Let's get one thing out of the way with first. The attack on Khan Sheikhoun in which at least 80 people were killed did happen. It's not some fakery cooked up by the bureau for dirty tricks at the State Department (which, under Trump, barely has budget enough for staples let alone elaborate ruses). Just because it might be convenient as it directs the media spotlight away from Trump and his troubles doesn't mean it must be a US conspiracy. If you look at any Western government during the last seven years and the difficulties besetting them, the distraction of air and missile strikes has and always will appear to be convenient. Nor is it a hoax perpetuated on the ground by rebel factions, most of which are now little more than ragtag and bobtail outfits with Kalashnikovs. The mode of delivery and the multiple sources for the story point to its being true. So let's knock the conspiracy theorising on the head now.
The key question in time like these is how to enforce "accountability". We know that the White House and 10 Downing Street are compromised as enforcers of international law. That no one has been sacked, let alone charged for supplying weapons to Israel and Saudi Arabia as the former engages in chemical attacks of its own and the other presides over famine in Yemen is disgusting. How governments with great ugly question marks hanging over their repeat and unaccounted-for interventions in the Middle East are expected to apply the law always cruises under the radar of sundry Officially Concerned politicians and pundits. This matters because why it might not concern the people who matter here, hypocritical rhetoric and action certainly does matter to those who live there. Worried about winning hearts and minds? A dose of introspection would be most welcome.
Even if we put that out of our minds, we have to consider whether Trump's missile strikes are the means for enforcing the chemical weapons "red line". If he was genuinely moved by this outrage and wanted to help, then why not rescind his ridiculous attempts to enforce a travel ban? If this was about degrading the capacity of the Syrian air force, then why does the Shayrat airfield runway remain undamaged? And, while it might have been essential to notify Putin to get Russian personnel out of dodge (who after all wants a wider war?), it's naive to assume that the courtesy call's information wasn't passed on to the regime, which was then able to quickly shift some of its assets. The regime says nine people were killed, but these were civilians hit by missiles that fell short of the target or went awry - though these claims come with the necessary caveats. What then was the purpose of this escapade? A punishment that has done nothing to curb the military capacity of the Assad air force, but put on a show of liberal interventionism that has won Trump new friends. It's almost as if the response to Thursday's outrage was contrived this way. And it's reasonable to conclude that Assad and Putin are of like mind.
Meanwhile, the bloody grind and morass that Syria has become carries on. "Doing something", which is how this is being justified, should not be an excuse for doing anything.