The next president will need “more than tough talk or calls to carpet-bomb civilians,” declared President Obama in his final State of the Union address this month. He delivered a few well-placed barbs aimed at Republican presidential candidates and slammed Ted Cruz for his hard-line position on ISIS. After deflating the Texas senator’s call to bomb ISIS “back to the Stone Age,” President Obama said Cruz’s brand of bombast “might work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.” It was an interesting critique coming from a president whose Air Force flew 21,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria last year—9,000 of which involved “weapons release.” Altogether, more than 20,000 U.S. bombs were dropped in Iraq and Syria last year. If that doesn’t count as a massive bombing campaign, then what does?
Obama’s strategy of bombing ISIS isn’t working. It isn’t that the bombs aren’t having any effect—they are, and they’re probably more catastrophic than the Pentagon will admit—but the act of bombing itself isn’t accomplishing what it’s suppose to: that is, reducing the number of ISIS terrorists while preventing as many civilian casualties as possible. Operation Inherent Resolve’s spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, recently said: “If you’re part of ISIL, we’ll kill you. That’s our rule.” But the size of ISIS has remained relatively static, around 30,000 since 2014. And as far as avoiding civilian casualties, the Pentagon late last year gave the suspiciously low estimate of six civilian casualties during the entire bombing campaign. An independent investigatory group puts the number at something around 100 times that. The bombings may be helping troops on the ground—the Kurds and the Iraqi army—but is the assistance the United States is providing cost-effective? So far, the air war against ISIS has cost Americans around $5.5 billion, or about $11.2 million per day.