In effect, the perceived need for further military action annulled Trump’s inclination to assess what the trillions already expended had accomplished. Control of US policy thereby passed from the president to the Pentagon. With retaliation now deemed mandatory, only the timing and scope of a US attack were up for discussion.
On that score, Defense Secretary James Mattis, a former four-star general, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, also a four-star general, knew exactly what they wanted: military action sufficient to satisfy demands that the United States “do something” while minimizing risks of that “something” producing unintended consequences. The generals had no ideas for how to win; but they adamantly opposed getting out.
As is so often the case with this president, the generals got their way. With the symbolic participation of French and British forces, American warships and long-range bombers flung a few dozen missiles at a grand total of three Syrian targets. In effect, the intent of the attack was to make a statement without making a difference.