Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Punishment-One Can't Win a War Cheaply

I do not believe that "punishment" by conventional weapons is an effective form of air power, as categorized in the "Coercive Air Power" readings. The belief is that "punishment", as stated by the Douhet model, will inflict high costs that will destroy civilian morale; thus leading to political pressure on the government to end the war. Since planes flying with bombs is a relatively new phenomenon, it is easy to look back at history to see if such a model holds up.

First, let's disregard the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; which are special cases in which attacking civilian morale worked (even though it took a second nuclear bomb!). A nuclear strike is absolutely devasting to the morale of a society, and is the only case in which the Douhet model works for me. Moreover, these bombings were by a country with a nuclear arsenal against a country that did not have one. The Japanese possessed no counter-strike ability, making the "punishment" that much more damaging to morale.

The Douhet model especially loses relevance when you only look at cases involving conventional weapons. Maybe the best examples are the attacks on London by Germany in both World Wars. Germany attacked civilians because they hoped to cause mass panic and unemployment. All that happened was the hardening of the resolve of the public and policy-makers. "The British public generally supported the idea of an air force designed to punish an enemy's population centers" (61). So the Brits actually didn't cower, but instead said "Let's go do it to them." I'm sure the opposite of what the Germans wanted. Also, it could probably be argued that if a society has a motivational leader (Churchill) the effects of an air siege are even further reduced.

When civilians are attacked soley by airpower, they seem to bond together and support their government even more. There are no popular revolts and social disintegration does not take place. In regards to conventional air weapons, the Douhet model is crap. Thoughts?

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