Since the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials have been insistent that future US wars would have limited goals and well defined endgame strategies. That has been conspicuously absent with respect to Syria.
The “goals,” to the extent they’ve been presented to the public at all, seem to begin and end with lobbing a bunch of missiles at Syria and declaring it “punishment.” That’s where things get complicated.
Officials are insisting that the goal isn’t regime change in Syria, and seems to be going out of their way to downplay the idea of any endgame at all, suggesting that they’re going to just start blowing things up and then see where they stand.
Incredibly, the administration still insists it is supporting a political settlement on Syria, though they’ve postponed talks with Russia on getting those talks started since that might get in the way of attacking Syria.
Yet the rebels have refused to take part in the talks because they want to be unconditionally installed in power. Selling them on the idea of negotiation is going to be even harder if the US is engaged in a war-within-a-war with Syria, and there’s little reason for Russia to agree to work with the US on the talks after being spurned in favor of war.