mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Carrying a Little Stick
U.S. Airstrikes in Syria May Actually Be Bolstering ISIS's Position

America’s air campaign against ISIS has been front-page news for weeks, but how much “there” is there? Not much, by historical standards. Since the campaign started on August 8, the U.S. has launched about 300 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. By comparison, during the Libya campaign, U.S.-dominated NATO forces were launching over 100 offensive strikes per day, ultimately culminating in over 26,000 raids. And Libya was a limited effort—during the start of the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. launched over 116,000  airstrikes in a few weeks.

So we’ve had more sound than fury. What is it accomplishing? Early results seem to show that, when boots on the ground are absent, air power is of limited utility against ISIS. In fact, ISIS has recently managed to push forward around Kobane in the face of an air attack; only Turkish tanks might turn the tide there now.

Meanwhile, one thing our airstrikes have been able to do, it seems, is unite our enemies against us. The strikes have built ISIS’s credit among its fellow jihadists, giving credence to their claim to be foremost in fighting the United States. As a result, according to the Financial Times, feuding jihadists may be patching up old differences in Syria to fight the Great Satan:

Fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and other Islamist groups say they are trying to negotiate a truce with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis), whose lightning advance across a third of both Iraq and Syria was the casus belli for foreign air strikes in the region.

Before the strikes, the two jihadi forces had been at war for nearly a year over divergent strategies and competition for resources… [But w]hen the US air strikes last week targeted not only Isis but Nusra, the group’s fighters and some radical Islamist scholars began to push for improved relations in the face of what they call a “war on Islam”.

All in all, such results make the Administration’s critics seem like they’re on to something when they worry that the U.S. is now speaking loudly, but carrying a little stick. Increasingly, President Obama seems to be not Hamlet, but King Lear, raging impotently that:

                      I will do such things —
What they are, yet I know not; but they shall be
The terrors of the earth.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Arkeygeezer

    I think the air strikes serve to unite the arabs against ISIS. They also serve to keep ISIS on the defense. Turkey has closed its border to ISIS, so they won;t be coming to the U.S. soon. There is no need or reason for the U.S. to send in ground troops in this fight. Let the Arabs settle with the Arabs. We can then either deal with, or fight the winner.

    • tallmike111

      yes im sure we are all safe and can go to sleep and not worry and go shopping in the morning, this will all be over soon…. Obama is that you?

  • jeburke

    The numbers are compelling. We are getting the harm but none of the benefits of military intervention. Another set: in the 78-day Kosovo air campaign, 1000 NATO aircraft flew 38,000 sorties before the Serbs folded. A few hundred strikes in a month truly are a pin prick, and can only be designed to make Obama appear tough and get him out of a deep political hole.

    • michael___williams

      This is h­ow you can make a decen­t i­n­come e­very month… Try it for yours­elf! A­fter been without work f­or 6 month­s, i star­ted freelancing over t­his w­ebsite and now i could­n’t be happier. After 6 months o­n my ne­w jo­b my monthly income is around 12k a month…> -> FIND OUT MORE HERE!!!<-

  • Anthony

    Here is another point of view regarding Feed’s subject matter: “Readers have asked me what I would do if I were president in this case. My answer is nothing. I would tell the country that this is a consequence of the Iraq War, and that if we could not really quell a Sunni insurgency with a hundred thousands troops on the ground for nearly a decade, then air strikes are not going to do a thing now…. The easy part is over. The civilian casualties will mount, ISIS and Al Qaeda are uniting again, the narrative of Islam against the West is back in the foreground, the completely farcical idea of arming the moderate Syrians will go nowhere, and the terror risk at home will escalate. There will be no victories.”

  • Kevin

    This is what happens when you wage war half heartedly. If you’re not willing to win you should stay home.

  • andrewp111

    The point of US airstrikes is to prevent ISIS from expanding its empire beyond the Sunni areas of Syria and Iraq. On this, the jury is still out.

  • JungleCogs

    You don’t affect much when you only bomb dirt.

  • Floyd R Turbot

    As usual, Obama gets this wrong. My preference would be for the warring parties over their to sort things out by themselves. Outside of Kurdistan, we don’t have much in the way of friends over their. Having said that, if Obama insists on starting another war, he should go in big and get it over with. Either get it done or get out. We don’t need another ten year war because some bean counter wants to do things on the cheap, both from a financial aspect and a PR aspect.

  • tpartynitwit

    What a dumbass post. Bombing people back to the Stone Age MUST make them stronger!

  • Mittymo

    ISIS is a Middle East matter to be resolved by Middle Easterners. Ever since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Western nations have been intervening in matters that don’t concern them, expending vast sums of money that produce results that only lead to future conflicts.

    Iran is secretly inserting itself into both Syria & Iraq. Both Syria & Iraq have been seriously weakened by the fray. So, if ISIS loses, both Syria & Iraq will likely end up client states of Iran, seriously disrupting the balance of power in the Middle East. With Iran on the verge of getting nukes, that can’t be a good outcome.

    When we act like the Great Satan, it makes it easy for Middle Easterners to regard us as such.

  • Mittymo

    The current bombing campaign will cost at least $2.4 billion a year and perhaps many times that, according to a recent estimate from the Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments in Washington.

    And when we’re financially drained (the way the Soviets were in Afghanistan), Putin & China will be able to do whatever they please without consequence, because America wasted its resources elsewhere.

    The debt reflected at the above website only reflects America’s on balance sheet debt. When its off balance sheet debt gets added to that, it should be apparent to all that we’re in serious financial trouble already. Before we expend more (going still deeper into the debt abyss), we should ensure that we’re getting meaningful results.

  • Mittymo

    raining hell down on ISIS from above, killing about 1,000X more of them than they’re killing us. They’re got Syrians blasting away at one of their flanks & the Iraqi military with sophisticated American weaponry, munitions, & equipment attacking the other. Yet, ISIS are just bloodthirsty barbarians?

    Perhaps they’re just dedicated, displaced and/or tyrannized Sunnis (many are former members of the Iraqi military & government) that want to establish a country for themselves & their families. Sure, they’ve manifest some violence. But so have others, because violence is what wars produce—that’s the whole point of wars.

    But ISIS needs to get better PR persons because their decapitations have only inflamed Americans & produced zero other results.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    I’ve been saying that our involvement simply provides a unifying target of the American Infidels to the Jihadists that would otherwise be focusing all their resources on killing each other. We want them to be killing each other, when they do they have no resources left to murder innocent westerners and are reduced to begging Jihadists living in the west to conduct terrorist attacks on their own without support of any kind.

  • Lothar Baier

    If you want to win a war against radicals like ISIS then you need to be willing to accept collateral damage – PERIOD !
    This is obamas biggest weakness , he is too worried about children , woman and other civilians getting killed

  • Banned_by_KBTX

    The air strikes have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. They are designed to give low info voters the impression that Obama is “doing something”.

  • invention13

    This is exactly what ISIS wanted.
    They baited us back in with the beheading videos – anyone with small children should be able to recognize a playground taunt when they see one.
    We fell for it because bombing is superficially attractive – you look like you’re ‘doing something’ and you get to fudge the results (who is to say what the pile of rubble was before the bomb hit it, I guess we’ll have to take the administrations word for it ….).

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service