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 utilityagainst 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: