In 1954, then United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld remarked: 'The UN was not created to bring us to heaven, but in order to save us from hell.'
Hammarskjöld's point was that in the often messy and brutal world of international affairs, the standard of success is not perfect peace and security but whether war and genocide can be minimised.
Despite ongoing strife in Iraq and Syria and sustained Islamic State combat strength, Hammarskjöld's lesson should chasten critics of the US-led campaign of air strikes.
IS has not given up its fight to seize the Kurdish-controlled city of Kobane, IS-linked terror attacks are multiplying even in the Iraqi government stronghold of Baghdad, and nimble IS units can easily evade air strikes by fleeing into urban areas.
It would nevertheless be a massive misjudgement to conclude that the international intervention is failing.
US President Barack Obama last month pitched expanded air strikes across Iraq and Syria in typically grandiose terms. The proclaimed aim was to 'degrade and ultimately destroy' IS and 'hunt down' its fighters 'wherever they are.'
Obama's forceful rhetoric notwithstanding, the mission's immediate goals were actually much more modest: to frustrate IS' genocidal ambitions and stall its advance in western Iraq and eastern Syria.
These more limited objectives have already been achieved. Attempted mass atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities have been thwarted and IS has been unable to significantly expand on spectacular territorial gains made in June.
Of course, even if the coalition campaign of air strikes was able to pull off a heroic feat and totally neutralise IS forces in a matter of mere months, Syria would still be mired in civil war, the Kurds would still be unhappy partners in the fragmented Iraqi federation, and Iraq would still be racked by sectarian divisions and periodic intercommunal violence.
But it would be unreasonable to expect even the best planned and most honourably intentioned international intervention to fully free Iraq and Syria from internal troubles.
In fact, as Hammarskjöld would have recognised, if international intervention in Iraq and Syria only saves these countries from the hell of a total IS takeover, the mission will have been a resounding success.
Dr Benjamin Herscovitch is a Beijing-based Research Fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies.