After the still entirely unproven chemical attack(s) of Assad troops versus the opposition forces/civilians, the USA seems to risk an open conflict and may even prepare a military intervention in Syria. At least media is mentioning this all the time.

What is the benefit the USA would contribute in such a scenario? It seems obvious, that Russia is against chemical weapon usage because of economic penalties from other countries. One could guess, that Assad is forced to follow Russias guideline not to use banned weapons, because he is entirely dependent this ally, but even if chemical weapons have been used (anyhow), there is currently no proof that Assad was using them.

Could it be that the NATO just escalates the situation to further weaken Russias economy?

Edit: I was right in my assumption that the USA escalates the conflict and prepared a military strike, therefore I vote to reopen the question, because the initial reason to put it on hold is not valid.

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    You might clarify who you mean by USA. Different groups have different reasons for supporting/protesting intervention in Syria. Do you mean run of the mill citizens? the mainstream media? The political class? – Jack Of All Trades 234 Apr 11 '18 at 13:16
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Sam I am says Reinstate Monica Apr 11 '18 at 19:15
  • Regarding the recent edit: The fact that the US pulled through with their threat changes nothing about this question. It still can not be answered from sources available to the public. – Philipp Apr 14 '18 at 18:16
  • @JackOfAllTrades234 We are not in media and celebrate "not my president". USA is represented by politicians and they approved a strike. Consequently, USA striked Syria. It is completely not important at all what citizins think. – user16984 Apr 14 '18 at 18:16
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    @gnasher729 Prove and likelyhood are two different things.. – user16984 Apr 15 '18 at 17:53

This was addressed on Russian Roulette podcast (from CSIS - Center for Strategic and International Studies) in episode #55 "Of U.S.-Russia Relations and What is to be Done". The episode was an interview with Matthew Rojansky, director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Unfortunately, the transcript isn't available, but the main point that their conclusion boiled down to was that both sides - Russia and US - operate in an environment of "a little knowledge" (as in "... a dangerous thing") - they know some things about the other side but don't really understand the core (but, think that they know enough).

Specifically, from the US side,

  • Many in the Washington power elite are still in the circa 1991 mindset, seeing Russia as weak and indecisive state with no capability. They treat Syria as just another Kosovo.

  • They don't understand the strategic thinking inside the Kremlin. They may know Russian capabilities, but not the reasoning behind when those capabilities would or would not be used.

As far as "benefit the USA would contribute in such a scenario":

  1. Domestic benefit.

    Trump thinks it will make him look good and have a usual domestic political dividend of "A short and victorious war against a dictator". Thing is, he's not wrong. Worked for Clinton, in a way worked for Bush Sr., worked for Obama in Libya.

    Especially for Trump Vs. Syria, you're hitting two birds with one stone: (a) you appease generally-anti-Shia-axis right wing hawks - especially as this also plays against Iran; (b) you appease anyone who doesn't like chemical weapons used against civilians across the spectrum on humanitarian angle.

    Plus, like with Clinton, Kosovo, and his cigars, this will (hopefully, from the administrations view) have the added benefit of distracting from domestic Trump trouble story du jour.

    I kind of implied this in the above points, but just to spell it out: a large portion of US domestic audience generally expects a strong response to someone gassing civilians. Executing that response helps, avoiding it, hurts.

  2. Foreign benefit.

    • First of all, you prove US strength. Like "we are still around with the proverbial Teddy Roosevelt's Big Stick". This is double extra important since US is not perceived as willing to back up its power with kinetic action after isolationist stance of both Obama and Trump (the latter declaring he will withdraw US forces from Syria).

    • It appeases NATO allies, who Trump administration has strained relations with.

    • It will damage Iran - a big priority with current US administration

    • It will damage Russia's interests, who support Assad.

  3. Moral/ethical benefits

    OK, I'm personally pretty convinced that this isn't the main reason governments do things. But, if we gag the inner cynic in me, it bears noting that there's a moral/ethical reason to attack someone who gasses civilians, in certain ethical frameworks (where for example, chemical weapons are qualitatively different than other modes of attacking civilians).

