Contrary to popular belief, the real point of war is not to destroy your enemies or raze their lands. It is, rather, to persuade them that you are in control, that one government’s rule is illegitimate and powerless while another’s is rightful and effective. It is only when a population acquiesces to one side or another that a war may be said to be over. Thus, war and propaganda are essentially inseparable. War itself is propaganda.
Seen in this light, the real purpose of “limited strikes” and “proportional response” becomes clear. The intent is not to end one government or even substantially hinder its military capability; rather, it is a means of persuading various parties of your authority. In the case of the recent missile strikes on targets in Syria, it seems likely that they will sway nearly no one within that country, and Assad’s jaunty walk to work the next day is perfectly in keeping. Who, then, are these strikes meant to persuade?
The answer is perfectly obvious: The real target is the American people. The strikes were done for the express purpose of convincing us that the current government, and especially the President, possess real power and the moral authority to wield it. It’s classic sleight-of-hand: The magician draws your attention to a bright handkerchief with one hand while relieving you of your valuables with the other. Don’t be deceived. Don’t look away.