France Strikes ISIS As Investigation Into Paris Attacks Continues

France launched its first attacks against ISIS even as the investigation into Friday's attacks continues, but it's not clear that the retaliation really accomplished anything.

Paris Attack November 13-2

French air assets struck at the putative ISIS capital in Syria overnight in retaliation for the attacks in Paris on Friday, but it’s not clear that they were anything other than symbolic:

PARIS — France bombed the Syrian city of Raqqa on Sunday night, its most aggressive strike against the Islamic State group it blames for killing 129 people in a string of terrorist attacks across Paris only two days before

President François Hollande, who vowed to be “unforgiving with the barbarians” of the Islamic State after the carnage in Paris, decided on the airstrikes in a meeting with his national security team on Saturday, officials said.

While France has been conducting scores of airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, it had been bombing inside Syria only sparingly, wary of inadvertently strengthening the hand of President Bashar al-Assad by killing his enemies.

But after militants with AK-47 rifles and suicide explosives vests shattered the peaceful revelry of Paris on Friday night, killing dozens of civilians in restaurants and at a concert hall, France seemed intent on sending a clear message of its determination to curb the Islamic State and its ability to carry out attacks outside the territory it controls.

The French Defense Ministry said in a statement that the air raid, coordinated with American forces, was led by 12 French aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, and had destroyed two Islamic State targets in Raqqa, the radical group’s self-proclaimed capital.

The United States provided French officials with information to help them strike Islamic State targets in Syria, known as “strike packages,” American officials said.

Initial reports from activists on the ground in Raqqa, which could not be verified independently, said that hospitals had not reported any civilian casualties. Yet they also said the targeted sites included clinics, a museum and other buildings in an urban area, leaving the full extent of the damage unknown.

(…)

The French airstrikes on Raqqa began at 7:50 p.m. Paris time, first taking aim at an Islamic State “command post, jihadist recruitment center and weapons and ammunition depot,” the Defense Ministry said. The second target, it said, was a “terrorist training camp.”

Warplanes continued to hover over the city close to midnight, according to residents and activist groups. Residents have seen the city bombed by Syrian, American and Russian warplanes. They have been terrorized by public executions by the Islamic State. Now they are wary of yet another power arriving to pummel the city.

Khaled al-Homsi, an antigovernment activist from Palmyra, who uses a nom de guerre for his safety and is the nephew of an archaeologist who was beheaded by Islamic State fighters, issued a plea on Twitter to France, saying not all of the city’s residents were Islamic State members and urging caution for the safety of civilians.

“To the people & government in #France, #Raqqa City residents are not all #ISIS,” he wrote in a post on Twitter. “Please do not targets at random.”

Reports on the strikes began flowing from the Raqqa area about 9:30 p.m. local time, with activists on the ground counting six at first, the numbers mounting minute by minute. It was a heavier barrage than had typically hit the city and its environs, and it knocked out electricity and water service, spreading more fear than usual among civilians.

(…)

Mr. Hollande’s government began bombing Islamic State-held territory in Iraq in September 2014, and it has carried out about 280 airstrikes since then.

But it had only begun to strike targets inside Syria in the last seven weeks, and had carried out fewer than a half dozen bombings there before Sunday. France has struck training camps, and just last week it attacked an oil and gas depot, according to a statement by the French Defense Ministry.

Jean Yves le Drian, the French defense minister, in an interview in the Journal du Dimanche, said the oil and gas target was chosen because the Islamic State uses the black market sale of oil and gas as a way to finance its weapon acquisition.

There is a growing focus on both reducing the Islamic State’s territory and its financing, said French government officials and experts.

“We need to push the organization away from its territories,” said Jean Charles Brisard, a terrorism expert, who worked in the French government and now is the chairman for the Center for the Analysis of Terrorism, a Paris-based research group.

“Most of its resources are from the territory, so we have to push it away from its resources in Syria and Iraq and that means going in on the ground with a regional power,” he said.

