DRUMBEATS are no longer in vogue, but you can catch their echo even in a digital world. They say that a new era began in Paris on November 13, that Francois Hollande is right, that the world is at war. Islamic State is to be eradicated.

If such is the war aim, it has no critics, not publicly. Complications, for now, are being overlooked. Is that lip service we hear from certain Middle East governments? Is the emerging “understanding” between the United States and Russia an expedient fraught with problems? Is someone vetting prospective members of Hollande’s coalition to test for a commitment to democracy, far less to liberty, equality and fraternity?

Not yet. This is not, they say, the moment. Hollande himself can hardly be blamed for a visceral reaction. The names of 129 people who were supposed to be enjoying the protection of the president of the French Republic are being prepared for their memorials. Bloody mayhem has been inflicted on his capital.

So he strikes back, strikes to punish, to protect, to deter and destroy. French fighter jets “pound” (as the despatches say) the city of Raqqa, chosen as the capital of an entity that is not, says France, a state. Is this the time to remember that Al-Raqqah was once home to 220,000 people, that most of the thousands still trapped there are Islamic State’s hostages too, that French bombs will not feel, to them, much like liberation?

Probably not. No Western government is in a mood to listen. The French have no doubt picked their targets with the usual precision. In any case, we will hear no casualty figures. Besides, this is war and the innocent, like the innocents of Paris, die in wars. Unlike IS, we mourn them all, without exception. So we say.

There’s the problem, visible even within half a dozen words. The grand rhetoric, like the sense of common purpose, does not actually get us very far. “Islamic State is to be eradicated”: fine. That movement is disgustingly eager for death. It has emptied the word "jihad" of every meaning save one. It means to “re-establish the caliphate” – with no legitimacy whatever – by any and every means at its disposal. Criticism of Western methods shrivels beside the acts of IS.

And still: that doesn’t get us far. The US “pounded” Vietnam for years on end. The civilian death toll was horrendous. More to the point, if strategy is the game, the US and its chosen local governments lost that war. The old USSR suffered much the same fate in Afghanistan. Saddam’s Iraq and Gaddafi’s Libya were taught the meaning of air power. And then?

In both cases, the peace was lost. Put aside a host of other arguments. The advocates of perpetual intervention, like those who pedal their “clash of civilisations” drivel, have plenty of outlets for their fantasies. History says one relevant thing: aerial bombardment is the crudest, least reliable of instruments.

It is being pursued now simply because the governments involved can think of no alternative that will somehow hurt IS while satisfying public opinion. Where will it lead? Search for an answer – I’ve searched – and you find only forms of words, a kind of magical thinking. Somehow, from vast destruction, “stability” and “democracy” will emerge.

Repeated failures in the past to achieve this great conjuring feat are, as usual, being ignored while David Cameron manoeuvres to extend the UK’s participation, while Hollande demands his coalition, while Nicola Sturgeon says she will “listen to the case” for bombing in Syria. We are all entitled to hear that case. Listening is good.

You might argue that none of this is relevant to present urgency. The case for eradicating IS stands alone, some say, and we need not get bogged down in possible consequences. Those will keep. The war is now. If it did not begin before November 13, the atrocities in Paris removed any doubt. An advocate of bombing might say this: aerial bombardment might not be perfect, but how does it hinder if it cripples IS as a predatory fighting force?

The US and others have been bombing relentlessly since August 8, 2014. There have been thousands of strikes. The Russians have now joined in with the kind of ruthlessness that is Vladimir Putin’s trademark. Still not enough munitions? Still a need for a handful of British aircraft to tip the scales?

If the effort is supposed to be a preface to “boots on the grounds”, proponents have a problem. At the G20 summit in Turkey, Barack Obama made it clear that US ground forces will not be committed. He believes that such a step would only repeat old mistakes. He could have added a political point: the American public has no appetite for still another land war in a far-off country.

If air power could be shown to work, those of us who oppose it would have difficulties. I am not, not by any stretch, a pacifist. Show me IS crumbling in the face of Hellfire missiles and I might begin to think again. But failed tactics with awesome consequences to satisfy armchair generals and the military-industrial establishment strike me as a stupid bet. What we know is horribly simple: thousands of airstrikes since August 2014 were no deterrent to a handful of murderers in Paris.

Governments claim to understand this. Terrorism at home is one problem, war in Syria and Iraq another. Politicians nevertheless stress the connection. They maintain that crushing the head of the IS snake in the Middle East will begin to ensure domestic security. There is no evidence for that. There is evidence, instead, that conventional assaults allow IS, needing no prompting, to promote terrorism as war by other means.

The connection between IS the proto-state and slaughter in a European city is not at issue, in any case. There will be no security, no peace, no hope for the Middle East, until the organisation is dismantled at every level. The question is how, not why. What’s the difference between a global struggle and a world war? You don’t want to know. Perpetual, fruitless bombing shows the shadow of the answer.

IS depends on stolen oil: why does that trade continue? IS depends on the arms trade: where’s the coalition against that among the gun dealers of the West? IS depends on international financial systems: are we suddenly short on experts? IS has known sponsors among the rich zealots of “friendly” Middle Eastern states: when do the arrests begin?

The government of France, like its allies, knows all of these well-documented facts. You could note, though, that all the voices calling for borders to be closed against refugees say less about shutting borders against arms shipments and oil money. Yet without those, the snake dies.

If bombing worked, the world would take the fact for granted. Bombing kills soldiers; it can wipe out armies; but only rarely does it destroy insurgencies. That doesn’t mean they can’t be destroyed. The respectable trader making his quiet phone call to shift some IS oil, or source some anti-tank missiles, knows it perfectly well.