Reader response: strategic airpower and the importance of the enemy’s character
28 Nov 2012|

In response to Nic Stuart’s recent post on strategic airpower, Strategist reader Sven Ortmann brought to our attention his thoughts on the topic. He suggests that the application of air power should be tailored to the nature of the adversary government. In effect, it’s a form of applied psychology:

The purpose of air power is to contribute to the military’s success in peacetime and wartime. Both times it’s in the end all about the will of a foreign power: To deter aggression or to force it into accepting our idea of a post-war peace.

The principal ability of air power to deliver such contributions hasn’t been questioned for generations, at least not in the case of large and wealthy countries. The best strategy and the limits of air power’s contributions on the other hand are subject to renewed discussion during most major violent conflicts with Western participation.

The evidence for limits and quality especially of different strategic air war strategies appears to be contradictory. Didn’t win air power the 1999 Kosovo War and didn’t it fail utterly over North Vietnam despite much greater loss of lives and property? Air power’s ability to win wars without substantial naval or ground manoeuvres appears to be inconsistent—but that’s a superficial observation.

This text attempts to resolve the apparent contradictions by paying much attention to the nature of the opposing forces’ leadership. It does also attempt to support decision-makers in identifying the most promising approach on a case-to-case basis. Furthermore, it’s about truly strategic air warfare; its core is how to persuade the opposing government, not how to crash a war economy…

You can read the rest of his post on his own blog, Defence and Freedom, here.