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An Argument over Air Strategies???

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  • Don Maddox
    replied
    Originally posted by Deltapooh
    The USAF destroyed or severely damaged Iraq's infrastructure and they still didn't surrender. Commanders like Maj. Gen. Buster Glosson were so convinced the Air Force could end the war they risked the lives of Coalition forces and the war to pursue it.
    This is true, however, it is worth pointing out that every potential plan carried a great degree of risk for the troops involved. At the time there seemed to be every indication that the Republican Guard forces would put up significant resistance in any ground operation and an estimate of 3-4,000 friendly casualties was considered conservative. I can see General Glossen's reasoning that if a ground operation could be avoided, it would be prudent to do so. If he had been free to pursue the rest of the war as he saw fit it's hard to say what the outcome might have been.

    Glosson went as far as to divert CAS sorties to hit other targets. This was wrong. Time was not on our side. We could not wait for Strategic bombing to work. Once the decision was made to have a ground war, the USAF should have considered the US Army's position. Infrastructure doesn't matter to a soldier facing the enemy a few hundred yards away.


    Agreed.

    Strategic Bombing has five parts to focus on. That includes enemy forces in the field. If we fight an enemy with ground forces the Air Force should strive to balance supporting the infantry with attacking the opponent's infrastructure.
    Agreed. I think part of this situation has to be attributed to each service natually trying to find the right "tool" to fix the problem within their own toolbox. The Marines were determined to launch an amphibious assault into Kuwait, and repeatedly submitted plans for doing so. Schwarzkopf would have none of it and Washington thought the plan far too risky. In this case I agree that there would have been little point except an opportunity for the Marine Corps to recapture some of its lost glory. The casualties from such an operation could have easily been unacceptable and weakened the operation as a whole.

    The 82nd Airborne Division Commander pushed for an airborne operation as well. This too would have had little point and could have resulted in a lot of wasted lives. All things being equal, Schwarzkopf's team did a remarkable job.

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  • Deltapooh
    replied
    The USAF destroyed or severely damaged Iraq's infrastructure and they still didn't surrender. Commanders like Maj. Gen. Buster Glosson were so convinced the Air Force could end the war they risked the lives of Coalition forces and the war to pursue it. They were re-striking targets over and over again. After an F-117 attacked a bomb shelter, JCS took a closer look at the targets and BDA reports. Gen. Powell asked, “Why are we bouncing rubble with million dollar bombs?”

    The fact was, and is, Iraq is a military-state. That is how Saddam controls the country. To achieve victory, we can't just attack the civilian population. They are not as important in Iraqi Politics. You want to weaken a country like Iraq, the military should be considered a critical target. NOT THE ONLY TARGET, but a critical one.

    Glosson went as far as to divert CAS sorties to hit other targets. This was wrong. Time was not on our side. We could not wait for Strategic bombing to work. Once the decision was made to have a ground war, the USAF should have considered the US Army's position. Infrastructure doesn't matter to a soldier facing the enemy a few hundred yards away.

    That's why I cheered when Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller recounted how he confronted Glosson about diverting the CAS sorties. He said, “Buster if you ever divert another plane without my permission, I'll choke your tongue out.” That ended that.

    I don't dispute Strategic Bombing and it's effects. However, one must carefully consider the enemy (as Maddog said enemy defined as the country) to determine what is the best method to achieve victory. Weakening a country's will to fight can take a very long time. Time might be something we don't have.

    About Kosovo, I don't think we strategic bombing was largely successful. FRY went on a rampage while we looked on a dropped a few bombs. It was an accumulative effect that ended the war. Russia pretty much withdrew support, and NATO was hinting a ground campaign was in the planning. That along with increased attacks on FRY in the field and on Serb's infrastructure resulted in success.

    Strategic Bombing has five parts to focus on. That includes enemy forces in the field. If we fight an enemy with ground forces the Air Force should strive to balance supporting the infantry with attacking the opponent's infrastructure.

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  • Don Maddox
    replied
    Great topic.

    Many of the better books on the Gulf War deal with this decision in great detail (see my book reviews in the Reviews section). An Air Force study group, with support from general Horner, concluded that the priority target for our air campaign should be "critical support points" within Iraq. Once these key points of interest have been eliminated or severely weakened, the enemy's ability or will to continue to resist will be removed. It all goes back to, "war is a continuation of politics by other means." The basic idea is that if we are at war with the Iraqi people and we remove Iraq's radio stations, power plants, bridges, and factories, there will be so much disruption of the Iraqi state that they will unable to continue effective military operations. This theory was put to the test in both the Gulf war and the Balkans. In both cases it worked, although it wasn't carried through during the Gulf War.

