‘Mission accomplished’? Not just yet, Mr. President

Donald Trump did what he needed to do when he ordered “precision strikes” against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

The White House has declared “mission accomplished” with regard to the strikes launched by U.S., French and British air power. It was an impressive allied effort to retaliate against Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians, including children.

The sight of those victims convulsing and heaving in the wake of the gas attack sickens the heart. It also points out that we are dealing in Syria with an animal disguised as a strongman.

To hear the Russians, Syrians and the Iranians deny that Assad gassed civilians is to defy credulity. Of course he did it. Assad has shown such propensity in the past.

The air strikes, though, have accomplished their mission, which was to destroy Syria’s ability to deliver chemical attacks. Reports from the field indicate that the air strikes — as deadly as they were — did not prevent a future gas attack.

Which brings me to a critical point. To claim “mission accomplished” requires proof that Assad has been rendered impotent militarily. That hasn’t happened.

We once heard a president of the United States, George W. Bush, issue a similar “mission accomplished” statement after our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. We captured the late Saddam Hussein, resulting in President Bush making that landing aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier, where he stood under the banner proclaiming that we had accomplished our mission. The war dragged on for years after Saddam’s capture and execution.

Trump cannot make such a declaration yet. The Joint Chiefs of Staff — at the president’s direction — have executed, in conjunction with our French and British allies, a strong response to Syria’s dictator.

Let us hope it doesn’t lead to a broader conflict or — and this is the worst case — open conflict with Russia and Iran.

A mission that is accomplished fully will render Bashar al Assad incapable of inflicting such misery ever again on helpless victims.

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