November 15, 2015

The French Respond

Today French air assets dropped 20 bombs on Raqqa, a town in northern Syria which is the ISIS capital. The bombing targeted military and government installations and "they were all destroyed".

Which is fine, and congratulations to the French. The real question is "what comes next?" Back when Bill Clinton was president, a couple of our embassies in Africa were attacked by Al Qaeda, and he responded with individual bombing attacks -- one each. The results of those attacks may have been serious (though one of them hit an al Qaeda training camp that had been abandoned), but that half-hearted response is a lot of what convinced bin Laden that the US had no balls.

If tomorrow the French say, "Let that be a lesson" and return to quiescence, it's going to have the same result this time. So I want to see the French (how strange it is to be saying this) hit them again and again. This shouldn't be a single response, it should be the beginning of a sustained bombing campaign, and I mean a serious one. Today's bombing raid was made by 12 planes. That's a good start, but there needs to be a lot more than that. They need 40 or 50, each flying a mission every other day.

The worst thing they could do is what Obama has done: just enough bombing so that he can say he's doing it, without being so great as to have any practical significance.

(How odd it is to say this:) I hope Hollande has more balls than Obama.

12 years ago I spent a lot of time cursing at the French. Now it's an odd feeling to find myself placing my hopes in them.

UPDATE: However... though the situation is catastrophic, to some extent it's giving me a bit of schadenfreude.

Obama is the president that the Europeans all hoped for ten years ago. They despised Bush; they wanted an American president who was more European. And with Obama they got one. When he was elected the reaction in Europe was, "America has finally come to its senses."

Well, now they're complaining about it. America is too weak. America won't lead. America (or actually, Obama) won't fight.

America is now trying to free-ride, the way Europe always has. Obama wants to "lead from behind", which is a fancy way of saying "abdicate all responsibilities in the world". Obama wants someone else to do the fighting and take all the risks.

Europe, be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 06:21 PM | Comments (24) | Add Comment
Post contains 427 words, total size 3 kb.

1 The Charles de Gaulle is heading to the Persian Gulf in a couple of days, which should at least double the aircraft available to France when it arrives. 

I suspect that, when that moment occurs, you'll see a dramatic ramping-up of their attacks on ISIS.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 15, 2015 09:37 PM (a12rG)

2 Assuming its propellers don't fall off again.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 15, 2015 09:46 PM (+rSRq)

3 It was only the one time!  I mean, sure, the spare props had the same problem, too, and the plans to fabricate new ones were destroyed in a fire, but the port prop only fell off once.

It happens!

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 15, 2015 11:21 PM (a12rG)


Anyway, wouldn't it make more sense to put it off the coast of Syria in the eastern Med?

Maybe not, if you're concerned about suicide motor boat attacks.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 15, 2015 11:30 PM (+rSRq)

5 Presumably they'd park it a good ways offshore, right? And it would be, y'know, screened?

It's going to get worse before it gets better. I'm still worried that terrorist attacks on civilians is going to be the "unrestricted submarine warfare" or "indiscriminate bombing of cities" of the 21st century... a kind of warfare we initially responded to with horror, insisting that it was completely unsuitable for war between civilized nations, only to later adopt to an extent not previously matched. Forget using nukes, the only thing Obama would have to do is say "I close mine eyes for an hour"... (okay, a year or two probably...)

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at November 16, 2015 01:19 AM (v29Tn)

6 ...wouldn't it make more sense to put it off the coast of Syria in the eastern Med?

It certainly would, yes.  The thing is, this was not a "réponse rapide," but a pre-announced deployment.  The French announced back on Novenmber 5th that CdG was going to be returning to the Persian Gulf to resume anti-ISIS attacks in Iraq.

France hasn't said that they'll be changing destinations yet, but it probably isn't a bad guess that sometime one morning, some fishing boats off the northern coast of Cyprus are going to find they have a large, rather pissed off visitor...

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 16, 2015 12:07 PM (a12rG)


If the French want to show they are really serious, they should initiate talks with Jordan over basing forces and operating forces from the Kingdom.

And Jordan...Will probably okay with that.  They have enough reasons to hate ISIS themselves. 

Posted by: cxt217 at November 16, 2015 01:11 PM (ihj4a)

8 Geopolitically speaking, Jordan is in a dreadful situation. Since 1973, their foreign policy has been to try not to antagonize anyone and to otherwise keep their heads down.

There have been a few cases where they have gotten active militarily. After the PLO was ejected from Lebanon, Arafat decided Lebanon was ripe for the plucking and moved his force there, intending to defeat the government and take over. The Jordanian government understood the threat, and there was a civil war with the PLO which the Pali's got the worst of.