    During the latter part of the air campaign in the Gulf War there were some bitter disagreements between the senior leaders over what our true targets should be. The Air Force was totally convinced that a strategy as outlined above would very quickly lead to a complete disruption of the Iraqi state, and likely, an overthrow of the Iraqi leadership. They came up with a big map in the HQ at Riyadh that showed these "critical points of interest" and categorized them with various priorities. Since the Air Force was in charge of the lion's share of all the air assets, they directed the main force of their air strikes against these targets with the military targets having only a secondary priority. General Schwarzkopf became personally involved in this after the Army Corps commanders complained about the situation. They were looking at their own S2 information and could still see many Republican Guard formations largely intact in their respective areas of interest. Schwarzkopf ordered the Air Force to redirect its main efforts to reducing the Republican Guard mechanized divisions prior to the ground assault. This set off a whole chain of events which led to bitter disagreements within the command. The Air Force protested that their earlier strategy was just starting to pay big dividends, and if continued to its natural conclusion would likely render a ground assault unnecessary. They accused the Army of manipulating the situation so that ground forces would be necessarry and play a pivotal role. In the end Schwarzkopf had his way and the earlier Air Force strategy was largely abandoned, although General Horner continued to "interpret" General Schwarzkopf's directives and assign his own priority targets.

    This raises a lot of interesting issues, but this debate is not going to go away. A very similar strategy was recently used in Afghanistan. The military strikes were really only partially effective. The more important piece were the strikes against the Taliban infrastructure. That's what led to the collapse of the Taliban regime, not military strikes against its scattered light infantry forces.

    Nations do not declare war against an army. They declare war against another nation. That nation's vital infrastructure is not only a legitimate target, it is the target. Cut off the head and the body will die.

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  • Headshot
    replied
    Intersting point. But in some cases in WWII the continuous bombing of oil fields and factorys kept hitlers industry from totally breaking loose (as the soviets did). Hitler defended his factorys to the death, and had he rather built munitions plants further inland, he wouldnt have suffered the same horrendous destruction of his factories.Imagine if Detroit was bombed everyday non-stop. Instead of moving the plants the big three built more. Hitler thought the same idea would solve the problem. So stealth bombs may have knocked out the plants but it couldve hurt the overall objective.

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  • Cheetah772
    started a topic An Argument over Air Strategies???

    An Argument over Air Strategies???

    Hello everybody,

    I just finished a book written by David Halberstam, War in a Time of Peace, and it's a good book.

    I have a question for all of you, from that book, it's interesting to see how the air power is used differently in the different conflicts. In Gulf War, the air power was used on the Iraqi civilian infrastructure as to cripple Iraq and its army's ability to wage a war effectively instead of on the army itself. However, somebody within the Pentagon disagreed with that new idea.

    The book claims that this person, Colonel John Warden, devised a new idea to use the air power in a different way. Let me quote from the book:

    Instead he eventually came up with his own strategy, based on the modern state's unusual vulnerability to these new weapons. The more modern the state, the greater its dependence upon electrical power, communications system, sources of petroleum, and transportation systems, then the more it was endangered by this kind of warfare. (David Halbestam, War in a Time of Peace, pg. 50)


    The new weapons were precision weapons such as smart bombs, and things like that. Do you support this kind of strategy? This meant that the civilians, not the army, would be suffering the most. This also meant that Saddam still had his forces intact, and ability to crush any rebellion or at least safeguard his welfare.

    Do you think if the US air force had approached the Gulf War with a bit old-fashioned way by crushing and interdicting the Iraqi army in the field, then Saddam would be left without a security blanket as to prevent anybody overthrowing him?

    Warden had answered his question that his idea was the best way to achieve this by ordering his assistant to study the plans of using air power with modern weapons in the World War Two. This assistant concluded that by using Warden's idea with stealth fighters (F-117, 48 of them, into two squadrons), the Germany military production would be shut down within six weeks instead of three long years that cost thousands of bomber crews and civilians' lives (pg. 55). The circle of error was so great, that a thousand planes had to go to pound on the same target over and over again. Warden discovered that the Allies only hit just 50 targets in Germany in 1943 alone (pg. 51).

    If you don't believe me then I would be more than happy to quote from the book to satisfy your suspucisions. Or at least go out and buy this book for yourself to read.

    In any case, this kind of idea Warden advocated was eventually put to test in Gulf War and Kosvo conflict. Serbia had its civilian infrastructure destroyed completely, thus the Serbian military was unable to move because it had its transportation systems and production cut off.

    Unfortunately, as stated above, this caused the civilians to become more resented of our air power, and develop a bitter feeling for years afterwards.

    What do you think? Do you condone this kind of strategy? What about me? As far I am concerned, I believe that our armed forces should only focus on the legitimate military targets, after all, the people who signed up for military knew the risks, but the civilians were only guilty of being patriotic citizens of their own country.

    Any comments?

    Thanks,
    Dan

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