Congressman Jim Cooper is doubtful that the missile strike on a Syrian air base Thursday night will have much affect, saying the barrage of Tomahawks were "little more than a pin prick."
"Syria has many military bases, and this is just more of a beginning of an effort than an end of an effort," the Nashville Democrat tells WPLN. "We tiptoe into these other struggles because it makes somebody feel good to push a button and have an explosion on TV. This is not the way to conduct military or foreign policy."
Cooper sits on the House Armed Services Committee and says he was "shocked and surprised" by the Trump Administration's attack without notifying Congress. Cooper calls the Authorization to Use Military Force "stale," saying — in his view — it does not apply to the current struggle with ISIS. The authorization was approved in 2001 and has been used to justify lethal attacks throughout the Middle East.
In defending his position against the Syrian strike, Cooper cites President Trump's own comments during the campaign, namely, that the U.S. had wasted trillions of dollars and created no peace in the Middle East.
"We have to be really careful as westerners before we go in there and make the problem worse. Now, I hope and pray that this limited missile attack will make the problem better, but we really don't know."
Cooper bucked his own party when President Obama floated the prospect of getting more involved in Syria by arming certain rebel groups. He suggests that at its core, this is a 1,400-year-old conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims. And Cooper argues that there is still no clear side to back.
"Unlike in Iraq, unlike in Afghanistan, there really isn't any sort of indigenous local force that we can trust and train and augment," he says.
Like most people in Congress, Cooper says he does not want U.S. troops on the ground in Syria. He says he doesn't see any scenario where they could be effective without a decades-long deployment to rebuild a dysfunctional nation.
Asked whether nothing should be done as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacks his own people, Cooper says the U.S. needs to do much more studying of the local dynamics.
But Cooper is hopeful Thursday's missile strike doesn't have to escalate into another war.
"This was such a limited attack, I don't think the train has left the station," he says. "President Trump is still making up his mind."