As the reports about the French strikes in Raqqa began coming in around late afternoon in the United States, many people began wondering why the areas that France targeted in this raid had not been hit before, especially given the fact that ISIS really doesn’t have anything resembling an air-defense network that would prevent American or other planes from bombing at will. Part of the answer to that question, of course, is that ISIS has adopted the long-standing strategy of other insurgent groups of placing many of its command and control centers among civilian populations, thus presenting those nations who might attack from the air with the dilemma of possibly creating civilian casualties that only serve to give them recruitment propaganda. The Israelis deal with this problem every time a group like Hamas strikes them from Gaza, and they’ve largely responded by limiting their targeting as best they can and warning civilians in areas that are about to be targeted to evacuate. It doesn’t seem as though we have the same ability to provide warnings in a city like Raqqa without tipping off the targets of an attack, even if we know that civilians are in the area. Additionally, the lack of forward intelligence on the ground makes it hard to precisely select targets. The reality, though, about France’s airstrikes last night is that it now appears that they largely hit areas that had been hit by Western airstrikes before and buildings that had been abandoned, so it’s not at all clear that they accomplished anything significant beyond sending the message that France was getting more involved in the fight against ISIS than it has been in the past.

While French jets were pounding Raqqa, the investigation into the attacks continues and suspects are being sought across Europe:

BRUSSELS — Heavily armed police officers wearing balaclavas descended on the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels on Monday in a manhunt for Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to have helped carry out the Paris terrorist attacks on Friday with his two brothers.

“Salah has not been arrested, no one has been arrested, the operations are continuing,” Eric van der Sypt, a Belgian federal magistrate, said. “There is still an operation continuing right now in Molenbeek.”

Mr. van der Sypt also said that news accounts that the authorities had homed in on a possible planner of the attack — Abdelhamid Abaaoud, an Islamic State affiliate now fighting in Syria — were premature.

Despite widespread reports in the news media “about the supposed identity of the jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud,” Mr. van der Sypt said, “I can’t confirm any of this — neither his name nor his implication in the attacks

Also on Monday, French authorities announced they had conducted sweeping police raids around the country overnight and detained 104 people.

Under a state of emergency declared on Friday by President François Hollande, the police are empowered to conduct raids without a search warrant, and Mr. Cazeneuve said 168 such raids had taken place in 19 French departments, including the Paris region and in Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse. The police arrested 23 people and confiscated 19 weapons, including 19 handguns, eight long guns and four heavy weapons, as well as computer hardware, mobile phones and narcotics.

In one home in the Rhône department, Mr. Cazeneuve said, the police found a Kalashnikov assault rifle, three automatic pistols, ammunition and bulletproof vests. Officers obtained a warrant to search the home of the parents of one suspect, where they found several automatic pistols, ammunition, police armbands, military clothing and a rocket-launcher.

Mr. Cazeneuve said that the investigation on the attacks in Paris was “making quick progress” but that the threat of terrorist attacks “remains high.” Six attacks on French territory have been foiled or avoided since the spring, Mr. Cazeneuve said.

The raids in both countries were carried out as the authorities continued a manhunt for Mr. Abdeslam, 26, who is believed to have been a central figure in the attacks, along with two brothers, Mohamed and Ibrahim. Salah Abdeslam was stopped by the French police early Saturday as he drove on a highway into Belgium, but he was let go when his papers appeared to be in order.

“We are using all the possibilities given to us by the state of emergency, that is to say administrative raids, 24 hours a day,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in an interview on RTL radio on Monday. He vowed to keep intense pressure on “radical Islamism, Salafist groups, all those who preach hatred of the Republic.”

The authorities also confirmed on Monday that one of the terrorists who struck Paris on Friday evening had entered Europe through Greece on a Syrian passport last month, providing new evidence that the attackers used the flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants to further their plot.

The Paris prosecutor, François Molins, said in a statement that the man — identified on his passport as Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, a native of Idlib, Syria — was one of the men who blew himself up outside the Stade de France on Friday night, where the French and German national soccer teams were playing, with President François Hollande in attendance. The passport was found at the scene.

Mr. Molins said the suicide bomber’s fingerprints were consistent with those recorded at a border check in Greece last month — but that additional verification was needed. The Greek authorities said that the holder of the passport passed through the island of Leros on Oct. 3, and the Serbian authorities said he passed through the border town of Presovo on Oct. 7, after entering from Macedonia. It remains unclear if the passport was authentic.

