Airpower Security Cooperation as an Instrument of National Power: Lessons for Iraq from the Cases of Pakistan and Egypt

By Thies, Douglas G. | Air & Space Power Journal, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Airpower Security Cooperation as an Instrument of National Power: Lessons for Iraq from the Cases of Pakistan and Egypt


Thies, Douglas G., Air & Space Power Journal


The environment of air dominance enjoyed by coalition air forces at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom portended a necessary and contemporary endeavor- the tasking of US and coalition partners with reconstituting the Iraqi Air Force. This effort presents an opportunity to engage the Iraqi state with a partnership in airpower security cooperation- an instrument through which policy makers may further US interests by influencing a recipient state.

Over the preceding decades, observers have offered differing opinions about the efficacy of security-cooperation policy tools, especially foreign military sales, and about whether or not these policies yield influence or merely subsidize a lucrative domestic defense industry. Those who assert the latter suggest that these allegedly profitdriven pursuits corrupt US foreign policy to the detriment of the nation's true security interests. Nonetheless, security cooperation has been consistently used as a component of broader US geopolitical strategies. During the Cold War, both sides used security cooperation extensively to balance the power of the opposition. Remnants of these relationships persist: the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and South Korean cases in particular suggest that this policy tool facilitates long-term engagement with partners through which the United States may advance its interests. Yet, obvious cases suggest that security cooperation by itself does not guarantee desirable developments; one need only recall that any furtherance of interests the United States sought to achieve by supporting the Shah's regime in Iran was nullified by its collapse from within, an event that resulted in the loss of a key regional ally and the concomitant acquisition of an enemy.

Security cooperation in all its forms, including foreign military sales, accompanying financial instruments, and various militaryto-military relationships is a tool that the United States uses to shape geopolitical affairs. Given the certain prospect that Iraq will need the United States to maintain the integrity of its airspace and assist it in building an air force that will sustain progress toward domestic and regional security, it is prudent that policy makers understand how best to implement this policy tool. The question is what characteristics of airpower security cooperation are likely to produce a substantial level of productive influence over the long term.1

To identify those characteristics, this article reviews past and ongoing airpower security cooperation efforts with Pakistan and Egypt, two states that share important traits with the future Iraqi state. Specifically, they both represent major regional actors as well as major non-NATO allies, have particular significance among Muslims due to their citizens' contributions to modern Islamist political ideology, and feature regimes that face significant domestic pressures from various Islamist opposition groups.2 These two cases also provide the benefit of examining varying levels of success-measured by the extent to which these recipients have promoted regional stability and cooperated in areas such as nuclear nonproliferation and the global war on terror (GWOT). Overall these cases suggest that if the program of airpower security cooperation in Iraq wishes to bear diplomatic fruit, it must address the security paradigm of Iraq's strategic culture, maintain a suitable regional balance of power, and imbue itself with a sense of enduring US commitment to the partnership.

Why Airpower Security Cooperation Matters

Security-cooperation activities are rooted in states' interests. They are the manifestation of a relationship, opted for by political leaders, through which the supplier and recipient pursue their respective strategic goals. Great powers such as the United States provide weapon systems and militaryto-military engagement to cajole the recipient's politicians into adopting favorable policies; other goals include balancing the power of a regional adversary, gaining access to real estate for force posturing, ensuring access to economic markets, and sustaining the health of the domestic defense industry. …

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Airpower Security Cooperation as an Instrument of National Power: Lessons for Iraq from the Cases of Pakistan and Egypt
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