Monday, August 21, 2006

Relearning expensive lessons

One thing that bothered me about the Israeli campaign in Lebanon was the clear belief that they could win largely through the use of airpower. I'd end up talking to myself or yelling at the television: "Don't you guys read history books?!?"

I'm an ex-tanker, and some of my best friends were groundpounders, so maybe I'm biased. But if there's one thing that's clear from reading military history, it's that airpower alone does not win wars -- however often the Air Force commanders make that argument, and however enticing the idea is to a casualty-wary politician.

I missed this article when it first came out, but it sums up the situation very nicely.

Military historians have a name for the logic behind Israel's military campaign in Lebanon. It's called the "strategic bombing fallacy." Almost since the dawn of the age of military air power, strategists have been tempted by the prospect that the bombing of "strategic" targets such as infrastructure and transportation hubs could inflict such pain on a population that it would turn against its leaders and get them to surrender or compromise.

Unfortunately -- as the United States itself discovered during World War II and Vietnam, to cite just two examples -- strategic bombing has almost never worked. Far from bringing about the intended softening of the opposition, bombing tends to rally people behind their own leaders and cause them to dig in against outsiders who, whatever the justification, are destroying their homeland.

What's surprising is that the above fallacy is very well known -- or should be to anyone who pays attention to military history. It astonishes me that an organization as practical and experienced as the Israeli military would fall for such a thing.

Is it me, or is the entire world suffering from a giant case of the ignorant stupids?

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