We’re Bombing Syria, Just Like Obama Said He Would

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The front page is dominated almost entirely this morning by the news that we’re bombing ISIS militants in Syria. I confess that this doesn’t strike me as worthy of quite such breathless coverage. Two weeks ago President Obama said he was going to bomb Syria, and now he’s doing it. Did anyone expect him not to follow through on this?

But of course I get it. Bombs are headline generators whether they’re expected or not. After reading all the reports, though, Dan Drezner is pessimistic:

I said last week that I’d start making point predictions here. So, here goes: I’m 70 percent certain that there will be no fundamental change in the Islamic State’s hold on territory in Syria and Iraq for the rest of this calendar year.

That’s probably a good bet. This isn’t because aerial campaigns have no value. Of course they do. It’s because in most cases they have limited value unless they’re used in support of ground troops with a well-defined mission. And so far, there’s no well-defined mission and no one is committing ground troops to the fight. Presumably the new Iraqi government will send in troops eventually, and then we’ll see whether our commitment of air resources was worthwhile. Until then we just won’t know.

As an aside, for the next few months I’d treat virtually every announcement from either ISIS or the Pentagon with extreme skepticism. Some of what they say may be true and some may not, but there’s really no way to know which is which. We can parse all this stuff til the cows come home, but that won’t change our fundamental ignorance. Don’t take anything at face value no matter where it comes from.

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