Which brings me to the Syrian missile strike. It too did little damage to the Syrian military, but as the Doolittle Raid suggests, even inconsequential military actions can have symbolic importance. Is that true of the Syrian attack as well? Michel Paradis makes the persuasive case to the contrary in the Weekly Standard:
he Doolittle Raid was a publicity stunt whose tactical significance was infinitesimal relative to its cost. But it was nevertheless one of the most consequential military actions of the entire war. And if we consider why, the lessons are illuminating. The raid defied expectations about U.S. military capabilities. It left the Japanese uncertain about the U.S. future intentions. And—most crucially—it debunked the governing myth upon which Japan's ruling militarists depended for their own legitimacy: that the Japanese would always be safe inside Japan.These criteria are helpful in assessing the possible effects of military strikes that may seem purely symbolic, like the one on Shayrat Airbase. On the one hand, the fact that the Trump administration was willing to reverse the president's long-touted intention to cede Syria to Assad and Russia, regardless of the consequences, has undeniably provoked a reassessment of U.S. intentions. Was it a one-off strike for the television cameras? Or does it portend greater U.S. involvement? The uncertainty itself can be unsettling to adversaries.On the other hand, nothing about the strike exceeded standard expectations of the United States' war-fighting capabilities. More Tomahawk missiles were fired, for example, on the rudimentary training camps in Afghanistan that President Bill Clinton targeted in retaliation for al Qaeda's 1998 Embassy bombings. If anything, the Shayrat strike confirmed the unfair, but widely held, conventional wisdom that the United States is only willing to fight from a safe distance.
Read it all here. You can find more on the Doolittle Raid here.More troubling is how the Shayrat strike might bolster, rather than undermine, the governing myth that has been essential to the Assad regime's political legitimacy for nearly half a century. Where Japan's militarists depended upon a perception of invulnerability, the Assad family depends on quite another governing myth.. . .Assad's governing myth is based on resilience, not invulnerability. He and his family can weather anything; even an attack by the most powerful military on earth. And by launching his squadrons from Shayrat Airbase the very next day, Assad himself sent an unmistakable message.