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Sweet: Syria strike draws praise — but what does Trump do now?

President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria in retaliation for this week's gruesome chemical weapons attack against civilians. | Alex Brandon/Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Will President Donald Trump’s order to strike Syria in the wake of a chemical weapons attack against civilians lead to a conflict with Russia or its proxies?

Is Trump putting the U.S. on a path toward another Iraq and Afghanistan?

Trump took pride in his flexibility over Syria, changing his views on the spot after he saw pictures of victims of the chemical weapons attacks that took place last Tuesday.

Trump campaigned on getting the U.S. out of the Mideast, banning Syrian refugees and boasting that he can improve relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s way too early to tell if the 59 missiles hitting a Syrian airfield could lead to the end of the civil war raging for years in Syria, halt the use of chemical weapons or oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is propped up by Russia and Iran.

The missiles, launched from the Navy destroyers USS Ross and the USS Porter in the Mediterranean Sea, exposed the U.S. troops to little danger. That’s this time, for now.

On Friday, as the partisan divide was at its deepest in the Senate — the Republican majority changed the rules to strip Democrats of their ability to deny Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation – Democrats on the whole still backed Trump’s missile strikes, albeit with reservations.

My emails are full of reactions from lawmakers, but the members of Congress who have been in a war are the ones whose views are uniquely informed. That’s the case with Sen. Tammy Duckworth D-Ill., the Iraq war vet who lost her legs when her helicopter was shot down.

Duckworth usually has little use for Trump. Still, she backed his missile strikes as showing that the “unacceptable and illegal use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians will not go unanswered by the United States of America,” Duckworth said in a statement.

With “heightened tensions between our nation and adversaries like Russia and Iran” Duckworth raises a series of what she called “fundamental questions.”

“What was the legal justification for last night’s strike? Is our goal to prevent future war crimes against the Syrian people or to remove Assad from power? What should our military and political strategy to achieve that goal be? What are the true costs of that strategy — in both dollars as well as human lives? And finally, are the American people as well as our allies prepared to support our efforts if things go wrong?

“Because in war, they always do,” said Duckworth, who knows this firsthand.

Will the missile strike lead to Trump reconsidering his ban on the U.S. taking in Syrian refugees, now that he knows more about the realities that compelled Syrians to leave their homeland?

My guess is it won’t.

He’s now set the U.S. on a course that is complicated by the competing U.S./Russia interest in stopping ISIS and the raging domestic issue of whether Putin’s Russia meddled in the presidential election.

One of the lingering debates is why, during World War II, the Allies did not bomb the German concentration camps.

In a United States Holocaust Memorial Museum article titled, “The United States and the Holocaust: Why Auschwitz was not Bombed,” it’s noted that in the “subsequent decades, the Allied decision not to bomb the gas chambers in or the rail lines leading to Auschwitz-Birkenau has been a source of sometimes bitter debate.

“Proponents of bombing continue to argue that such an action, while it might have killed some prisoners, could have slowed the killing operations and perhaps ultimately saved lives.”

The matter of stopping mass atrocities as they occur is always the hard question. The world has been grappling with this since the Holocaust.

At a Wednesday press conference Trump hosted at the White House with Jordan King Abdullah, Trump was asked if he felt a responsibility to respond to the chemical attack in Syria.

Said Trump, in a remarkable leap from candidate to president: “I now have responsibility, and I will have that responsibility.”