But in general the Jordanians try to stay neutral. The only reason they might have to abandon that policy would be if they view ISIS as an existential threat to Jordan, and so far that doesn't seem to be the case. I don't think the Jordanian government would be eager to make an alliance with France in this matter, if for no other reason than if the French give up and bail, like we did in Iraq, it leaves Jordan holding the bag.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 16, 2015 02:09 PM (+rSRq)

9 I remembered the sequence of events wrong. The Jordanian war against the PLO was in 1970, and after the Pali's lost they went to Lebanon to try to take that over.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 16, 2015 02:11 PM (+rSRq)


ISIS is viewed as an existential threat to the Hashemite throne, and given how ISIS's genocidal proclivities managed to pissed off King Abdullah and his government earlier this year, there probably is a better chance of cooperation with Western powers than at any other time - keep in mind that the Royal Jordanian Air Force has been involved in bombing missions against ISIS targets.


Posted by: cxt217 at November 16, 2015 02:16 PM (ihj4a)

11 According to the USNI, Sunday's attacks on Syria were launched from airbases in the UAE and Jordan.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 16, 2015 07:40 PM (a12rG)

12 Putin went public with an order to the commander of the Midterranian (e.g. Syrian) group of force to treat approaching De Gaulle as allies, establish direct contact with the French, and coordinate the actions. That being Putin you never know how sincere he is, there could be secret orders sent alongside, but FWIW the French now have an air corridor through the Russian air defense zone.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at November 17, 2015 10:06 AM (XOPVE)

13 Since it's been determined now that the Russian airliner was brought down by a bomb which probably was placed by an ISIS operative, it looks like Putin has decided they are the most important enemies. The Russian operation in Syria's main goal was supporting Assad, but maybe it's changed to annihilation of ISIS, at least for the time being.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 17, 2015 10:11 AM (+rSRq)

14 Also, Putin is very well aware that the US and France have been at odds multiple times since WWII. It's unsurprising he wants to make nice with France at a time when France is in danger of falling closer into (what he sees as) the American orbit.

Posted by: Boviate at November 17, 2015 08:57 PM (XRvFv)


Meanwhile, we have a president who can not even bother avoid arriving late for the moment of silence at the G-20 meeting, and whose press conference lacked any emotion or seriousness - except when it was at Republicans.

That is not even getting to his underlings.

Posted by: cxt217 at November 17, 2015 09:28 PM (ihj4a)

16 That kind of boorish lack of attention has been consistent during his entire term of office. Remember that this is the man who gave Queen Elizabeth an iPod loaded with his speeches.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 17, 2015 10:33 PM (+rSRq)

17 Wouldn't that be more a symptom of pathological narcissism than lack of attention?

Posted by: Brett Bellmore at November 18, 2015 03:11 AM (l55xw)

18 They're not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 18, 2015 05:53 AM (+rSRq)

19 Syria is a three way battle between the brutal Alawite Ba'ath (i.e. Muslim National Socialist) Assad and his more orthodox but still Shia allies, Sunni who hate the the above, like the Muslim Brotherhood types who his father massacred wholesale in 1982, and the Sunni ISIS who hate even more all the above.
So if the French want to zap ISIS, it's all good to Putin, means he can focus more on the non-ISIS Sunni.

Posted by: hga at November 18, 2015 09:01 AM (Ii87p)


Mike Totten has been completely underwhelmed by the French response to ISIS as well.  He also makes the worthy point that if you wanted to prevent large scale attacks like what occurred in Paris - And he thinks it could have been worse, if ISIS had launched separate attacks over days than multiple attacks in a single night - you have to fight ISIS, Al Qaeda, et al. on their turf and force them to fight for their lives than thinking of ways of doing you harm.

Meanwhile, the police raids going on in France right now also included raids around the Lyon area (The second largest city in France.) where police discovered a rocket launcher in one of the raids. (Courtesy of Dylan Kissane at Tim Blair's blog.)

Posted by: cxt217 at November 18, 2015 11:26 AM (ihj4a)


Way back in the earlier thread, there was talk of the French sending the army into the enclaves.  So have they?  Not really, other than a single targeted strike.  Far cry from 'burning the hornets out.'  Which gives rise to the question, "what does that mean, anyway?"  Ethnic cleansing, French style?

Seriously, did anyone expect the French to be more forceful than Obama?  Air power is theater.  Gordon shall be avenged!

If we want a long-term solution, either we (the West) have to go in there and put boots on the ground (and necks) hard, or we find another Kadaffy/Shah/Abdullah, etc. to do it for us.

Posted by: ubu at November 18, 2015 02:39 PM (SlLGE)

22 Actually, I saw a report that they had made upwards of a thousand raids in the banlieues. But they may be keeping it under the lid so as not to scare away the people they're trying to find. (The declaration of martial law includes the power to censor the press.)

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 18, 2015 03:36 PM (+rSRq)

23 I guess my problem with that scenario is believing that the French press is actually offended (by the terrorists), patriotic, or cowed enough to actually obey such censorship.  Then again, they're not our press. 

Posted by: ubu at November 19, 2015 02:26 PM (SlLGE)

24 It's the same scenario as here. If Bush or Le Pen issued orders, they press would be happy to break censorship. If Hollande and Obama tell them to hide it, they are happy to oblige. Well, it's not exactly like that, because both of our countries have rump independent press, but close enough.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at November 19, 2015 04:18 PM (XOPVE)

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