U.S. launches air strikes in Syria

The United States has expanded its war against ISIS into Syria by launching air attacks against an array of ISIS targets in that country. President Obama should be commended for ordering these attacks.

The attacks don’t rise to the level of “shock and awe” but as described, they sound like a good start. Apparently, they involve a mix of fighter jets and bombers plus Tomahawk missiles delivered from ships.

The attacks reportedly were directed at approximately 20 targets. The administration didn’t identify them, as the attacks were ongoing. However, residents of Raqqa in northeast Syria, ISIS’s capital, reported news of large explosions and said they heard repeated passes from military aircraft.

The administration emphasized that five Arab countries are “participating” in the air attacks. The president will undoubtedly continue to tout this participation, even though it is window dressing. What matters is the number and efficacy of the air attacks, not the number of “participant,” Arab or otherwise.

The Syrian regime has never authorized U.S. airstrikes in Syria against ISIS, and Syria has some pretty sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry. But inasmuch as our attacks target a force opposed (generally speaking) to the Assad regime, it seems unlikely that Assad will risk the wrath of the U.S. by shooting at our planes.

War is always uncertain and the consequences of the interjection of U.S. military power into a complex civil war in Syria seem particularly so. But for reasons I have advanced elsewhere, defeating ISIS looks like the right course of action. And air attacks against ISIS in Syria are a necessary, though probably not sufficient, condition of inflicting such a defeat.

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