After the April 13 attack on Syrian chemical facilities, the leaders of the United States, France, and Britain—who jointly conducted the strike—expressed satisfaction at the outcome.But was this really a “mission accomplished”? The attack itself was quite limited, and an analysis of other paths not taken indicates that better options—to accomplish the intended goal of preventing the further use of chemical weapons, as well as sending a stronger message—were likely available. Did the strike achieve its goals? The attack itself was quite restrained: The Western leaders sought to do something that yielded no Russian or Iranian casualties and no Syrian civilian casualties, and that did not include targets that might escalate the already complex situation (e.g. by drawing Russia in). So the targets selected were only chemical facilities, mostly empty of personnel—and possibly of regime equipment and chemical weapons, too, since the regime had almost a week to prepare for the well-advertised attack. The tightly circumscribed Western approach carried a very troubling subtext. International norms have evolved in the 21st century such that using chemical weapons is viewed as a heinous and morally reprehensible act. Does this mean that the regime has a green light to continue using conventional means against its own population? In the seven years since the start of the civil war, the death toll is close to half a million, and most of those deaths were the result of conventional bombings.As our colleague Mara Karlin recently said to the Washington Post: “How horrific is it that we are particularly disturbed by one way of killing Syrian children but not the other?” Of course, none of the Western parties to the attack intended that kind of message. What matters is how it’s perceived, and both the Russians and Syrians are experts at reading in between the lines. Western powers showed prudence and risk aversion, explained their rationale cautiously to domestic audiences, and ultimately sent a weak message that above all emphasized Western reluctance to pay a price in order to help change dynamics in Syria. At a Pentagon briefing shortly after Mr Trump's announcement, General Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck: A scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs A chemical weapons equipment storage site and an important command post, also near Homs Reuters news agency cites a pro-Assad militia commander saying other locations were hit, including various sites close to Damascus: a military base in the Dimas area; army depots in the eastern Qalamoun;the Kiswah area, where Iran is believed to have been building a base; and a site in the Qasyoun hills, plus a research centre in Masyaf, further north. These reports are unverified. UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights suggested more targets than the three listed by the Pentagon had been hit. Russia said Syria had shot down 71 of 103 missiles fired. According to a Russian defence ministry statement, "preliminary information" said there had been no casualties among the Syrian army or civilians. There were initial reports that three civilians had been injured in Homs. US Secretary of Defence James Mattis told journalists there were no reports of US losses in the operation. He also said the scale of the strikes was about "double" what was launched in April 2017 after a chemical attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people. In his earlier address, President Trump had said: "We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents." But Secretary Mattis said that "right now, this is a one-time shot". Gen Dunford said the US had communicated with Russia ahead of the strikes through the normal procedures of their "deconfliction" hotline, which is used to prevent accidental clashes in a war zone with multiple international players. There had been concerns that if the US strike had hit Russian military personnel on the ground, it would further escalate tension. According to the UK Ministry of Defence, strikes carried out by four RAF Tornado jets hit one of the targets mentioned by the Pentagon - a military site near the city of Homs which is believed to have housed precursor materials for chemical weapons. Eight Storm Shadow cruise missiles were fired by the jets. Prime Minister Theresa May said there was "no practicable alternative to the use of force". But she also said the strikes were not about "regime change". She later added that while the assessment of the strikes' results was ongoing, she was confident of their success.