Conspiracy theory would have all of us common pawns equally uninformed and misinformed, but from different sources. Swear by Glenn Beck or Huffington Post, the New York Times or Washington Times, we are all just being distracted and entertained while the Davos Summit, the G-7, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Illuminati, Opus Dei, or the Martians actually direct world affairs. For the past year, I have been working for a military plans group. My experience is that nothing goes as planned. Why does software have bugs? You think someone is controlling the world? We should be so lucky... That said, given that computer programmers have user groups that set standards, it would be surprising if the people who own the bonds of nation states did not know each other socially.
As for Syria, my information sources include the US Naval Institute (private, open). While President Trump is said not to have communicated directly with President Putin, the US military in the Syrian theater did advise the Russian military in the Syrian theater ahead of the strike. It is called "Deconfliction." You tell your friends what you are up to so that no one gets hurt. (Also, the Russians suspended that deconfliction agreement because of the attack; so apparently, we are no longer friends.) (For a bit of humor on deconfliction, 2 mins and 22 secs on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g39xIewgGaM )
As for Dr. Bashar al-Assad, I believe that he is a prisoner in his own palace and the military runs the country. Read his biography. He was an ophthalmogist, a surgeon in a children's hospital in London. His brother was supposed to become the president of Syria, but he was killed in a car wreck. The father, Hafez al-Assad was an Alawite, not a Sunni or Shia Muslim. He modernized and liberalized the economy, which encurred the wrath of the Muslim Brotherhood. A Marxist, the senior al-Assad followed a known theory (refused by Lenin) that a feudal society must become capitalist before it can become socialist. That is why Hafez al-Assad opened up the economy of Syria to (nominal) free trade.
Mass media claims that this is the worst disaster since World War II
John Kerry quoted on CBS January 31, 2016 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/kerry-syria-conflict-the-worst-since-world-war-ii/
Al Jazeera last month here http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/03/syria-war-worst-man-disaster-world-war-ii-170315054907704.html
The Independent (UK) about the same time here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-civil-war-six-years-anniversary-bashar-al-assad-aleppo-manjid-siege-second-world-war-ii-a7631871.html
Note that a common phrase is "the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad." That was the impetus for protests in Damascus and Aleppo, the Syrian outburst of "Arab Spring." I believe that "Arab Spring" was not a spontaneous Facebook and Twitter uprising of westernized democrats, but was intended to destabilize the Arab-Islamic region. Who orchestrated it and why raises all the issues from my first paragraph above.
In any case, it was not the worst suffering since World War II. No one cares about Africa. The Second Congo War nominally ran from August 1998 to June 2003, but in fact is still on-going, as is much violence in Africa, much of it state-sponsored or carried out by those who want to be the state. So, the wars continue there while we wring our hands over something else. Second Congo War - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Congo_War
To answer Luke's question: nothing. We, the people of the United States, have no interest in any of those conflicts, not in the Middle East, not in Africa. President Washington's Farewell Address should be posted in every city hall in America.
"I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.
So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation.
Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world... "
(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 4/08, 9:41am)