It has been over a year now since the United States began the bombing campaign against ISIS. Therefore, it must be asked: what has over 12 months of bombing gotten us?
The answer is as tragic as it is infuriating: not much.
In recent days, most of the Western world’s attention has been on the wave of people seeking to relocate from Syria to Europe. Debate has occurred over whether this is a genuine refugee crisis or a refugee crisis in name only, and what do about the situation. According to the United Nations, the ratio of refugees is almost exactly 50-50 male-female. However, according to the same UN agency, people being relocated to the Mediterranean have a men-women-children ratio of 72-13-15. Half of people who relocate to the Mediterranean are from Syria. Such varying ratios intensify the question of how many fighters loyal to ISIS are masquerading as refugees in order to infiltrate Western countries.
Step one to end, or at least improve, the situation should be simple: actually attack ISIS. You do not need to be a military expert to realize that 11 sorties per day is not going to defeat ISIS anytime soon. US pilots have voiced frustration about the rules of engagement limiting their ability to strike ISIS positions. It’s not as if there are too few potential targets: a Washington Free Beacon report states that 60 ISIS training camps have been untouched by the coalition. So why aren’t we doing more?
Given Obama’s beliefs about the Iraq War and his withdrawal from that country in 2011, he appears to have made the political decision to try to appease both his anti-war voting bloc and “doing something” to avoid appearing like he did not care about the raping, executions, and pillaging conducted by ISIS.
Retired Air Force General David Deptula explained the futility of conducting war in such a limited manner in a Washington Post op-ed,”… air power has to be applied like a thunderstorm, not a drizzle.” Deptula was the coalition’s principal air attack planner in Operation Desert Storm and he notes that there were on average 1,241 sorties against Iraq in that war. Desert Storm was over in less than six months and the ground campaign lasted only 100 hours.
The weak bombing campaign has left the door open for Russian forces to deploy in Syria in defense of the Assad regime. One official has said the Russians are in Syria to aid their Syrian ally, meaning they will potentially target all opposition, including US-backed rebels. If Obama’s goals were to end both ISIS and the Assad regime, he has failed on both fronts. The inept bombing campaign has now spawned both an even larger humanitarian crisis and new opportunities for the United States’ geopolitical enemies in Moscow and Tehran to increase their influence in the region. The Russians’ presence in Syria also likely means that, even if the coalition defeats ISIS by turning ISIS-held territory into the biggest parking lot in world history, it is likely that the Syrian Civil War will continue for the foreseeable future.
Defeating ISIS is the first step for improving the situation in Syria, and our current war strategy against ISIS is only needlessly prolonging the crisis and the war.