The Atlantic

Neither Precise Nor Proportionate

Trump’s attack on Syria was unserious but intended to relieve emotional pressure—and in many ways, worse than doing nothing at all.
Source: Omar Sanadiki / Reuters

“Precise and proportionate” is how Secretary of Defense James Mattis described the recent shower of missiles that fell on three targets in Syria. Precise, possibly, although anyone who has dealt with them knows that smart weapons often do dumb things. But proportionate? On that one we should trust the words of poets, not generals:

Avenge! No such revenge—revenge for
the blood of a little child—has yet been
devised by Satan.

Thus wrote Chaim Nahman Bialik after the Kishinev massacre of 1905. Proportionality, in this case, would require asphyxiating Bashar al-Assad’s children slowly with chlorine gas, and making sure that the world knows about it. We do not do such things.

What did we do, instead? “We believe that by

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