THE END OF AIRPOWER
September 4, 2009
The Anglo-American military legend continues—that the most overtly globalized “hot” war in human history was won decisively by airpower in 1945. And now NATO clings to the romantic notion that air superiority makes military defeat inexcusable.
Last night in Afghanistan “the Taliban” (our words, who among us knows the words the residents use?) hijacked two U.S. gasoline tankers (which I can only imagine would be seen by residents as fuel for foreign invaders).
I have just turned off BBC after hearing an interviewer explore dangers that all that fuel in enemy hands could have done to our cause, whatever our “mission” (catch the religious connotation of that military word) ever has been. The BBC interviewer inquired whether tankers had been used in previous suicide attacks, and whether fuel was used in other suicide bombs, and implicitly, whether this or that might have justified a military commander’s hasty decision to keep the fuel out of enemy hands.
Give me a break. If I had just hijacked two tankers from an enemy force that could spot them from the air by satellite any time, would I try to hang onto the trucks, or give the fuel to local residents to win their hearts and minds?
Milgram and Zimbardo have among many others found that absolute power corrupts. The only explanation other than nostalgia I can see for Anglo-US reliance on airpower is that we almost never get shot down, and hence our constituents don’t have so many “friendly” casualties to complain about. Noblesse oblige in warfare. At the same time, we strive to count Afghans as enemy casualties. A friend who was a point guard late in the Vietnam War told me he used to shoot monkeys out of trees to make enemy body counts. Those of us who drop bombs and fire rockets are more likely to claim native bodies as trophies than as victims.
We have already well begun to blame the Iraqis and Afghanis for how corrupt their native governments are, telling ourselves that if only they had straightened up and flown right, or if our own constituents had had the will to keep committing more troops and to fighting on, military glory would have been snatched from the jaws of defeat. I long for continuing Anglo-American popular awakening to the reality that military success, karmically, eventually reaches its limits, and as with the Soviet Union, defeats itself. Love and peace--hal