  • Any perceived domestic benefit that you list would be dwarfed by the negative reaction from his supporters. He said he'd keep us out of wars unless absolutely necessary. Attacking Syria rates about 0.5 out of 100 on the absolutely necessary scale. It rates even less than 0.5 when you consider that the vast majority of Trump supporters don't believe Assad was behind the attack. The timing was too convenient for those who stand to lose if the USA pulls out of Syria. Assad had absolutely nothing to gain from the attack. – Dunk Apr 11 '18 at 20:31
  • Quick note, but I believe you're looking for the word "appease", not "applease." – C. Helling Apr 11 '18 at 21:47
  • I think that's an interesting perspective, not necessarily correct though. Libya worked out poorly or Obama. It didn't give him a bump at all. Also, the US isn't threatening Russia, they're threatening Syria, though there's a war of words with Russia. You also completely overlooked intolerable behavior. While what is intolerable might vary depending a lot on the location on a map, Syria has clearly pushed several intolerable behavior buttons. That kind of action warrants a response. That goes beyond your so called "partial understanding". We see this very differently. – userLTK Apr 12 '18 at 6:44
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    @userLTK - "warrants" - considering Obama didn't respond before, that's very arguably not an accurate assessment as far as real US policy goes. But I did edit it in, for completeness, both from domestic politics as well as larger moral angel. – user4012 Apr 12 '18 at 14:47

The question in your post didn't come off as good English, so I will address the title Why the USA want to risk a conflict with Russia. Nobody can be absolutely certain why the USA would risk this conflict, assuming its threats are legitimate. Possible explanations:

  1. The US has made many anti-Assad statements. At some point, you have to do something or else you look weak. The US is now saying that Assad is behind this attack. If they don't strike, how does that look given what they're claiming?

  2. Some negotiation tactic that we don't understand nor is obvious. It's possible that the missile strike is only a threat and won't be followed through to send a message hoping to bring negotiation. Based on the UN resolution (no resolution due to insufficient support), this seems unlikely, but is still possible. Also, with Israel's strike and Russia doing nothing, the US may think Russia will do nothing with a US strike.

  3. With the Bolton addition, it may be that Iran is the ultimate target. A conflict with Syria may drag in Iran. It may not. But rumors in DC swirl that there's a pivot to Iran, meaning that North Korea may not be a target anymore.

  4. The US may want to weaken the economic situation with players in the Middle East and Russia. This theory comes from a retired Chinese general and you can see his view on the Crimea conflict:

Thus, a “color revolution,” took place, which the Ukrainians themselves appeared to have led. The U.S. achieved its goal unexpectedly: Russian President Putin took over Crimea. Though the Americans did not plan it, it gave the Americans better reasons to pressure the EU and Japan to join the U.S. in sanctioning Russia, adding more pressure to the EU’s economy. Why did the Americans do this? People tend to analyze it from the geo-political angle, but rarely the capital angle. After the Ukraine crisis, statistics showed over US$1 trillion in capital left Europe. The U.S. got what it wanted: if it couldn’t get dollars out of China, it would get dollars out of Europe. However, the next step didn’t occur as the Americans planned. The capital out of Europe didn’t go to the U.S. Instead, it went to Hong Kong.

Is that true? Depends on who you ask. But some may see similar patterns with this conflict too.

  1. Russia is the target. Since many in the US believe that Russia interfered with the election and Syria is a base for Russia, attacking Syria weakens Russia and sets the stage for ending Russia. People will get angry with this possibility that I'm accusing Russia of hacking the election, but it's not about what any of us think, but the perception. Between the spy incident and the election, if people believe Russia was behind these, that's enough precedent for an eventual conflict. And immediate and direct war would be too costly: start with allies and weaken Russia by eliminating bases and allies.

The US has already fired missiles at Syria and Russia did nothing. Russia may not be able to follow through on its threats, like the US may not be able to.

  1. It supports Israel. Israel doesn't like Assad and ending Assad, even if it risks conflict with Russia, helps an ally. Of the possibilities, this makes the least sense in that it could create a much bigger conflict. Still, Israel's strike against Syria calls into question whether Russia will do anything. Israel struck Syria. What did Russia do to Israel? Nothing. Israel scored, Syria and Russia lost that round.
  • " Israel doesn't like Assad " - that's... naive to the extreme. Israel may not like Assad in theory, but Israel hates and fears whatever will replace Assad - some version of post-Quaddaffy Libya with possible Shia domination - much much more – user4012 Apr 11 '18 at 21:00
  • "What did Russia do to Israel" - how about "criticized it openly for anti-terror tactic that Russia itself uses all the time". They didn't have to do it but chose to do so. – user4012 Apr 11 '18 at 21:01
  • @user4012 I'm inclined to agree with you, but Israel did strike Syria. Logically, they should be careful about wishing to overthrow Assad as something worse may takeover. We'll see what Israel continues to do. News is saying Putin and Netanyahu are talking, so they may work together on something. To be fair to both countries, they have avoided unnecessary conflict in the past. No reason to start now, unless someone loses it. – KriyanshAurik Apr 11 '18 at 22:22
  • they very specifically aimed strikes at Iranians. Not at Assad. That way Assad doesn't have to escalate – user4012 Apr 11 '18 at 23:21