Before Donald Trump ordered the US Navy to send 59 tomahawk missiles swinging into the Shayrat Airfield, he let a few people know what was happening.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in an official statement: "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."
How far in advance did the Russians know shots were on the way? The BBC reports Russian vehicles left the base a day before the attack. Remember this Donald Trump?
That Donald Trump also gave Syrian forces plenty of time to clear out.
Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday's night raid on Syria's Shayrat airbase, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness to the strike.
If Russian sources can be trusted (and they can’t), Syrian losses from the strike amount to six aging MiG fighters and a radar system. Four members of the Syrian military are reported dead. Russian sources are also saying that the Russian military deactivated the S-300 and S-400 air defense systems to prevent any anti-missile fire on incoming US tomahawks. Those sources are also reporting that Russia will both bolster its defense in the area and make good on Syria’s losses.
Before the attack, Russia got advance warning. Syria got advance warning. Both of them pulled forces out of the area and Russia turned off missile defense so that the US could attack … concrete.
Was this anything but an $80 million fireworks show?
The narrative of Trump’s attack on Syria stinks from beginning to end. It depends on three equally silly ideas.
The idea that Donald Trump suddenly flipped in his thoughts about Syria because of a single attack by Bashar Assad is ridiculous. This is the guy who said he would tell Syrian children “to their face” to get back in that war zone and stay there. This is the guy who wrote off Aleppo when thousands of children were still in the city. Trump did not change his mind because of sad pictures.
The idea that this attack shows Trump is no longer great pals with Vladimir Putin is equally ridiculous. This attack was well coordinated with the Russians who turned off their anti-missile systems and waved him on. Asked about why they did so, the Russian leadership delivered a firm “no comment.” So long as Trump leaves Assad, or the next designated Russian puppet ruler, in place in Damascus, and he doesn’t scratch any Russian hardware, the leadership in Moscow is not breaking with Trump.
The idea that Trump has a magic plan to oust Assad is ridiculous. So long as Russia is sitting in Syria and they need Assad as their man in the Middle East, nothing will happen. If Russia points to another puppet ruler, then Assad may be booted. They may even help in making that transition if they decide Assad is a bigger weight around their necks than he’s worth. We’re not there yet.
Republicans blocked President Obama from taking any significant action in Syria, and the biggest reason he didn’t make a “throw some missiles at it” gesture like the one that Trump just carried out is because such actions are basically pointless. Unless the United States is willing to become involved deeply in Syria, including a long-term commitment to all that messy “nation building” and including a willingness to thwart Putin at a point that’s absolutely critical to Russia, it will continue to be pointless.
Right now we’re simply at a spot where Donald Trump has carefully avoided doing any real damage to either Putin or Assad in order to make a show of farce. Force. Whatever.
If Donald Trump wants to take serious action on Syria, there is something he could do right away—announce he will drop any effort to institute his travel ban, expedite the processing of refugees, and increase the caps on the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States. That’s an action he can take that will save lives and show that he has really been affected by those terrible images.