As the investigation expands, it seems fairly clear that the plot involved far more than just the seven or eight men who actually carried out the attacks on Friday. At least one of the attackers, for example, seems to have been able to escape Paris in the wake of the attacked and made his way all the way to the border with Belgium, where he was allowed to proceed through largely because it doesn’t appear that anyone on the scene knew that he could have been connected to the events in Paris at the time. It also appears that Belgium in general, and Brussels in particular, have become something of a hub for many of these radical groups. The group that carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, for example, had links to radicals in that area, and at least one of the people involved in that attack was apparently attempting to get there in the wake of the attack. That group was linked to al Qaeda’s spin-off group in Yemen rather than ISIS, of course, but it does lead one to wonder what it might be about Brussels that leads these groups to see it as some kind of a safe haven. It may be something as simple as geography and Belgium’s location between France and Germany, or it may be something more sinister and potentially dangerous. Politico Europe provides some insight into what may be going on in a piece this morning about the extent to which some parts of Brussels have become a haven for jihadist recruitment. Whatever it might be, it deserves further investigation.

The bigger problem for France, and other European nations, going forward, of course, is the fact that at least some of the people involved in Friday’s attacks, as well as those involved in past attacks are ‘home grown’ citizens who have been radicalized. In some cases, these may be people who traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS and have used their passport to return with nefarious motives. In other cases, these are people who never left the country been have nonetheless become radicalized. Much like it difficult for American law enforcement to have detected and prevented the Tsarnaev brother from attacking the Boston Marathon two years ago, these attacks in Paris were apparently pulled off with little advance warning, if any, precisely because they were carried out by seemingly average French-born Muslims. As more than one analyst commented over the weekend, detecting that kind of attack in advance is essentially impossible, which makes it all the more worrisome, and which makes the White House’s claim over the weekend that there’s no indication that ISIS could not pull off attacks like what happened in Paris here ring rather hollow. Since the French had almost no idea that anything was going to happen in Paris on the night of the 13th of November, how can we know that something similar wouldn’t happen in Manhattan, or Chicago, or anywhere else in the United States? And how, exactly, do you even prepare to prevent such attacks?

I’m not going to pretend that I know the answers to those questions. The worrisome thing is that I don’t believe that anyone really does.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Middle East, National Security, Terrorism, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    These strikes from the West against ISIS are nothing more than vengeance. Perhaps emotionally satisfying for people…and don’t forget the GOP and it’s base is purely about emotion…but the strikes are not particularly effective.
    Bush unleashed this mess…and perhaps therein lies the answer….as long as Shias control the Iraqi government, and exclude Sunnis from fair representation, ISIS will have an audience for its radical Sunni message and a built-in recruiting tool.
    We couldn’t defeat Al-Queda in Iraq…the group that was re-branded as ISIS….with a boatload of troops on the ground so I don’t know what people expect.
    Nonetheless I’m sure we are going to be hearing all kinds of fear-mongering and war-mongering in the coming weeks…most of it from the same people who pushed for the Iraqi war that caused this.
    If I had my wish every time someone advocates for war against ISIS…we would read about how wrong they were in 2003…and how they had a role in creating this problem.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Also…considering we killed anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 innocent Iraqi’s, depending on who you ask…we’re still way ahead in the terrorism competition.

  3. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Apparently we should send them all a care package of chocolates and roses. That will surely change their mind about killing innocents.

    Buffoon!

  4. Scott says:

    The initial strikes are, indeed, symbolic revenge strikes. Whether there will be a long range plan remains to be seen.. Heard on the news that France is moving the DeGaulle aircraft carrier to the Middle East.so more may be on the way.

    The problem with ISIS won’t be resolved until all the parties in the Middle East are lined up. You can’t have the Turks attacking the Kurds, the Russians attacking the Syrian anti-ISIS forces, the Saudis supporting al-Qaeda forces in Yemen, Israelis attacking Hezbollah, etc. and have a coherent anti-ISIS policy. And I just don’t see that happening.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Pinprick strikes are nothing but kabuki.

    @Clavin, yes, yes, lots of mistakes were made in the past. Now, shall we just lie down and spread for these monsters, or is it okay if despite the hair shirt you insist we wear, we still destroy them?

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Jack: What part of… Never mind.
    DFTFT. Maintain some dignity in this thread.

