Of greatest concern to some are possibilities of collateral damage, especially civilian casualties. Although Syria is known to have amassed large amounts of deadly chemicals, Tomahawk strikes would not go directly to facilities that house the chemicals. Instead, they are more likely to target delivery systems and command centers due to high risk involved in hitting the chemicals themselves.
“The administration has said they’re not going to hit chemical stockpiles so that chemicals don’t get released into the atmosphere,” Eisenstadt said. “There are too many ifs involved with that. The variables include things like wind speed, atmospheric conditions and whether the building you hit falls in on itself. Also unknown is whether the chemicals are stored in the basement or on top floors above ground.”
As for the danger of civilian deaths, that is another unknown. In the past some missions failed, causing the missile to crash short of its target. That increases the chance of civilian hits. Then there is the possibility of Syria using human shields.
As with any mission, timing is critical. “The bottom line is that we have been telegraphing our intention to bomb Syria, and they have had time to disperse and evacuate various targets we would be likely to hit,” Eisenstadt said.
"If we don’t have the right intelligence, we could be hitting empty buildings. Smart weapons become dumb weapons when you don’t have accurate intelligence.”
Even though the available missiles and technology have limitations, a strike seems imminent to many observers. With Syria suspected of killing more than 1,400 of its own citizens with chemical weapons, Secretary of State John Kerry offered his perspective on a U.S. military response late last week: “Some cite the risk of doing things. We have to ask what is the risk of doing nothing.”