When the gun-camera footage from air strikes during the Gulf War reached America's television screens, people awoke to the astonishing accuracy and power of smart weapons. Yet ten years' experience has taught what these remarkable weapons can and cannot do, and now, as American policy makers look to them to win the global war on terrorism, it is essential to understand the promise and the limits of immaculate warfare. This volume of essays-written by military officers who analyzed the intelligence, planned the missions, and flew the planes over Iraq, Kosovo, and Afghanistan-offers the most penetrating look to date at the realities of American precision air power.
* The political context of using force from the air
* The theoretical considerations involved in the use of air power to coerce an enemy
* An insider's view from General Clark's headquarters as he commanded the Kosovo war effort
* The tensions between civilian and military leaderships during the Kosovo war
* Precision weapons and the paradoxes their use involves
* The debate surrounding when precision weapons ought to be employed
In the wake of World War I, advocates of the Air Force argued that an organizationally independent air force would render other military branches obsolete. These boosters promised clean, easy wars: airpower would destroy cities beyond the reach of the armies and would sink navies before they could reach the coast. However, as Farley demonstrates, independent air forces failed to deliver on these promises in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the Kosovo conflict, and the War on Terror. They have also had perverse effects on foreign and security policy, as politicians have been tempted by the vision of devastating airpower to initiate otherwise ill-considered conflicts. The existence of the USAF also produces turf wars with the Navy and the Army, leading to redundant expenditures, nonsensical restrictions on equipment use, and bad tactical decisions.
Farley does not challenge the idea that aircraft represent a critical component of America's defenses; nor does he dispute that -- especially now, with the introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles -- airpower is necessary to modern warfare. Rather, he demonstrates that the efficient and wise use of airpower does not require the USAF as presently constituted. An intriguing scholarly polemic, Grounded employs a wide variety of primary and secondary source materials to build its case that the United States should now correct its 1947 mistake of having created an independent air force.