Streetwise Professor

October 11, 2014

If You Set Out to Bomb ISIS, Bomb ISIS

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — The Professor @ 9:15 pm

As a follow up on my post about the devastating use of airpower to turn back the Eastertide Offensive in Viet Nam in 1972, consider this judgment delivered by LTG David Deptula (USAF ret):

The issue is not the limits of airpower, the issue is the ineffective use of airpower. According to [The Department of Defense’s] own website, two B-1 sorties can deliver more ordnance than did all the strikes from the aircraft carrier Bush over the last six weeks. Two F-15E sorties alone are enough to handle the current average daily task load of airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria.

Wise analysts understand that those blaming airpower for not ‘saving Kobani’ are confusing the limits of ‘airpower’ with the sub-optimization of its application. One can see [ISIS] tanks and artillery . . . in the open on TV, yet the coalition forces for ‘Operation Un-named Effort’ are not hitting them. Airpower can hit those targets and many others, but those in charge of its application are not—that’s the issue—not the limits of airpower.

The airstrikes to date have been very closely controlled, tactical in nature, and reflect the way they have been ‘metered’ in Afghanistan. The process that is being used to apply airpower is excessively long and overly controlled at too high a command level.

Exactly. Air power has limits, but we haven’t even come close to those limits in Iraq and Syria. The limits on the current campaign don’t inhere in the nature of air power, but are being imposed by those in command.

Note the last line: “overly controlled at too high a command level.” The highest command level, in fact. We know that Obama is exercising tight control over this operation, and it shows.

I know all about zoomies exaggerating the capabilities of air power. They claim that it can win wars unaided. That’s never happened. But most of the over-promising relates to strategic bombing. Tactical air can be devastating (think the Luftwaffe during the blitzkrieg, or the ferocious Jabos of the IX Tactical Air Command in Europe in 1944-45), but the USAF has always bridled at being beholden to the ground pounders. (This is why the A-10s have always had more to fear from the Air Force brass than enemy fire.)

Well, here and now there are no ground pounders involved. For better or worse, this is an Air Force and Naval Air show.  They can be decisive, if allowed to do what they are capable of doing.

The current desultory campaign is worse than no campaign at all. Apropos what Napoleon said about taking taking Vienna, if you set out to bomb ISIS, bomb ISIS. Here is definitely a case where moderation in war is imbecility. It achieves nothing except embolden the enemy and raise their stature, and make the US look like a timorous, cringing giant, thereby encouraging further challenges. The current effort is bolstering Assad, and infuriating the anti-Assad forces we are looking to support the fight against ISIS. It is reinforcing America’s image as a betrayer of the Kurds. This is exactly why I despaired at the thought of Obama waging a war.

I am sure that most in the military are beside themselves. But what to do about it? Perhaps those in the Pentagon, and especially the Joint Chiefs, should read H. R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty, or maybe give LTG McMaster a call.

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  1. This post and your previous posts, SWP, remind me of one of the big lessons that that I thought everyone had learned in Vietnam – “limited warfare” does not work, and a president (Johnson at that time) sitting in a bunker White House picking out targets does not work.

    Obala, the community organizer, may be book smart a la Harvard law school (and that is a big if), but he is a total idiot.

    Comment by elmer — October 12, 2014 @ 11:44 am

  2. It turns out the oil stolen by ISIS and sold with “triple doscount” via Turkey and Israel is one of the main reasons behind the drop in oil prices. At least if you listen to the alcoholic former PutinTV propagandist turned Rosneft VP/press secretary Mikhail Leontyev

    Comment by Ivan — October 12, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

  3. @elmer. Obama reminds me of what Talleyrand said of the Bourbons: He has learned nothing, and has forgotten nothing.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 12, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

  4. Obola thinks what he says or believes overides reality. Also, Obola not having any real experience and many other personality problems, there is one problem that can be changed with a constitutional amendment. That is, we should never allow an attorney to be president, we have enough in the congress and the supreme court. Perhaps, we too should limit attorneys only to the Judicial branch of the goverment, then again….

    Comment by traveler — October 12, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

  5. The last truly effective use of. air power was over Hiroshima and Nagasaki–ended a world war in 96 hours.

    Comment by The Pilot — October 12, 2014 @ 2:12 pm

  6. I’ve never quite understood that Talleyrand comment. To forget nothing seems to me to be meritorious in a national leader. Is the sense of it that he had learned so little there was nothing in his head to forget?

    Comment by Green as Grass — October 13, 2014 @ 5:40 am

  7. @Green. I have always interpreted it as meaning that the Bourbons never let go of their misconceptions. That is, they never would learn from experience that some of their beliefs were wrong. Sort of like Will Rogers’ quip: It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

    I think Obama is a classic example of that. He hangs onto his beliefs about Iraq, Gitmo, etc. He will not revise them in light of experience or changed circumstances.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — October 13, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  8. KUDOS to Traveler re: attorneys.

    VP VP

    Comment by Vlad — October 14, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

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