Friday, November 09, 2007
Abolish the Air Force
November 1, 2007
The American Prospect
"What it does on its own -- strategic bombing -- isn't suited to modern warfare. What it does well -- its tactical support missions -- could be better managed by the Army and Navy.
It's time to break up the Air Force."
I struggled to finish reading this article. Not because it was poorly written, but because it made a few of coherent arguments for the dismantling of the US Air Force. You just have to sift through the author's clear lack of understanding of Air Force history and the application of air power. Sadly, today's Air Force is indeed becoming the type of force the Army had become during the 1980s and 90s; useless.
Of course I'm exaggerating a little, but so does the author of this article. I disagree with him on the premise that Abolishing the Air Force will make fighting the Global War on Terror easier, even though I agree on some of the finer points he made.
He starts building his case by discussing the recent civilian casualties caused by air strikes in Afghanistan, yet he completely ignores the fact that those civilian casualties were caused by the Taliban fighters hiding behind those civilians and using them as shields as opposed to an over-zealous bunch of pilots who love to use bombs to flatten buildings. The USAF spent billions of taxpayer dollars to minimize civilian casualties, but it can't stop enemy forces from hiding behind innocent Afghans like cowards.
Even more important is the understanding that even today the USAF does not call in its own air strikes. US or Coalition ground forces call in the steel. Thos ground forces identify the targets, verify the existence of collateral damage, and radio the coordinates to the pilots circling above. Yet, the Air Force is held accountable for any civilian loss of life, and the author bases part of his theory that the USAF is no longer needed on such collateral damage.
Sadly, the author uses the same construct as the US Army in ignoring the importance of air power in fighting fighting the Counter-Insurgency wars taking place around the world. General David Petraeus nearly ignored any mention of air power in the COIN manual he wrote three years ago, the very manual he's operating out of today. Whereas he spent 22 pages discussing how to develop an Army to fight a Counter-Insurgency war, he gave the USAF one page, and that page mentions very little about the use of air power in COIN operations.
There is a chasm between the Air Force and Army leadership. The Air Force leadership understands the importance of air power and its proper application in warfare even though they may not always make the right decisions in building and sustaining that air power. The Army leadership, or at least a majority of it, seemingly ignores the importance of air power in Iraq and Afghanistan. The USAF could change this ground-centric mindset if they based their Air Operations leadership out of Baghdad, rather then sitting comfortably down at Al Udeid or back in the States. The leadership is far removed from the battlefield, leaving the Army alone to make large scale decisions without high-level Air Force involvement.
Instead the Air Force ignores the Army and the Army ignores the Air Force, and articles such as these are written to try and fill this void.
Even more insulting then the existence of this real gap in communication and understanding of tactics between the Air Force and the Army is the argument the author makes as to why the Air Force originally became independent.
According to the author, the US Army Air Corps in WWII conducted strategic bombing not to win the war, but for winning independence from the Army by showing how air power could change the battlefield.
"The USAAF also conducted a number of other missions, but its chiefs believed that strategic bombing would win the war for the Allies -- and independence for the Air Force.
This desire for independence drove the behavior of the USAAF during the war. Because of the ineffectiveness of attacks on industry, and the flammability of Japanese cities, Gen. Curtis LeMay, mastermind of the strategic bombing campaign against Japan, decided that civilian areas would be the objective of his B-29s. Roughly 1 million Japanese civilians died from the fire-bombing of Japanese cities, though it was the incineration of so many square miles of Japanese city that the Army Air Force pointed to as it adduced clear, quantitative results in its fight for independence."
In other words, he's claiming that LeMay killed a million Japanese civilians just to justify an independent Air Force.
The lack of credibility of the author no longer justifies further review of this article, yet I will say that I did agree with his assessment that the USAF has lost its COIN experience it had gained through its success and sacrifice in Vietnam. I'll also agree that the Air Force has lost its voice and influence in the strategic planning and daily operations of today's Global War on Terror. We're taking part in the war, but we're not influencing tactics and planning.
The USAF should be fighting the COIN battle side by side with the US Army, in both the planning and execution. Instead we're allowing the US Army to choose the role and application of air power, and because of this we're failing in the COIN battle.
But this does not justify abolishing the Air Force. It's hard enough for Air Force Generals to run the Air Force. I can't imagine the Army trying to do it.
If you've ever served under an Army Command you would understand. They have a hard enough time running their own organizations.
posted by El Capitan at 6:16 AM
I admire that you read that entire thing! Freakin long~ I stopped maybe a third through it?
I agree with you.
I have worked for the Army before in that *wonderful* Joint Assignment known as EUCOM. It was a lesson that I will never forget! While I have serious respect for my brother service, I also had to withstand a TON of wasted time and even more wasted training for a really vague mission. Many things were done for appearances with minimal substance.... Force Protection measures, for one example. At any rate, the reason I am even rehashing my experience is because it seems that in the past, oh, six years out of my fifteen in the ol' ADAF, we have turned into a even shittier version of Army.
I have talked endlessly about the Air Force's issues that are ruining our not-so-well-oiled machine. There is a severe mission disconnect.
Our mission, if I remember, is to provide AIR support. It seems to me, as an enlisted puke, that the Head Shed is trying to posture us as GROUND support as well. Jack of all, master of none. Our support of aircraft and AIR MISSION has become convoluted with (to me) weak leadership that seems almost embarrassed at our (Air Force's) power and ease of ACCOMPLISHING what we need to do. Because of the suffering that the Ground Pounders go through, instead of revamping the Army away from traditional method, we're pushing the Air Force backwards to not get too far ahead.
You know that the group mentality either rises to the height of those around you or falls if they're low-brow. Well, I think simply, that the AF has lost its balls due to political correctness and too much attention to non-military sources or out of date method from the infantry. We worry too much about pissing off everyone, including our own Army.
If anything, the Air Force should absorb the Army and stop the insanity! But it's going the other way. The Air Force has lost its own identity.
And yeah, the communication is poor and the egos are big.
The Army should revamp away from the traditional method. We're basically hiring the same people. But the AF expects a lot more out of it's people. And gets more. A SrA in the Air Force has WAY more responsibility than a Corporal ever would. I think that they could learn a lot from us in regards to effectiveness, and we could learn a lot from them in regards to discipline. I do think that the AF is finally getting some well deserved recognition though, and not taking as much of a back seat as we used to.12:26 AM