Air Power as a Coercive Instrument

Air Power as a Coercive Instrument

Air Power as a Coercive Instrument

Air Power as a Coercive Instrument

Synopsis

Coercion--the use of threatened force to induce an adversary to change its behavior--is a critical function of the U.S. military. U.S. forces have recently fought in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa to compel recalcitrant regimes and

Excerpt

In Fiscal Year 1997, under the sponsorship of the Air Force Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations and the Air Force Director of Strategic Planning, RAND's Project AIR FORCE began a two-year effort to explore the role of air power in future conflicts. The primary objective of this study was to help the U.S. Air Force (USAF) think about how best to employ air power to meet the evolving security challenges of the early 21st century. Particular emphasis was given to ensuring that air power would be relevant across the entire spectrum of crises and conflicts and that it would be effective against adversaries with diverse economies, cultures, political institutions, and military capabilities.

As part of this larger study, members of the research team explored the role of air power as a coercive instrument. In recent years, decisionmakers have called on the USAF to playa major role in attempting to coerce foes in the Persian Gulf, the Horn of Africa, and Europe. Although the United States and the USAF have scored some notable successes, the record is mixed. The purpose of the study reported here is to better understand the phenomenon of coercion and learn what is necessary to carry it out, anticipate likely constraints on the use of force, and determine how air power can best be used to coerce. The report will be of particular interest to USAF and other Defense Department planners who seek to use force more effectively.

The study was conducted as part of the Strategy and Doctrine program of RAND's Project AIR FORCE.

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