02 November 2011

100 Years of Overstating Airpower

A counterpoint to the air force's claim that airpower solves everything, this New York Times column points out that they've been making these kinds of claims for 100 years, and have been wrong every time.

Nonetheless, we continue to shape our wars around a utopian idea about bombing. In March of this year, French planes bombed Libyan tanks outside Benghazi, and began a NATO campaign which lasted until the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Oct. 20. That single event is telling: an American Predator drone and a French warplane were in the skies overhead, but it was Libyan foot soldiers on the ground who captured their former leader.

Aerial bombardment is a form of warfare that was designed as an escape from the past. And yet each new conflict is only another episode in bombing’s long history of promises about “cost-free” victory and clean war. For each example of a conflict apparently made easier by air power, there is a counter-example of a war which air power has only served to complicate and intensify. While the conflict in Libya would almost certainly have been far bloodier in the absence of NATO air power, bombing raids by Predator and Reaper drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a focus for anti-American sentiment. Bombing is an unpredictable weapon, and perhaps its greatest danger is that, in suggesting an easy conflict, it draws us into wars we might otherwise have avoided. In that way, it is both the symbol of our faith in technology, and the sign of our entrapment in the past.

h/t Doctrine Man

By: Brant

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