Trump’s Missiles Against The Syrian Government Are Loaded With Meaning

And it’s not, “Let’s start a war.”

As news spreads around the world that President Trump ordered the launch of 59 missiles to an airfield in Syria, you are likely feeling horror, fear, uncertainty and, perhaps, some confusion about the Trump administration’s weapon of choice: the Tomahawk missile.

The United States has an arsenal of some of the most powerful, most stealth, and most technologically advanced methods of warfare in the world. But there’s a reason why Trump, who’s bragged about his desire to upgrade our military, selected this older warhead that was mainly developed and deployed more than 25 years ago during the Gulf War in 1991. It turns out this particular missile sends a global message that’s more complicated than we might realize and it’s worth taking a moment to decode.

Yes, this is all still unfolding, but there are two key reasons why he was likely advised to green light the Tomahawk. Those two reasons are potentially important to those of us who are largely against mass weaponry and haven’t exactly been keeping up on advanced military technology.

We already know the why: for one of the worst chemical attacks since the Syrian war began happened on April 4, and the scores of innocent lives lost—and mass suffering of civilians—were unspeakably atrocious.

Now let’s dig into the how, and what the Tomahawk’s use potentially means:

The target area identified for the missile launch was an airfield, with Syrian military airplanes the “softest of soft” targets for a missile, according to a defense analyst in an interview with The Washington Post. Tomahawks have a less explosive reach than a larger bomb, with “cluster munitions” that destroy vehicles and aircraft. Tomahawks are also unmanned, with a 1,000-mile reach when launched from the secure area of a Navy ship. The tactical upshot of selecting the Tomahawk? No American lives were risked, while the scope of destruction (apparently) was intentionally contained to Syrian military property.

The second reason is more nuanced (that is, if a giant-ass smart bomb can be nuanced). The Tomahawk is a 20th century old school warhead, globally recognized as a weapon used for “clarity” —not obliteration. For some reason, spending billions to launch these particular 20-foot-long missiles from an airship is a very dark, very expensive, and very destructive version of taking someone to the woodshed. As Ben FitzGerald, an adjunct fellow with the Center for a New American Security, told Defense One in a 2013 interview:

“Using newer technology in this situation leaves opportunity for misinterpretation. If we executed a cyber-strike would the Syrians and the international community understand what we meant? It could be seen as a less serious deterrent than a kinetic attack. The messaging associated with more traditional weapons, like Tomahawks, is less ambiguous. They’ve been used before and precedents have been set. Clarity and certainty is more important than sophistication.”

Note this interview is from 2013, when the Obama administration considered nearly the exact same strategy to put an end to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons, nearly four years ago. Of course back then, pre-President Trump had all the answers and was advising Obama from his Twitter throne.

But the message, according to Obama’s advisors back then, is the same as it is for Trump now: There are ways to signal severe consequences to using chemical warfare–without suggesting the initiation of a war.

Should that make anyone feel better about a bunch of missiles flying into the most volatile parts of the world, dispatched by one of the most volatile presidents in history? Hell no. Should we strive for peace and stop this insanity? Yes. But understanding what the intent was behind this giant act of violence, may help inform this precarious moment in a complicated world.

Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less