Donald Trump and his advisers cannot agree on a Syria policy

BASHAR AL-ASSAD’S chemical attack on the town of Douma on April 7th has been widely condemned. But punishing Syria’s dictator is simpler than devising a coherent Syria policy. If Donald Trump orders a limited bombing campaign on Mr Assad’s palaces and military assets, it will not alter the course of the Syrian war. Thanks to his Iranian and Russian protectors, nothing now can realistically prevent Mr Assad from, in some sense, winning.

A retaliatory strike might at least change Mr Assad’s calculus about the use of chemicals as a way to terrorise the resistance. If he concluded, belatedly, that the price he will pay for using banned weapons again has become too high, Mr Trump would be justified in taking some credit. But, in other ways, Mr Trump is sowing confusion about America’s aims in Syria and threatening to undermine both its interests and those of its regional allies.

In a speech supposedly about infrastructure investment on March 29th, the president declared: “We’re…

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