  7. LaMont says:

    the White House’s claim over the weekend that there’s no indication that ISIS could not pull off attacks like what happened in Paris here ring rather hollow

    I’m trying to figure out how this statement rings hollow to you when the statement actually agrees with the assertion that detecting these kinds of attacks in advance is essentially impossible – the same point you are making in the last paragraph.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Kevin Drum:

    On Sunday night, France launched a series of airstrikes against ISIS in retaliation for the Paris attacks. The Washington Post called it a “furious assault.” The New York Times called it “aggressive,” CNN said it was a “major bombardment,” and McClatchy called it a “fierce bombing campaign.” The French themselves called it “massive,” and the LA Times, Fox News, and the Guardian agreed.

    The French assault comprised 10 aircraft and 20 bombs.

    Since the beginning of the American-led air campaign against ISIS, the coalition has launched 8,000 airstrikes and dropped about 22,000 bombs on ISIS sites in Iraq and Syria. In other words, we’ve been launching about 17 airstrikes and dropping nearly 50 bombs per day. Every day. For over a year.

    And yet this campaign is routinely described as feckless and weak.

    Just some perspective.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And some more perspective:

    In 2011 we had 16,121 homicides. I did the math and it works out to just over 44 murders per day. So what happened in France the other day, as horrific as it was, is merely 3 days worth of carnage right here in the good old USofA.

  10. Jack says:

    Hey, at least according to Obama ISIS is “contained”. We can breath easier now.

    Ignore the man behind the curtain. All is well.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Jack…we all know from your response to the Ebola scare, just exactly what a coward you are. Gadzooks – diaper sales sky-rocketed. I suggest you just hide under your bed.
    The goal of terrorism is to inspire terror…so it makes sense that you are afraid…that’s what they want. In terms of society as a whole…the worst thing we can do is behave like you…or respond like we did after 9.11.

  12. @LaMont:

    I’m suggesting that the White House’s seeming dismissal of the possibility of Paris-style attacks in the United States is perhaps just a bit Pollyanna-ish.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    OK…tell me how you are going to destroy them?
    By acting like Dick Cheney?
    OK……………

  14. @C. Clavin:

    So what do you suggest we do?

    As @michael reynolds notes, even though you’re correct about the roots of this crisis that doesn’t mean that we can’t, or shouldn’t respond to what’s going on now.

    I’m as big a critic of the Iraq War as anyone, and I’ve noted before that ISIS probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for that war, but that’s a fact of history, not a guide for future strategy against a force that clearly wants to attack innocent people.

  15. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The goal of terrorism is to inspire terror…so it makes sense that you are afraid…that’s what they want. In terms of society as a whole…the worst thing we can do is behave like you…or respond like we did after 9.11.

    So, you believe we should “just lie down and spread for these monsters”. How very….like you.

  16. Guarneri says:

    I’ve seen the light, Clavin. Clearly the best strategy today is to let Syrians enter the country 100,000 a crack, fulminate over Dick Cheney and the Iraq War, and chant Obama-Obama he’s our man, if he can’t hold a red line nobody can. That will create that all important safe space for sure.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    @michael reynolds:
    The most important thing; learn from our mistakes. The ideal thing; just get the fwck out of the Middle East. Maybe Reagan was right when he ran away. Unfortunately I don’t see either of those things happening.
    Like you…I don’t know the answer. I do know what we shouldn’t do. Right now the entire Republican party is a giant propaganda machine working for ISIS…they are reinforcing ISIS’s message that this is some kind of cultural crusade…that the West and Islam are fighting a holy war…which is the last thing we should be doing.
    Level headed people need to step back and proceed cautiously…we totally f’ed up after 9-11 because of this emotional crap…now both ISIS and western war-mongers are playing on irrational fears.
    One thing I know for sure…we can’t afford to fwck up again because we choose to listen to idiots just because they cry the loudest.

  18. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    @Guarneri:
    Look…you two were all for the Iraq War…which is what created this situation. So if you had any pride or self-awareness you would just shut the fwck up. Of course you won’t. Because fools know no better.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’m as big a critic of the Iraq War as anyone, and I’ve noted before that ISIS probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for that war, but that’s a fact of history, not a guide for future strategy against a force that clearly wants to attack innocent people.

