Bombs vs. Bayonets? USAF Picks Bombs

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The Air Force may have adopted a doctrine on irregular warfare - combating insurgents and guerrillas while trying to win the hearts and minds of a local population - but it's not about to abandon the advantages of airpower and sophisticated weaponry in the name of "fighting fair."

Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center, made that pretty clear today at the Air & Space Conference sponsored by the Air Force Association in Washington, D.C.

Peck - noting that the Air Force's irregular warfare doctrine stipulates that military actions must come second to influencing the population you're trying to win over - heard that an earlier speaker said that just using airpower, even on a legitimate target, gives the enemy a propaganda opportunity.

The argument made by the earlier speaker is that enemy troops will claim the Air Force attacks them from the air but will not come face to face to fight them.

It was obviously not a question Peck usually gets. Or, perhaps, one hed ever heard.

"We should eschew capabilities that the enemy doesn't have and just drive up and put a bayonet in his chest because that's the only capability they have?" Peck asked. "We're using weapons from the air, and that's cheating? And we're doing it at night and we have precision weapons and they don't? I don't even know how to respond to that."

The fact is, Peck said, "I don't want a fair fight."

The Air Force drew up an irregular warfare doctrine that was approved by Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley on Aug. 24. A key part of the doctrine is that while combating and defeating the enemy, you don't things to turn the civilian population against you.

Legitimacy and influence are critical, according to the doctrine, and "the battle of arms" must work in harmony with "the battle for influence," but not become more important.

Still, its warfare. And somebody has to decide when a particular action is necessary - even if it may be viewed negatively by the population.

If the target is a mosque, for example, "chances are something like that, the approval level is going to be pretty high," Peck said, with the person making that call likely being the one who will have to publicly justify it later.

-- Bryant Jordan

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