Air War Debate Flairs Again

Since World War II (at least), air forces have been saying that they can win wars all by themselves -- and ground-pounders have told the flyboys no way.F16i_soufa_2.jpgWith Katyushas continuing to fly in big numbers, U.N. observers hit by Israeli bombs, civilian casualties mounting, and Hezbollah guerrillas inflicting serious harm along the border, that argument is flaring hot in Israel.After all, as Stratfor notes, "rather than pursuing a more traditional IDF course of coordinating airstrikes with intense mobile operations on the ground, the Israelis have chosen a strategy that has focused on an intense air campaign."

The argument is that at this point, the air force has done all it will be able to do and is reaching the point of diminishing returns. The cost of waiting is that international opinion is turning against an air campaign that inevitably hits unacceptable targets; that the pressure for a cease-fire will build; and that when the ground campaign is finally launched, it will be under a time pressure it need not have, which will cause greater risk-taking and casualties. It would be nice for the Israelis if the air campaign could do the job itself, as it would mean fewer Israeli casualties, but the air force is operating without a criterion of failure -- it asserts that the strategy will work over time, but gives no indication when...[IDF chief of staff Gen Dan] Halutz wants to continue the air campaign and hold the army, and the army is demanding to be cut loose. It does not want to do attritional, small-unit warfare in south Lebanon. We do not know how this argument is playing out, but there is a decision that ultimately will have to be made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
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