Trump’s gamble of the highest stakes

Into the hornet's nest, Trump wades, as he puts it marshalling America's "righteous power" against barbarism and brutality.

He will know, because his advisers will have told him, that bringing his nation's military might to bear in Syria is a gamble of the highest stakes.

And despite all the confusing, taunting tweets from the commander in chief over the past few days, Defence Secretary James Mattis and others will have finely balanced the risks and rewards.

It is true that strikes will ensure the use of chemical weapons is met with severe consequences, although whether that will prove a sufficient deterrent is another matter.

America also gets to project a position of strength during tumultuous times, something Trump has often said is important.

Add in to that the benefit of bonds forged with those nations that assist.

For all his bluster, the president likes to be liked and valued. He enjoys privileged relationships, and above all, loyalty from friends.

Arguably there's potential political gain here too.

The Russia probe, the James Comey book, and the FBI raid of his personal lawyer's office have infuriated Trump.

Striking Syria has the useful side effect of distracting the voting public from these things, as well as providing a solid example of the president standing up to his Russian counterpart.

But there is much more, potentially, to be lost.

If America and its allies go too far, or a mistake or miscalculation is made, Russia and America, two great world powers, could end up in direct military conflict with one another.

Others may be drawn into the quagmire – like Israel, and its mortal enemy Iran.

The prospect of this is plainly terrifying.

But there's real political risk too.

In 2016 Trump won over the war-weary heartland by raging against the poor decisions that sent middle America's sons and daughters into harms way.

Every time he intervenes like this, he exposes himself to pressure by appearing to turn away from what was essentially a promise of isolationism.

There is no suggestion of boots on the ground in Syria of course, but no one can guarantee that will remain the case.

And there have already been cries from Democrats that striking Syria, without approval from Congress, is illegal.

A number of foreign policy experts have written over the past year that the drums of war have been beating for some time.

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