Just two days after the deadly attacks in Paris, French fighter jets yesterday targeted a Syrian ISIS stronghold, Raqqa, as part of a sizable French military offensive. The French Defense Ministry confirmed in a statement that the raid “included at least 10 fighter jets and was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan,” and included 20 bombs.
The statement added, “The first target destroyed was used by Isis as a commanding post. A jihad recruitment center. And a depot for arms and munitions. The second target housed a terrorist training camp.”
The news was cheered by many, though Erick Erickson, a prominent voice in Republican media, responded with a message that was fairly common on the American right.
“Dear President Obama, today France is leading from the front to contain what you couldn’t contain leading from behind.”
This is nonsensical for a variety of reasons – we talked earlier about the foolishness of the “contain” talking point – though I’ll concede it’s interesting to see far-right Republicans celebrating the French while taking cheap shots at the United States on matters of national security.
But what’s especially noteworthy about this are the details many on the right choose to ignore. National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar insisted this morning, for example, that the president has a “deep seated aversion to using military force,” adding, “If not after Paris, when?”
What’s puzzling about this is the degree to which the criticisms ignore current events. According to statistics from the Pentagon, since President Obama launched a military offensive against ISIS targets 15 months ago – his “deep seated aversion to using military force” notwithstanding – the United States military has carried out 6,353 airstrikes. Every other country on the planet combined has carried out 1,772.
Or put another way, for every one anti-ISIS airstrike launched by all of our coalition partners from around the globe, American forces have launched four anti-ISIS airstrikes of our own.
If we narrow the focus to Syria specifically, as of late last week, France had carried out four airstrikes. The United States, acting on orders from President Obama, had carried out 2,658.
The American right isn’t questioning the efficacy of American airstrikes; conservatives are questioning the American airstrikes’ existence. Conservatives see French forces launch an offensive, and the right celebrates the superiority of French leadership. But when President Obama maintains a more aggressive offensive over a much longer period of time, many U.S. conservatives pretend not to see it at all.
To be sure, this isn’t entirely new. For months, a wide variety of Republicans – candidates, lawmakers, pundits, et al – have gone to almost comedic lengths to pretend not to notice the thousands of airstrikes President Obama has launched against ISIS targets. At times, it’s been genuinely bizarre.
What is new, however, is watching conservatives suggest the French, by launching an offensive of their own, are somehow demonstrating a security commitment the United States isn’t. Reality points in a very different direction.