Barry, My Liege :
What does Victory look like in a bombing campaign against ISIL?
The reality is that we cannot bomb ISIL out of existence. Even if we tried carpet style bombing from WW II, there will be some survivors and many innocent casualties. The survivors will be bitter.
Our aim is different. Our goal should be to take away ISIL's heavy weapons and their mobility so that they are reduced to foot and animal movement and small arms.
Once they are reduced to fugitive criminals, then they are susceptible to police and militia encirclement and capture. At that point the bombing has been successful.
Of course this strategy requires a competent military with foot soldiers on the ground to complete the degradation of ISIL. Our air campaigns can be a support but not the main force.
In the long run we recognize that there will always be Islamic militants. Their sacred text calls for physical violence against all who do not follow the 'correct' path. It seems that the path is determined as 'correct' by the group with the most guns.
While we may not be at war with them, they are at war with us and will be for the forseeable future. Our security requires that we recognize that for what it is.
Also, in the long run, our security is dependent on the citizens of the area choosing a responsive government which can respond to concerns of all people.
In the past we have chosen to support strong but corrupt rulers to keep the peace whenever we could not install an elective democracy. The past few years have shown that such a strategy is no longer viable.
While we cannot insist on Western style elective democracies as a cookie cutter model for all countries, we can monitor and support good and stable governance under a variety of models.
New models are called for. Any successful model will be specific to the culture and country from which it is developed.
The good news is that there are millions of bright people dedicated to just such a solution; the bad news is that there is no other option available which will provide for the National Security of the United States.
Your faithful servant,