Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

The Quest for a New Airpower Strategy: Systemic Paralysis and Systemic Empowerment

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

The Quest for a New Airpower Strategy: Systemic Paralysis and Systemic Empowerment

Article excerpt

Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) spent a large portion of his 51 years attempting to develop a coherent theory of warfare that linked strategy to tactics. He defined strategy as the use of the battle for the purposes of the war. Strategy formed the plan of the war, mapped out the proposed course of different campaigns that comprised the war, and regulated battles that had to be fought in each of the campaigns.1

Basil H. Liddell Hart (1895-1970) expanded the term beyond its military meaning by referring to "grand strategy" rather than the Clausewitzian "military strategy" or "pure strategy." According to Liddell Hart, Clausewitz's definition was too narrow and battle-centric, implying that battle was the only means to a strategic end. Stated differently, while war bounded the horizon of strategy, grand strategy had to look beyond the war to the subsequent peace.2

Noted historian Alan Stephens offered a further refinement, defining strategj^ as the art of winning by purposely matching ends, ways, and means:

First, [decision makers] must clearly understand what, in the prevailing circumstances, they mean b}' winning. And second, they must ensure that their desired ends are realistic, clearly defined, and consistent with political objectives; that the ways chosen to pursue those ends are feasible; and that the available means are suitable and sustainable. The importance of establishing and maintaining a logical relationship between winning and ends, ways and means cannot be overstated.3

This definition is especially useful when assessing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and US-led operations over the last 25 years. When examining the desired outcome of "crisis management" from the mid-1990s on, we see that operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Operation Deliberate Force), Kosovo (Operation Allied Force), Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom), Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom), and Libya (Operation Unified Protector) have a common denominator: ultimately, the West has sought broad political, socioeconomic, and military reforms in these states. As soon as military objectives are met and the combat phase transitions into postconflict activities, NATO members and their partner nations focus on broader transformations, including securhy sector reform.4

The postmilitary goal of "winning the peace," as opposed to "winning the war," basically consists of establishing a functioning, legitimate government structure based on Western liberal values. That goal may not be formally acknowledged, but it would be logical, prudent, and pragmatic for NATO to acknowledge and plan for this desired outcome and thus avoid squandering initial military successes.5

Logically, therefore, when NATO members find it necessary to conduct military operations short of "collective defense," they should consider designing military campaigns with this objective in mind from the outset so that the transition between military combat and follow-on reform processes is as seamless as possible. This does not mean that NATO should engage directly in or be responsible for all aspects of nation building but that NATO should plan and conduct operations so that military engagement contributes to creating the conditions for attaining the desired end state of functioning, legitimate governance. Although that ideal may prove unattainable, it provides an overall framework in which NATO adapts its goals for postwar reform to the circumstances.

With those caveats in mind, this article suggests that NATO members develop military-strategic concepts that better link the application of force in general-and airpower specifically-to the ultimate objective of all NATO-led interventions: winning the peace through sustainable postconflict reform. Doing so requires a conceptual approach that views the nation of interest as a system, coupled with a strategy that seeks to combine systemic paralysis (of the opponent) with systemic empowerment (of the supported ally) using both lethal and nonlethal means in pursuit of strategic effects. …

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