CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria wondered on air Thursday night if the United States acted as "ISIS' air force" by launching more than 50 tomahawk missiles against a military airfield in Syria.
Zakaria's comment came just hours after the targeted strikes, which have been called a "proportional" retaliatory act in response to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launching a chemical attack against his own people earlier this week, killing dozens, including many children.
Zakaria appeared with CNN's Don Lemon to discuss the breaking news. While Zakaria recognized the brutal reality of the Assad's regime, he questioned whether the U.S. response was the right thing to do.
"Assad is a horrible dictator. What he did was ghastly," Zakaria said, referring to Tuesday's chemical attack, adding:
The fact that we can in some way show that, make him pay some kind of a price for it. It makes us all feel that the United States is in some sense affirming its role as a moral leader. But you know military strategist Samuel Huntington used to say, "Military force is not a good instrument of communication; it is an instrument of compellence." You have to have something you are trying to get the other side to do. A political strategy that you’re using the force for. What is our political strategy?
Zakaria noted that what is going on in Syria right now is "one of the most complex civil wars in the country." The civil war is between the Assad regime and Syrian rebels, some of whom are members of Islamic State and "a bunch of other jihadis," Zakaria pointed out.
"Are we now saying we’re against Assad? Do we want to strengthen ISIS? Do we want the Assad regime to fall? If so, are we willing to commit ourselves to that goal?" Zakaria asked. "What is the political strategy behind it? Are we now going to try and topple the Assad government? If so, that means tens of thousands of troops on the ground. If not, what exactly have we achieved?"
"There is a danger," Zakaria said, "that we effectively acted as ISIS’s air force. Because anything that weakens Assad — in a strategic sense in Syria — strengthens ISIS."
"Those are the two principle players on the ground," Zakaria said.