One Year Ago, Pundits Welcomed a Turning Point in Syria. They Were Wrong.
A year ago, 59 U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles hit Syria’s Sharyrat airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack perpetrated by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. This was supposed to usher in a new era of U.S. leadership in the Middle East. It didn’t.
From the moment the missiles flew, pundits and lawmakers across the political spectrum swooned at U.S. President Donald Trump’s decisiveness. They were giddy the United States was finally flexing its muscles after years of former President Barack Obama’s supposed fecklessness, and asserted that Trump would oversee a broader shift to a more vigorous U.S. military role in the Middle East. America’s regional partners, who had long wanted U.S. military action against Assad — and eventually, Iran — heaped praise on the new president. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for many when he said, “this message of resolve in the face of the Assad regime’s horrific actions will resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang, and elsewhere.”