Veterans of Washington policymaking in the Middle East offered conditional praise for Mr. Trump’s restrained approach to the strike, if not necessarily his more bellicose rhetoric. In hitting three sites associated with Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities, limiting it to a single night and conducting it in conjunction with Britain and France, they said it sent a message while avoiding a deeper involvement and minimizing the risk of provoking Syria’s patrons, Russia and Iran, into retaliating themselves.
“However, I don’t think the strike clarifies U.S. policy,” said Meghan O’Sullivan, who oversaw the Iraq war as Mr. Bush’s deputy national security adviser. “In theory, there is not necessarily an inconsistency between a targeted, multilateral strike against chemical weapons sites and the withdrawal of troops that have been fighting ISIS. But the strike does really call into question the wisdom of pulling back American forces now in highlighting the question of what our objective really is in Syria.”
Others argued that the strike was a waste that accomplished little and, in the process, exceeded the president’s authority as commander in chief since he did not obtain authorization from Congress first. Critics said that if Mr. Trump was truly moved by humanitarian concern over the victims of last weekend’s attack, he should