Gen. H.R. McMaster on April 9: “What’s significant about the [US missile] strike is not that it was meant to take out the Syrian regime’s capacity or ability to commit mass murder of its own people, but it was to be a very strong signal to Assad and his sponsors that the US cannot stand idly by as he is murdering innocent civilians.” So the Syria “policy” is that only if Assad uses chemical weapons again will the US strike again. Otherwise, the US will not seek his overthrow, will not seek to degrade his military power, and will “stand idly by” while his (and Russia’s) forces “murder innocent civilians.”
By the way, I think this same confusion of policy and signalling applies to North Korea: sending the navy into Korean waters is hardly likely to deter Kim Jong-un from continuing his nuclear and missile buildup, but it certainly frightens folks in South Korea. Officials in China and South Korea are reported to be pushing for additional UN sanctions if the North carries out a sixth nuclear test–a small and fairly useless step, but one perhaps designed to keep the Americans from doing something stupid, such as a “proportional” strike on a military facility in North Korea.