Feb. 1, 2008

The Airpower Advantage

“It’s true that there aren’t many boots on the ground in Afghanistan. The buzzword among military types there is ‘under-resourced.’ At the same time, given the circumstances, the use of airpower has been highly effective. It allows NATO a presence in every nook and cranny of the country, denies sanctuary to insurgents, and ensures a sustained offensive. Moreover, there’s no empirical evidence that airpower is more deadly than equivalent ground engagements and no reason to think the civilian protections would be better if there were 400,000 troops on the ground, which is what Army counterinsurgency doctrine calls for.”—William M. Arkin, Washington Post blog, Dec. 11.

McPeak Goes to the Movies

“Most war films are a waste of time. Rare great ones often treat war as a metaphor (‘Catch 22,’ ‘Dr. Strangelove’). Vietnam was a rich source (‘Deer Hunter,’ ‘Platoon,’ ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ especially ‘Apocalypse Now’). It’s too soon to tell what the Gulf will produce, but ‘Jarhead’ is pretty good. It takes time for scar tissue to form. Ground fighting is portrayed with good fidelity (‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ‘Black Hawk Down,’ ‘The Thin Red Line’), but it’s hard to recreate the isolated cockpit world of air combat. ‘Twelve O’Clock High’ and ‘The Bridges at Toko-Ri’ are character studies set in war. ‘The Hunters’ is an exception, a realistic picture of air fighting. ‘Top Gun’ is interesting, but the technical flying stuff is a joke. … The only film I own is ‘Shane.'” Ret. Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, former Air Force Chief of Staff, The Oregonian, Nov. 23.

Does the Internet Cause Idiocy

“Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is ‘very likely’ or ‘somewhat likely’ that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them ‘because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East.’ … The survey also found that people who regularly use the Internet but who do not regularly use so-called ‘mainstream’ media are significantly more likely to believe in 9/11 conspiracies.”—Scripps Howard News Service, reporting on Scripps Howard/Ohio University public opinion poll, Nov. 23.

More for Diplomacy

“Funding for nonmilitary foreign affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. … What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security—diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development.”—Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Kansas State University, Nov. 26.

Again, Roles and Missions

“The roles and missions of our military services are largely unchanged since the Truman Administration and the Key West Agreement of 1948. After almost six decades, it’s time to once again analyze the Defense Department’s roles and missions, identify the services’ core competencies, discover the missions going unaddressed, and examine possible duplication of effort among the branches.”—Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on requirement in FY 2008 defense authorization bill for major roles and missions review, Dec. 6.

Strategic Squad Leaders

“We are asking soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines to fight in cities among multiple cultures with different motives, affiliations, incentives [that] we never expected soldiers or marines to have to deal with on a daily basis. It has created the strategic company commander, the strategic platoon sergeant, the strategic squad leader.”—Ret. Gen. Larry Welch, former Air Force Chief of Staff, Government Executive, Nov. 28.

Some Call It Jointness

“Goldwater-Nichols has created unintended consequences. It has resulted in a focus on military integration, but failing to develop a corresponding focus on incorporating all the elements of national power has delayed us from achieving true integration of all the pillars of national security. It has also led to an unsophisticated interpretation of jointness that drives some to seek homogeneity among the services, while others use ‘jointness’ as an excuse to seek participation in every possible mission. This has led some services to seek self-sufficiency rather than synergy—and to the degree they have been allowed to do so has actually resulted in divergence from the tenets of Goldwater-Nichols by some as they replicate other services’ core competencies.”—Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, Strategic Studies Quarterly, Winter 2007.

Afghanistan Is Secondary

“Our main focus, militarily, in the region and in the world right now is rightly and firmly in Iraq. It is simply a matter of resources, of capacity. In Afghanistan, we do what we can. In Iraq, we do what we must.”—Adm. Michael G. Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the House Armed Services Committee, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12.

Space Enables Lethality

“Almost all of our lethality on the battlefield comes from space.”—Brig. Gen. Jay G. Santee, vice commander, 14th Air Force, on role and contribution of space in the air-space-cyberspace kill chain, Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, Dec. 5.

Senators for F-22

“We understand that the Department of Defense is considering ceasing production of the F-22A Raptor following completion of the current multiyear procurement contract. We believe such a decision would be ill-advised and premature, given the recapitalization shortfalls facing our US Air Force and the rapidly emerging airborne and surface-to-air threats facing our nation’s military.”—Letter from bipartisan group of 28 Senators to Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, Dec. 12.