One would like to be encouraged by this development. Until recently the IS was operating freely with only token opposition by the US to slow it down. Despite posing a threat to multiple countries and despite the presences of armed forces in the region like the Kurdish Peshmerga willing to strike back if given the right arms and support, the West seemed strangely disinterested in attacking the IS. President Obama, with his usual cluelessness, referred to them as a junion varsity team and, quite naively on the morning before the Paris attacks, implied in an interview that their most effective days were behind them. But now the combination of bombing a Russian airliner and attacking Paris has seemingly awoken the fury of both the French and Russian militaries, something no ragtag group of thugs might want to do.
So why am I not worried for the IS? Well so far both Russia and France have limited their "pitiless" total war to bombing raids on the IS capital. Sounds impressive until you open the history books and look for the list of wars won by airpower without an accompanying land invasion. In fact, there is only one: NATO's illegal attack on Serbia in the late 1990's.
Serbia is not the IS. It's a second world country with a developed economy and a participatory electorate. Bombing its army and industries had a definite effect on the populace and its government leading to a succesful conclusion to that campaign.
In contrast, the IS is not a country but rather a large terrorist group that controls territory. All it cares about are the oil wells it has because of the money they bring the group. Russia and the West could raze every city it controls to the ground without slowing them down.
As Conrad Black pithily notes in his latest column in the National Post, there is a factor of Western malaise here that will prevent the West from actually defeating the IS in any meaningful way. As he writes:
What ensued was a desultory effort to train the battered hulk of Iraq’s Sunni military and a Western air campaign in the tradition of the Yugoslav Wars: bombing from such high altitudes it was a war worth killing for but not worth dying for.
The Western refusal to actual insert a decent number of special forces into IS controlled territory means that all the sabre rattling from Paris and Moscow is merely that. The fighters of IS are willing to get down, dirty and dead to win their war. The French don't want so much as a spot of grease on their shiny uniforms.
(I won't even mention that the list of important French military victories over the last 300 years is about the same length as the list of wars won by airpower)
In the end all that being said about attacking and destroying the IS is bluster. Bombs will be dropped. Claims of degrading the IS' military power will be made. Congratulations will be crowed. And the IS will go right on killing and conquering left and right while the West returns to its habit of condemning Israel for every attempt it makes to defend itself against terrorists just as ruthless but much closer to home.