    It is most certainly a guide…don’t repeat your mistakes.

  20. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin:

    One thing I know for sure…we can’t afford to fwck up again because we choose to listen to idiots just because they cry the loudest.

    Says the guy who supports BLM movement and the CSGV.

    Don’t you have a skirt to hide behind?

  21. Neil Hudelson says:

    So this thread devolved rather quickly.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    Thanks for proving my point.

  23. ElizaJane says:

    @Doug Mataconis: You are mischaracterizing the White House’s position. In the article to which you link, they say that there is “no specific credible threat” to the US which is far from the same as saying that there could never be an attack. Your quotation (which is not in the article) concerning “the White House’s claim over the weekend that there’s no indication that ISIS could not pull off attacks like what happened in Paris here” evidently misses a double negative — there is no indication that ISIS could NOT pull off such attacks, so there is every indication that the could.

  24. @ElizaJane:

    There was also apparently no specific credible threat that could be tied to the Paris attacks before the guns started blazing. That’s the point. Sending out messages of false assurance don’t seem to me to accomplish very much.

  25. Heisenberg says:

    Military intervention in the Middle East seems to work out every time, let’s try that again.

  26. @C. Clavin:

    You make good points, and we certainly shouldn’t repeat past mistakes. But, I’m not sure that’s going to be enough. For better or worse a cancer has set in and if it isn’t dealt with now it seems likely to become a bigger problem in the future. Unfortunately, the likelihood of overreaction increases if events like Paris become more commonplace.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    To be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t respond in any way. I’m just saying our response should be based upon thoughtful analysis and the critical examination of a long history of mistakes.
    It’s worth noting that most of the folks advocating for war today are not just the ones who wanted to invade and occupy Iraq, but are also the same ones who want to bomb Iran…the very same Iran that is now helping us fight ISIS.
    Determining a path forward without consideration of the context is just an invitation for more carnage and violence followed by more carnage and violence…and it’s how we got here to begin with.
    Let’s be smart about it, is all.

  28. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The Iraq war and the Bush administration were neither the beginning nor the end of history. Whatever lessons you think you’ve learned, they are the lessons of a snapshot, an eye-blink. They are not universally applicable across all of time and space.

    It is a mistake to conflate religion and race. Religion is more closely related to ideology. We have a right to object to ideologies which are antithetical to our values. Liberal tolerance cannot be the basis for simply ignoring gross human rights violations throughout the Muslim world. Liberal self-criticism – however valid – is not grounds for us to somehow equate the many failures of our own society with the systematic, savage, bestial brutality of ISIS, Al Qaeda and their various fellow travelers.

    We have a right and an obligation to stand up for what we believe. Without us, without the West, there is no hope for women, no hope for gays, no hope for religious minorities. We are it. Flawed as we may be, there is no other ideology standing up for the rights of women – half the human race – to be treated better than cattle. Moral perfection is not required for action. Racist yankees freed the slaves. A segregated US Army helped defeat the Nazis.

    I have some sympathy for the Cartman approach: Screw you guys, I’m going home. But we are talking about a terrifyingly vicious ideology which could spread across North Africa, across the middle east, across south Asia, into southern Russia, into Turkey, and which will inevitably infect Europe proper. American isolationism has had staggeringly negative effects, far more negative than anything Dick Cheney did, and I don’t think short of building a Trump wall around Europe and shutting down all flights out of the ME that we can tolerate the spread of this ideology. I do not think we can abandon every Jew, every Christian, every Shi’ite, every agnostic or atheist, every gay or lesbian, every woman to the depredations of these despicable creatures.

    Sometimes, Clavin, you just have to kill some people to save some others. These people need to be killed. The question for me is how, not whether.

  29. Mikey says:

    IS is not al Qaeda 2.0. IS is both expansionary and apocalyptic. Al Qaeda can survive by going “underground” and has primarily political changes as its objectives. IS must hold a chunk of land to maintain legitimacy as a caliphate–it can’t go “underground.” And its objectives are transcendent, it believes it is written into the Koran as the prophetic trigger of the literal Apocalypse.

