Trump’s Syrian ‘War’ Was as Much of a Joke as His Presidency

Donald Trump wants to make a big deal out of his Tomahawk cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield the other day, what Joy Reid calls his “shiny new toy.” He tweeted with typical bombast,

This didn’t impress national security expert John Schindler any more than it did Reid. He tweeted back at Trump today:

The U.S. Navy fired 59 Tomahawk Land-Attack Missiles at that airfield, which as has been pointed out, is not the appropriate type of missile for the desired results. But hey, it made the Donald some money by using weapons made by a company in which he holds stock.

What happened next is open to debate. Damage was done. You can see that from the photographs. We also know the airfield was quickly – in less than 24 hours – returned to operational status. Gizmodo’s Matt Novak noted the variance of reports:

So either 23 or 58 of the 59 hit based on those two reports. The U.S. military, no surprise, claims 59 out of 59 hit the target. So let’s say all 59 hit. A Tomahawk cruise missile packs a 1,000-pound warhead. That’s 59,000 pounds of explosive.

As John Schindler says in another tweet, “59 TLAMs, diffidently targeted, are hardly war-changing.”

If you want to know how much explosive power it takes to get to “game-changing” levels, you better be able to count really high.

For example, we can go beyond D-Day or Peleliu or Inchon to July 18, 1917, when leading up to the Battle of Passchendaele, the British fired 4.5 million shells from 3,091 artillery pieces at the Germans over a period of fifteen days.

The result? Gains were measured in the thousands of yards. Casualties in the tens of thousands. And scenes like this were taking place all along the Western Front from 1914 to 1918.

The Western Allies thought they could bomb Germany into surrender in WWII, from the air, but dropping bombs from the air neither destroyed the German war economy nor destroyed Germany’s will to resist, despite estimates they could not last 18 months under incessant bombardment.

The USAF dropped 1,463,423 tons of bombs on Germany during the war; the RAF dropped another 1,307,117 tons of bombs.[1]

The U.S. dropped, just between January 1944 and August 1945, 157,000 tons of bombs on Japan killing some 333,000 people. Japan did not surrender until atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If you want something more recent, between 1965 and 1973, the U.S. dropped 2.5 Million Tons of Bombs on Laos alone, excluding bombs dropped on North Vietnam.

We lost that war.

In other words, short of an atomic bomb or two, you can’t bomb or shell enemies into defeat.

Trump’s 59 cruise missiles, while impressive on film, were a joke. As has been widely reported, it was a publicity stunt that achieved nothing of note. Schindler’s conclusion was inescapable:

Donald Trump bragged he was going to “bomb the hell” out of ISIS. If this is his idea of what is involved, he’s in for a long war. And he’s going to kill far more innocent people than enemies, which is pretty horrific when his stated reason for doing so is humanitarian.


[1] US Strategic Bombing Survey: Statistical Appendix to Overall report (European War) (Feb 1947) table 1