Monday night’s out-of-nowhere statement from the White House, claiming a Syrian chemical weapon attack was imminent and promising to make Syria pay a heavy price must’ve been successful, Secretary of Defense James Mattis reasoned, since no chemical attack happened after all.

The White House statement claimed there were signs of preparation, offering no evidence that was really the case, then claiming it would kill “innocent children” and threatening retaliation. The statement was made with no discussion with either the State Department or Pentagon, puzzling many top officials as to what they thought they were doing.

Russia criticized the US over the threat, and Syria said they’d never had any intention of carrying out such an attack in the first place, which only adds to the questions about the White House drawing the conclusion that such an attack was coming, and rushing out a content-light statement on it.

Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley concurred, claiming Trump had “saved many innocent lives” with the statement, though again offering no details.

Either way, Mattis and Haley seem happy enough with the results. Most days go by in Syria with no chemical weapons attacks, of course, but on this rare occasion US officials seem to feel like they can take credit for that fact, despite another idle US threat clearly being wholly unrelated to the result.

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