During his run for the White House, Donald J. Trump assured voters that he had a “secret plan” to take out ISIS. Two months into his presidency, it appears that plan amounts to making good on Mr. Trump’s other campaign-trail promise to “bomb the sh*t” out of the terrorist organization. American air power has been ramped up in Syria and Iraq, and according to the senior United States commander in Iraq, the military has sped up and decentralized the process for approving airstrikes. But ISIS fighters are not the only ones getting caught in the crossfire. In March, it was reported that up to 200 civilians in the northern Iraq city of Mosul had been killed by a series of airstrikes—potentially “the highest civilian death tolls in an American air mission since the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003,” according to The New York Times.
Mr. Trump is not unique in his preference for waging war from above. Just over a year ago, the editors of America published one of several editorials that condemned President Obama’s prolific use of air power, despite his openness about the number of people these strikes killed. “Telling us ‘how many’ is hardly sufficient from a president who claims to head ‘the most transparent administration in history,’” wrote the editors. “True accountability demands that he also explain why and on what authority” (4/23/2016). Mr. Obama justified his use of drones by overstating the imminence of threats to U.S. security, thereby excusing himself from considering longer-term strategies for protecting the country.
Loosening White House oversight and accepting a higher risk to noncombatants, Mr. Trump similarly ignores a long-term threat—that a higher toll among civilians, in addition to being repugnant in its own right, will serve as a powerful recruitment tool for ISIS.
Mr. Obama conducted 10 times as many airstrikes as President Bush, and until recently it remained to be seen how President Trump would employ this method of “defense.” Unfortunately, it appears that Mr. Trump is more than willing to continue—and expand upon— his predecessor’s devastating legacy.