It seems there were only 4 casualties in the US attack on Syria, and they are all military. This means that the attack was meant to be purely symbolic. The only thing that a symbolic attack can achieve is signal that this administration wants to continue the policy of the previous one, which can be resumed as “We’ll participate just enough to ensure that the conflict simmers forever.”
What Obama did was maintain several foci of conflicts around the world that were simmering yet never boiling towards a conclusion. There is a whole philosophy around this centered on the idea that a large-scale military conflict can be avoided if global steam is released through the smallish conflicts in places that nobody of any import cares about. This has very clearly been the philosophy that guided the US foreign policy under Obama. Now we are seeing that Trump hasn’t come with a new philosophy, not that anybody expected him to find advisers brilliant enough to do that.
As we discussed on this blog many times, the global capitalist economy is undergoing a profound change that is introducing a new form of statehood. Historically, such transformations are accompanied by a massive, long and painful war that devastates the participants. The “letting off steam” approach is an attempt to obviate this prospect that was designed back in the 1990s by White House experts and hasn’t been replaced by anything else since then.