Wednesday, April 18, 2018

James Russell — The Strike Warfare Chimera

The reality is that strike warfare—long range strikes by planes and missiles—has rarely achieved its advertised strategic consequence. Yet it remains a dangerous, drug-like chimera to states desperately searching for some sort of easy, low-cost fix in the search for influence in the chaotic international system. Like all drugs, the initial rush feels great, but the long-range addiction is, in the end, far more destructive, dangerous, and difficult (if not impossible) to kick.…
Yet despite these uncertain results and even colossal failures, we remain addicted to strike warfare, telling ourselves that we can police the politics on the ground by dropping bombs from on high. The reality is, of course, different. Those fighting the wars on the ground are fighting for political objectives, and it is on the ground that the fight will be determined—not by the missiles and airplanes flying around above it. This fact is not lost on Assad. His response to the strikes? He reportedly stepped up attacks against his enemies on the ground.
Therein lies the strategic dilemma for the West, which has invested billions in the strike, information, surveillance, and reconnaissance complexes that are designed to blow things up with little collateral damage. The revolution in military affairs (and billions of taxpayer dollars) indeed delivered the complex—much to the delight of political leaders, who saw in it a low-cost substitute for sending armies to the four corners of the globe to police political disputes.
Yet the foreign policy establishment in the United States desperately clings to the myths they helped create that the strike complex would mean that these wars would be short, low cost and that we could control the bad behavior of our enemies by bombing them.
Our enemies must surely back down in the fact of such might. Right?
Substituting a tactic and wishful thinking for a strategy. Vietnam, and the experience of France there before the US, should have taught a lesson. It did not. The US keeps on making the same mistake and is unleashing carnage. People like John Bolton don't think the US has unleashed enough of it and the solution is to double down.

The Strike Warfare Chimera
James A. Russell | Associate Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA

1 comment:

Matt Franko said...

Not if you consider the strikes as simply punitive...