Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Big Guns versus Smart Bombs

I am continually amazed that the armed service which gave us the New Warfare during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, with smart bombs, cruise missiles, and stealth aircraft, has become so resistant to the change, and backward in their thinking. In an opinion piece at the New York Times, a USAF officer is coming to the defense of our Cold War legacy weaponry, which we continue to cling to long after the demise of the Soviet Union. Here is Major General Charles J. Dunlap Jr.:

Many analysts understandably attribute the success to our troops’ following the dictums of the Army’s lauded new counterinsurgency manual. While the manual is a vast improvement over its predecessors, it would be a huge mistake to take it as proof — as some in the press, academia and independent policy organizations have — that victory over insurgents is achievable by anything other than traditional military force.

Unfortunately, starry-eyed enthusiasts have misread the manual to say that defeating an insurgency is all about winning hearts and minds with teams of anthropologists, propagandists and civil-affairs officers armed with democracy-in-a-box kits and volleyball nets. They dismiss as passé killing or capturing insurgents.

To me this is an astonishing lack of understanding and appreciation of the sacrifice of our troops and the profound change in warfare as evidenced by the insurgency tactics we have neglected so long. Such close-minded thinking almost led us to disaster with 4 years in Iraq and the terrorists continuing to run roughshod over the Iraqi civilians, while we here at home came dangerously close to a premature and disgraceful cut-and-run in the face of the supreme threat of our times. The general continues:

And while the new counterinsurgency doctrine has an anti-technology flavor that seems to discourage the use of air power especially, savvy ground-force commanders in Iraq got the right results last year by discounting those admonitions. Few Americans are likely to be aware that there was a fivefold increase in airstrikes during 2007 as compared with the previous year, which went hand in hand with the rest of the surge strategy. Going high-tech once again proved to be highly successful.

Correct, and yet he fails to mention what was not utilized to bring about the highly successful strategy, that of the USAF’s dream aircraft, the F-22 Raptor, already in service since 2005, with no present plans to operate them in the Middle East. Air support in Iraq and Afghanistan has been mainly relegated to lo-tech fighters, such as the F-16 and A-10, plus the always dependable Eisenhower era B-52 bomber. Hi-tech super fighters like the F-15 Eagle has been forced out of the fight since it was never designed for the rigors of a war of attrition.

The Air Force leadership seems in denial that there is a war on. Imagine the American military of World War 2 without plans to deploy the P-51 Mustang over Berlin or the B-29 bomber against Imperial Japan, but saving them for some future, unspecified threat. Congress would likely have canceled such absurd planning before they left the drawing board, if such advanced weapons couldn’t be used against the immediate threat to our security.

To consider our winning the Battle of Iraq as the end of the War on Terror, is as ludicrous as of the Korean War of 1950-53 spelled the finale of the Soviet occupation of eastern Europe. In fact, it was just the beginning of our last “Long War”. Petraeus’s winning strategy is the correct one, that is finally achieving success against the terrorist who caught us asleep on 9/11, 2001. This is no time to return to our slumbers, but to continue the work begun by our brave and brilliant young men and women, who now have found away to beat Al Qaeda at its own game.