By Charles V. Peña Member, Our America Initiative Advisory Council on Defense and Foreign Policy
On ABC World News Tonight with David Muir Tuesday (December 1st), one of the stories reported that the U.S. and its allies have conducted more than 8,500 airstrikes (the majority by the U.S.) against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. So what's the "return" on this "investment"? According to the U.S., some10,000 militants have been killed by airstrikes. Do the math. That's about 1.1 ISIS fighters killed per bomb dropped. And that's about all you need to know about the effectiveness of airstrikes. Not very. And it's a costly proposition. $2.5 million per airstrke is one estimate. And we've probably spentmore than $2 billion in total (and still counting). As then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld correctly observed: "The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions."
There is also the problem of collateral damage (because there is always collateral damage). One group estimated that 52 airstrikes killed more than 450 civilians. Every one of those killed has a mother, father, brother, sister, or other close relative or friend. We'll never know how many of those people decided to make the U.S. their enemy because of an airstrike that killed someone they love.
We do know, however, that ISIS' footprint in Iraq and Syria has grown -- an indication that its ranks are growing. It's like deja vu all over again when Rumsfeld once asked: "Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?" Substitute Obama for Bush and ISIS for al Qaeda. We keep doing the same thing over and over again yet expect different results -- Einstein's definition of insanity.
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