If there is something to be expected from a military action against the Syrian regime, even one whose design appears to be so symbolic that only minimal direct damage to the regime will result, it is that there is an extreme range of “unforeseen consequences” that may result and one certain consequence.
While US action is being characterized as not aimed at “regime change” which is a shift after saying Assad had to “go” only a few months ago, clearly any military action is much more than a diplomatic “note” protesting the use of chemical weapons. It increasingly appears to be a “slap on the hand” with minimal consequences to the regime other than the insult of being struck militarily and possibly set back until the physical damage done can be repaired.
Targets discussed have ranged from the chemical weapons storage facilities themselves (quickly seen to be an extremely bad option in which success could do more damage than the regime has been able to do on its own), “command and control” centers which would to an undetermined extent reduce the regime’s military capabilities, at least temporarily, or aircraft and artillery that could carry chemical payloads in the future.
What is foreseen: Little is being said of the fact that, whatever messages of whatever “strength” are sent by acting on whatever targets are chosen, there is no chance that the Syrian regime (or its allies) will “take this lying down.”
We are putting the regime and its allies in our situation: we are crossing a “red line” recognized more universally than any right to act against chemical weapon use by acting militarily against them, not in self-defense but without any provocation on their part against us or our allies.
The regime, with the covert and possibly overt support of its allies, will respond against this. Nothing in its conduct to date suggests otherwise! Assad is cornered and too deeply wounded not to strike out to defend himself. His allies are likely to encourage him in this defense.
What is unforeseen is which of the many actors including the Syrian regime but not limited to it will respond in which places, times and by which means. Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan are places where the US is vulnerable to one or more of the regime’s allies. Of course, the “homeland” could also be vulnerable to some “super 9/11” if the forces are in place for it (and you are more confident than I if you’ve read much lately to make you think we are really “connecting the dots” about terrorist attacks on the US).
Syria’s allies have their own reasons for wishing us ill, they do not have to act against our interests only on the basis of some “mutual defense” treaty; what a US military operation against Syria can provide is the reason for striking us “defensively” without initiating an unprovoked action against us.