    This all means we need to look at containing and eliminating IS differently than we do containing and eliminating al Qaeda. Certainly the 2003 Iraq invasion created the most fertile soil for IS to germinate and grow, but the Obama administration’s mistaken estimate of IS as “al Qaeda’s JV team” meant we didn’t take necessary actions–like pushing Iraq to harden its border with Syria–that could have prevented IS setting up a governing body in Raqqa and taking Dabiq.

    The hard thing about fighting IS is the best way to delegitimize and destroy it is by pushing it off the land it holds, which necessarily requires a level of ground force commitment that’s politically impossible. Fortunately, the strategy of containment and degradation is effective at keeping IS from continuing its expansionary push into Turkey.

    Here’s what IS believes: the “army of Rome” (Western armies being a convenient proxy) will battle IS’ forces on the plains north of Dabiq. IS will prevail and proceed to sack Istanbul, but the anti-Messiah “Dajjal” will come from Khorasan and most of IS will die. When only 5,000 remain, Jesus (yeah, that Jesus) will descend, kill Dajjal with a spear, and lead IS to victory.

    Yes. They believe this fully and literally.

    This makes me think the best course of action might actually be a large-scale commitment of ground forces. Draw IS out in large numbers on the plains of Dabiq. They want this battle, they will show up en masse, and when they do we should slaughter them wholesale. Stop them there, fully and utterly.

    Hopefully, it never comes to that. There could very well unfold a series of events that causes IS to wither without having to commit force at a massive level. But we have to understand if IS succeeds in resuming its expansion, we may have to put forces in the Middle East again.

    How much unnecessary death could have been avoided without Bush’s idiotic blundering into Iraq!

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    So what do you suggest we do?

    No Doug, Michael, what do you suggest we do?

    Bomb them? We’re already doing that.
    Insert SOF with the Kurds? We’ve done that.
    Invade????

    All these people who are screaming that “WE MUST DO SOMETHING!!!” never seem to know what it is we should do but by dog we must do something! George W Bush did something. Remember that?

    The fact of the matter is, something is being done. It’s not 100% effective and it’s not very sexy. I’m sorry that’s not good enuf for you. I can assure you nobody else is exactly happy with it either. BUT… Lacking any better options (and I am pretty sure Obama is hearing all kinds of options, but feel free to offer yours), it’s all we have right now.

  31. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Doug, he’s not sending out false assurances. He is saying it could happen here.

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    I think there are two problems. One is ISIS right now, today. Mr. Obama’s containment strategy is probably the right approach in the middle east, so long as we are talking about events confined to the ME.

    When ISIS (or anyone else, because this doesn’t end with one group) launches an attack in the West, we should respond with catastrophic, disproportionate retaliation. You say we’ve been bombing? Nah. We’ve been sniping. That’s what we’re doing, acting as high tech snipers trying to pick out specific targets. Which is fine, but it’s not bombing. February 13, 1945, Dresden: that was bombing. Tokyo and Hiroshima were bombing.

    Playing this tit-for-tat, pawn-exchange game is absurd. Retaliation is meaningless unless it is intolerable. When you get punched by a guy who looks like he wants to keep on punching, you don’t stand there exchanging slaps. You break his arm, you cut his Achilles tendons, you cripple him. You know: war.

  33. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: We keep thinking about bombing. Here’s a thought: There is a lot of speculation about France invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty. Well, Turkey is a member of NATO and has over 1000 tanks. Seems to me ISIS could be run right over by land. Of course, Turkey would have to get off the fence about ISIS which is part of the problem.

  34. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I was wondering the same thing as LaMont. The double negative threw me off.

  35. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The question for me is how, not whether.

    I have the same question.
    How?

    BTW – Bush Cheney was just one more episode in a long history of us buggering up the Middle East…lets not make it even worse by acting like infants.

    And a comment in general…fer chrissakes…a war with Islam??? ISIS is killing more Muslims than westerners…tell me how a war with Islam reconciles with that?

  36. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Neil Hudelson: They always do when the topic is the war on terror. To close, I want to remind everybody on the post who is advocating that we can defeat ISIS (which I am not sure is possible outside a grand revision of politics in the region) I would ask that you send your own kid to “water the Tree of Liberty” instead of relying on the children of others to fight on your behalf. (And I am looking at you, m r.)

