A bombing strategy employed by France – which, potentially, will now be joined by Britain – will above all hit Syria’s population. This will fill Isis fighters with joy. Hollande could only make them happier if he were to send in ground troops as well: western boots on the ground in Syria is the ultimate Isis dream. Instead of mainly killing Muslims, they are desperate to live out their imaginary apocalyptic showdown between good and evil, in which they can at last fight against the US, the UK and France – on the ground.
They would have a good chance of winning battles there too. These fanatical fighters have excellent military training and love death. Western soldiers love life. The west cannot beat Isis with military means.
But there are ways to beat Isis. First, America has to stop Gulf states delivering weapons to the terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
Second, the west has to help Turkey seal its long border with the “Islamic State”, to stop the flow of new fighters joining Isis.
Third, Isis can only exist because it has managed to ally itself with the suppressed Sunni population of Iraq and Syria. They are the water that carries the Isis project. If the west managed to bring about a national reconciliation in Iraq and Syria, and integrate Sunnis (which in Iraq would have to include former Ba’athists) into political life, Isis would be finished, like a fish out of water.