Summary: We gear up for another round of wars, repeating the same methods that failed repeatedly since WWII, with pregame performances more predictable than a Superbowl’s halftime festival. Today we look at the grand claims of certain easy victory through airpower. Like Charlie Brown listening to Lucy, each time we believe — ignoring past disappointments.
“There are no innocent civilians. It is their government and you are fighting a people, you are not trying to fight an armed force anymore. So it doesn’t bother me so much to be killing the so-called innocent bystanders.”
— Curtis LeMay, interviewed by Michael Sherry after WWII, in his book The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon, Yale University Press (1989).
Today’s propaganda: “How America’s Drones Can Defeat ISIS“, Arthur Herman (senior fellow at Hudson Institute, created as cheerleaders to the USAF ), Defense One, 15 March 2015. None dare call it warmongering, although that’s what it is. The money paragraph:
“Fortunately, Carter will have at hand the perfect tool for delivering a series of mortal blows against ISIS without putting a single American soldier on the ground: America’s fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV’s.”
These performances before our wars are as predictable as a waltz. Each round of air power advocacy makes bold predictions of easy certain victory buttressed by grandiose but false claims about previous air wars.
Something similar happened more recently, almost by accident, in Kosovo in 1999, when persistent NATO air strikes so cleared away Serbian resistance that Kosovar militias were able to come down from surrounding hills and retake lost ground.
If we lift our habitual fog of amnesia to remember that war, even RAND, loyal servant of the USAF that created it), added a realistic note amidst its ritualistic accolades about the awesome Kosovo air war:
Allied air attacks against dispersed and hidden enemy forces were largely ineffective, in considerable part because of the decision made by NATO’s leaders at the outset to forgo even the threat of a ground invasion. Hence, Serb atrocities against the Kosovar Albanians increased even as NATO air operations intensified.
… Although these and other operational and tactical achievements were notable in and of themselves and offered ample grist for the Kosovo “lessons learned” mill, the most important accomplishments of Allied Force occurred at the strategic level and had to do with the performance of the alliance as a combat collective.
… There is no denying that the Serb ethnic cleansing push accelerated after Operation Allied Force began. It is even likely that the air effort was a major, if not determining, factor behind that acceleration. … NATO’s air strikes were unable to halt Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing campaign before it had been essentially completed … the bombing effort was clearly a suboptimal application of air power. …
This is another chapter in the long series of big promises and weak performance of air power since the early days of WWII. Studies follow each round, such as the Strategic Bombing Survey. Each time the reports’ headlines proclaim awesome success, but the details say otherwise.
The role of airpower in our failed expeditions to Iraq and Afghanistan has been effectively hidden. Massive use of bombing by manned and unmanned aircraft played a large role in both wars; the results contract the boosters’ claims of success.
These episodes of performance art, such as that above by Herman of the Hudson Institute, serve a valuable function. The promise of easy victory over evil entices Americans into these wars: fast, cheap, few dead and crippled Americans and civilians. The long messy expensive ground war develops more slowly, after our elites have firmly planted the hook in our minds. Imagine if Bush and Cheney promised us 14 years of war after 9/11, after which the Middle East would be aflame — and increased millions of Muslims (at home and abroad) would consider us the enemy based on our actions. How would we have reacted?
But now we happily go into war after war, excited by a thousand episodes of NCIS and its clones — raghead terrorist sleeper cells everywhere — and tales about dozens of terrorists lovingly manufactured at great cost by the FBI — and dreams of victory.
Let’s hope Robert Louis Stevenson was wrong:
“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
For More Information
You might find these two posts of interest: What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers? and After 13 years of failed wars, do we know our warmongers? Also, if you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.