In 2012, then-President Barack Obama admonished the Syrians that any use of chemical weapons would be crossing a “red line” that would prompt U.S. military action. In 2013, the Syrians crossed that red line but later agreed, it had seemed, to destroy their stocks of nerve gas. The sarin attack on 4 April showed that President Bashar al-Assad’s government had lied, so the USS Ross (DDG-71) and USS Porter (DDG-78) fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield from which the nerve gas attack against Syrian civilians had been mounted. The U.S. Tomahawk strike showed the Trump administration would take the red line seriously. By extension, the new administration demonstrated to others, such as the North Koreans, that it was more willing to take military action than its predecessor. The strike illustrated the strengths and weaknesses of cruise missiles, which have come to be a weapon of choice for the United States.
World Naval Developments—Tomahawks Did Their Job
By Norman Friedman