reported to have warned the Russian government prior to the strike to ensure that we didn't send any random wingwipers of the Voyenno-Vozdushnye Sily Rossii home in a box. The Russians, unsuprisingly, passed the warning on to their Syrian clients. So it's extremely likely that what the strike did was flatten some empty hangars and scatter bits of the buildings across the runways.
Tomahawks, so far as I know, are not equipped with delay-fused runway cratering warheads, so this couldn't have acted as an airfield-denial strike.
In fact, I'm hearing reports that the Syrian Arab Air Force operated out of Shayrat today. You'd think that Assad would have at least pretended to limp around a little after getting up to make it looked like Trumpwar had given him an owie, to help out his pals Pootie and Trumpie, but nooooooo. What a buddyfucker.
Geopolitically worthless? Check. Even supposing that this DID attrit the Assad government's ability to fight the civil war. Late on Thursday both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster made it clear that these strikes wouldn't have any major effect on the actual political situation in Syria.
And, of course - as we should have learned in Libya, the enemy of our enemy isn't just not our friend but is probably a bughouse crawling with vicious factional hatred and political dysfunction. A handful of damaged Flankers won't make the Syrian rebels any less rabid, the Islamic State any less gonzo, or the hatred between the first two and the Kurds any less toxic. The vicious civil war will roll on.
A fat paycheck for our defense contractors? Check. At about $1.5m a shot 59 Tomahawks set the Navy back about 88 million bucks. This, of course, isn't an actual loss-leader but a promissary note to Raytheon-McDonnell-Douglas for 59 new units.
Just a fiscal note: the 2017 budget request for the National Endowment for the Arts was about $149 million. It's kind of nifty that although the current Administration has publicly stated that it intends to zero out that budget that it's willing to throw down about 60% of the expense for an equally useless piece of political theater.
A big happy piece of domestic dick-waving? Check, and double check! The real value of this stunt appears to be that it has convinced the media outlets that His Fraudulency is "presidential", since nothing says "Chief Executive" like blowing dusky savages up, and has excited the sorts of voters whose fourth-grade "understanding" of the Syrian Civil War is limited to imagining the place as some sort of dytopian Agrabah populated by various species of "headchoppers".
What's really sad is how little this nonsense depends on the juvenile personality of the current President. From Obama's droney pursuit of Afridis where they run to Dubya's Mess-o-potamia to Clinton's Operation Desert Fox to what seems like every administration back to Eisenhower defenstrating Mossadegh and storming ashore in Lebanon...it just seems like this crap is what the U.S. does, and particularly in the Middle East.
If I thought that the Orange Napoleon had some sort of "strategy" in mind...yeah, I know. Who are we kidding?
The real bottom line, though, is that there really IS no "strategy" short of Full Roman that would "work" in Syria, even if His Fraudulency's crew could find one without both hands and a flashlight. Assad with sarin is only a degree more loathsome than Assad without sarin. The rebels are largely takfiri bugnuts. They all hate each other and the vicious civil war has poisoned whatever well of goodwill existed before the kiling began.
In other words, there's less chance of a random one-off bombing raid on Syrian government forces helping lead to a stable, peaceful, non-dictatorial Syria than I have of being elected Dragon King of Bhutan, and we've already been over the likelihood of that before.