  37. michael reynolds says:

    @Scott:

    The leadership of Turkey is Islamist. Not ISIS level Islamist, but Islamist, opposed to western tolerance. Every foreign fighter with ISIS got there through Turkey. Every ISIS member who reaches the West, did it through Turkey. Turkey has a fanatical hatred for the one competent fighting force on our side, the Kurds. Turkey sat on its hands as ISIS took over their border crossings, and then refused to help the Kurds who took those border points back.

    Turkey is in NATO but Turkey is not of the West, not any more.

  38. michael reynolds says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker:

    Have I called for ground forces? Quite the contrary, I’m calling for massive retaliation so that we can avoid ground forces.

  39. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m calling for massive retaliation so that we can avoid ground forces.

    First it was Al Queda. And we couldn’t defeat them because of the nature of the enemy.
    Now it’s ISIS…a completely different group from Al Queda…but one that sprang from the destabilization we created.
    After you can’t annihilate ISIS…who will be the next threat that rises from the further de-stabilization you’re going to create?
    This is an incredibly complex problem that requires adults to be adults, and all of us to ignore the infants screaming about things they cannot grasp.

  40. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Turkey is in NATO but Turkey is not of the West, not any more.

    Ataturk must turn in his grave at what Turkey is becoming.

  41. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: Agree. Which was my point, perhaps too indirectly.

  42. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Dude, you keep making all the right liberal noises, and you continue having nothing to offer but “Cheney evil” and “Nothing works.”

    You’re putting the appearance of rationality ahead of actual rationality. Rational is not always the least aggressive action, it is quite often the most aggressive action. The winning move is what’s needed, not the move that is most in keeping with mushy, quasi-pacifist liberalism.

    You want to win, or do you want to feel righteous? Make a choice.

    2500 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. What we did to the Japanese in response was to bomb to death between a quarter of a million and just shy of a whole million, Japanese in Japan. That was rational, because it worked. It was morally appalling, but war always, always is. When you fight a war you come away with the blood of women and children on your hands. You come away soaked in blood. That’s why we call it war and not croquet.

    Irrational is doing things that make us feel good but accomplish nothing.

    We did not start this fight with Islamic extremism. We didn’t fly planes into their buildings. And no, this is not all about Bush and Iraq, though that certainly did widen things out. But we did not create this extremist ideology.

  43. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Dude…you sound like JEB!
    Japan? Really? So you want to go nuclear on ISIS? OK………..
    To further complicate the situation, there is a belief among some experts that it’s our success, in chipping away at their territory over the last several months, that has prompted them strike outside their territory.
    I’m open to solutions and smart responses…but all I’m hearing is bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran ISIS. History tells us that’s not going to work. But it’ll make you feel better.

  44. Guarneri says:

    “To further complicate the situation, there is a belief among some experts that it’s our success, in chipping away at their territory over the last several months, that has prompted them strike outside their territory.”

    Well there you have it. The strategy is open up and swallow. Make sure you scold the Russians and hold them accountable to retreat while you are at it.

    “I’m open to solutions and smart responses…”

    How bold, and insightful. How about something substantial, like hope and change?

    Look, nimrod. Michael has staked out a position: overwhelming response. You may not like it, but it’s a position. You are just diddling with yourself.

  45. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    2500 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. What we did to the Japanese in response was to bomb to death between a quarter of a million and just shy of a whole million, Japanese in Japan.

    You keep acting like there was nothing in between those two bookends. As if the Japanese only ever killed those 2500 Americans and our immediate response was to nuke two of their most populous cities.
    Daesh bears almost no resemblance to Imperial Japan. It is a terrible analogue in almost every imaginable way. There is no god emperor of Daesh that can surrender for them and convince them to accept foreign rule. Dropping nuclear warheads on Raqqa or any other Daesh held city isn’t going to end or even reduce Islamist attacks on the West. If you think it will you are more delusional than any liberal straw man you want to build to argue with. What it will do is irreparably damage US standing in the world and motivate MANY more Muslims to sympathize with those extremists. For every one we burn in that nuclear inferno 10 more will be born and 100s or 1000s will be hardened against us. The idea of turning this conflict nuclear is idiotic. It is Bill level idiotic.
    No one is saying do nothing, at least no one here is. People just find your proposed solution to be worse than nothing.

