Damon Linker rebukes the pundits who equate American leadership with bombing sovereign countries:
But let’s start with absolute basics: Launching even one missile at another country is not, as we euphemistically like to presume, a “military action,” a “military operation,” or even a “humanitarian intervention.” It is an act of war. Full stop. That many countries in the world, including Syria, are far too weak to consider launching a retaliatory counter-attack against the United States for such a bombardment is utterly irrelevant. How would a more powerful country — China, for example — respond if we fired even one cruise missile at its territory? How, for that matter, would we respond if China fired just one at us?
The answer is patently obvious: We would respond furiously, and with complete justification, because it would be an act of war.
Linker doesn’t let the Obama administration off the hook in the slightest; he doesn’t go so far as to call Obama’s reluctance to topple dictatorships after aiming drone rockets across borders cynical and amoral, an act of preening, but I will. Whether Obama’s policy was morally superior to what Jeet Heer calls the Trump White House’s commitment to “impulse and whim” is a question too fraught to leave to the Brookings Institute.