1 The bombing was for domestic consumption. According to The New York Times, “The Pentagon informed Russian military officials, through its established deconfliction channel, of the strike before the launching of the missiles, the official said, with American officials knowing when they did that Russian authorities may well have alerted the Assad regime.” In other words, the object of Trump’s Tomahawks was not Syria’s capacity to deploy gas, but domestic liberal opponents who base their resistance to Trump entirely on the premise that he is anti-American because he is too close to Putin, and that he is a traitor to a bipartisan policy of humanitarian military interventionism. He bombs, drones, and kills, but he doesn’t do it, as his predecessors did, in the name of humanity. Until yesterday.
2 Trump hit his targets, and the resistance—at least, composed of an alliance with liberal hawks baying for a new war and criticizing Trump for not giving it them—has been gravely damaged. Early reports indicated that most of the Democratic leadership has announced that it supports his actions. New York Senator Charles Schumer said it is “the right thing to do.” John McCain and Lindsey Graham, held up by the press as Trump’s main Republican critics, jointly said: “Building on tonight’s credible first step, we must finally learn the lessons of history and ensure that tactical success leads to strategic progress.” Adam Schiff, ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee and a #resistance darling, went on MSNBC to say he supported the bombing and that he would press Congress to authorize more of it. With the sole exception of Chris Hayes, MSNBC turned into something like a Patriots Day Parade, with one guest after another crediting Trump for his decisiveness. Needless to say, CNN is worse. Josh Rogin of The Washington Post reminded his Twitter followers that Trump’s bombing brings him into the mainstream: “Former senior U.S. intelligence official: This is almost exactly the strike plan Obama readied in 2013.” Indeed, just the day before, Hillary Clinton had called on Trump to “take out” Assad’s air force. NYT columnist Nick Kristof said Trump “did the right thing.” A “proportional response,” Nancy Pelosi said.
3 The bombing reveals that there are no limits to the media’s ability to be awed, if not shocked, by manufactured displays of techno-omnipotence. Just as it did in the 1991 Gulf War, the Pentagon passed footage of its nighttime missile launches to the networks. And just as what happened then—when, CBS’s Charles Osgood called the bombing of Iraq “a marvel” and Jim Stewart described it as “two days of almost picture-perfect assaults”—today MSNBC’s Brian Williams called the Tomahawk takeoff “beautiful.” In fact, he described it as “beautiful” three times: “‘They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield,’ he added, then asked his guest, ‘What did they hit?’” Why, don’t you know, they hit their target: Williams and his colleagues’ ability to have a critical thought.