  46. Grewgills says:

    michael reynolds, your allies in this argument should give you pause.

  47. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    Again…as someone who supported the Iraq War, which created ISIS…you should show some self-awareness and simply STFU. You have demonstrated your complete lack of intelligence and knowledge of the topic. Now go sit in the corner and diddle yourself.
    Bad enough you are ignorant re: economics and insist on opining nonetheless……

  48. An Interested Party says:

    2500 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. What we did to the Japanese in response was to bomb to death between a quarter of a million and just shy of a whole million, Japanese in Japan. That was rational, because it worked. It was morally appalling, but war always, always is. When you fight a war you come away with the blood of women and children on your hands. You come away soaked in blood. That’s why we call it war and not croquet.

    Seeing how far in the past all of that was (among other reasons), I don’t think that most Americans, much less Europeans, have the stomach for that kind of thing anymore…and then there is the question of if such a thing would work, as we are dealing more with terrorists than we are with nation-states…still, these ideas sound pretty good…

  49. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Turkey is not of the West,

    The definition of “West” generally makes little sense, specially in geostrategic terms.

  50. Andre Kenji says:

    Fighting ISIS would require more than simply dropping bombs on them. It would require a large number of troops, that would be engaged in a very bloody asymmetrical warfare. That would mean a large number of casualties. There is a reason why NO ONE(The Turks, the Jordanians, the Russians, the Americans, the Europeans) wants to do that.

  51. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    2500 Americans died at Pearl Harbor. What we did to the Japanese in response was to bomb to death between a quarter of a million and just shy of a whole million, Japanese in Japan. That was rational, because it worked.

    Um, no. That didn’t work. Japan didn’t surrender because Japanese civilians died — if anything, the military leadership of Japan showed it didn’t care about Japanese lives. Japan surrendered because of a long, grinding, mile by mile military campaigh by our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that slowly, over three and a half-years, destroyed the Japanese fighting ability by taking away their territory, men, materiel, factories, coal, rubber, food, and other raw materials.

    We didn’t scare them into surrendering. We didn’t demoralize them into surrendering. We didn’t terrorize them into surrendering. We simply made it impossible for them to keep fighting in an effective manner by choking off their industrial capacity and ability to supply, equip and maneuver armies in the field (which is also how Nazi Germany was defeated).

    I’m sorry, you think you’re tough and rational, but you have about a twelve-year old boy’s level of understanding of what warfare involves. It would be sad and laughable if you weren’t advocating something so horrific.

  52. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You want to win, or do you want to feel righteous? Make a choice.

    A false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, false binary, black-and-white thinking, bifurcation, denying a conjunct, the either–or fallacy, fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses, the fallacy of false choice, the fallacy of the false alternative, or the fallacy of the excluded middle) is a type of informal fallacy that involves a situation in which only limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option….

    The options may be a position that is between two extremes (such as when there are shades of grey) or may be completely different alternatives. Phrasing that implies two options (dilemma, dichotomy, black-and-white) may be replaced with other number-based nouns, such as a “false trilemma” if something is reduced to only three options.

    False dilemma can arise intentionally, when fallacy is used in an attempt to force a choice or outcome such as, in some contexts, the assertion that “if you are not with us, you are against us.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

  53. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    When you fight a war you come away with the blood of women and children on your hands. You come away soaked in blood. That’s why we call it war and not croquet.

    And that children, is the story of how the Soviet Union won the Afghanistan War….

  54. stonetools says:

    Obama seems to have decided not to pursue the rollback option so beloved of conservatives and some liberals, but a continuation and intensification of his containment strategy.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

    And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

    I think it’s a great example of Obama doing this:

    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;

    That’s why Obama is a good and possibly great President. And despite the clueless reactions of folks on OTB and elsewhere, it is a coherent strategy that has probably the best chance of working in the long run.

  55. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But we did not create this extremist ideology.

    Well…not the ideology…but we did create the extremists.
    First Al-Queda and then ISIS.
    What you are advocating will only create more.

  56. DrDaveT says:

    @Scott:

    Well, Turkey is a member of NATO

    I’m hearing on the radio that France has invoked the mutual assistance clause of the EU charter, and not the NATO treaty. Anyone have any more details on that, or links to a good analysis of the implications?