In a comment piece in The Guardian, Moustafa Bayoumi convincingly labels Trump’s retaliation attack ‘senseless’ and questions Trump’s motivations. Seen from a Syrian war perspective the action is indeed puzzling and Bayoumi is right to say that it is likely to accomplish nothing. I would argue that while senseless for Syria and Syrian civilians, the attack makes a lot of sense domestically. What Trump wants to accomplish has nothing or only as a sideshow to do with Syria – this is why he bombed an emptied airfield and alerted the Russians (and through them the Syrian forces) beforehand – instead it makes a lot of sense domestically and in relation to the ongoing investigation into his and his team’s dealings with Russia.
The point of the strike is to tell his own supporters who loves weapons and understand the language of bombs that we is not soft on Russia, as the Democrats are ‘unfairly’ saying. Russia’s official response is just part of the same script, ‘yes, indeed, we are not friend of Trump’.
We had (suspected) chemical attacks before. Thousands of people have died, including countless children before the latest attack, and millions of people were forced to leave Syria, and now are we supposed to believe that Donald Trump – the same person that wanted a ban on refugees and Syrians in particular as his first political statement as president – suddenly has found some humanity in his emoticons repertoire and really care about Syrian civilians? Honestly?