Last night the US Department of Defense put out this statement through Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis:
At the direction of the president, U.S. forces conducted a cruise missile strike against a Syrian Air Force airfield today at about 8:40 p.m. EDT (4:40 a.m., April 7, in Syria). The strike targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs governorate, and were in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun, which killed and injured hundreds of innocent Syrian people, including women and children.
The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars. As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict. Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.
The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.
We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.
We applaud President Trump for keeping his word that he would act after the gassing of civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, and for acting decisively and effectively.
The strike sends a message to Russia, Iran, and North Korea that this president does what he says he will do, and he is willing to use the military might of the US against aggressors.
But questions arise:
The libertarian view is that the US should not have struck Syria because the US itself was not attacked. Is there merit in this view?
It needs to be asked: if Bashar Assad is deposed – as Secretary of State Tillerson has indicated is now a policy aim of the Trump administration- what will come after him? Is there anyone ready to succeed Assad who will govern the country any better?
Will chaos and violence prevail in Syria after Assad has gone, as it has in Libya ever since the death of its dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi?
Could any country possibly be in a worse, a more unstable, a more chaotic state, than Syria is now and has been for years?
Will Assad’s going make it easier for ISIS to take over the whole country?
If ISIS did that, would President Trump – with the necessary approval of Congress – declare war on Syria?
What will happen to the Christians in Syria who have been protected by Assad if he goes? ISIS policy is to convert or enslave or destroy them.
We invite readers’ answers to these questions, or any others which this dramatic turn in world affairs gives rise to.