The White House took roughly a week to retaliate against the Syrian regime for a gas attack on a rebel-held city as Trump was distracted by the FBI’s raid on the home, hotel and office of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the ongoing negotiations over Nafta and his burgeoning war against Amazon.
While Trump alienated much of his noninterventionist base by ordering the strikes, it also appears that the president somehow resisted the temptation to go full neocon – opting instead for the most mild, and least costly, of the alternatives presented to him by Defense Secretary James Mattis, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The decision “marked the first substantive test of the group now that John Bolton is serving as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser,” per WSJ.
After days of tense White House meetings, the president and his advisers agreed on one of the most restrained of the military-strike options crafted by the Pentagon: a powerful missile attack aimed at three targets meant to hobble the Syrian regime’s ability to use chemical weapons and deter President Bashar al-Assad from using them again.
While world leaders across the West applauded the strikes (even when they had declined to participate, as Italy and Germany did), the Syrian military said its air defenses had intercepted 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched during the coalition assault.
Ultimately, Trump decided on the most conservative option for a strike against three buildings that comprised what Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie described as “the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons program.”
The weapons presented to the president included the following:
The most conservative option would have hit a narrow set of targets related to Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities.
The second option proposed strikes on a broader set of Syrian regime targets, including suspected chemical-weapons research facilities and military command centers.
The most expansive proposal, which might have included strikes on Russian air defenses in Syria, was designed to cripple the regime’s military capabilities without touching Mr. Assad’s political machinery.
The most ambitious of the proposals was three times the size of the one eventually carried out by U.S., British and French forces.
Eventually, Trump approved a hybrid plan that constituted a melding of the first two options: modest missile strikes that targeted what are believed to be the country’s chemical weapons manufacturing facilities.
Trump pressed his team to also consider strikes on Russian and Iranian targets in Syria if necessary following …read more