Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Aerospace Power and Land Power in Peace Operations

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Aerospace Power and Land Power in Peace Operations

Article excerpt

Toward a New Basis for Synergy

IN THE WORLD of military policy and operations, peace operations are a growth industry. The United Nations (UN) activated just 13 peacekeeping operations in the 40 years between 1948 and 1988. In the last 10 years, the international body has activated or endorsed 36 others, including peace-enforcement operations in Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.1 The sudden expansion of peace operations is a product of collapsed economic and political systems in various parts of the world and the post-cold-war freedom of developed countries to expend economic, political, and military capital on them. And capital is what peace operations require. Besides costing billions of dollars, peace operations cost lives; over 1,580 soldiers were lost to all causes between 1948 and 1998.2 Peace operations also exert tremendous pressures on peacetime military establishments and on individual soldiers. Those human and financial costs, as well as their potential political liabilities, make peace operations a major concern for military force structure and operational planners. Since their governments choose to become involved in peace operations, military planners and leaders are obliged to develop ways to do them effectively and at minimum cost. For airmen and those who think about the utility of aerospace power, these goals naturally lead to consideration of the role of their chosen arm in peace operations. To develop operational plans, they need to understand the absolute contribution aerospace power can make to peace operations. To make force-structure policy, they must consider the relative effectiveness and costs of aerospace operations in comparison to, or in conjunction with, other forms of military power, particularly land power.3 Only with those pieces of information in hand can military planners go to the government and suggest the kinds and scale of aerospace forces needed to best serve its commitments to peace operations.

This article presents an assessment of the relative value of aerospace forces in peace operations. This assessment, in turn, raises two subsidiary questions. First, is the utility of aerospace power, in relation to land power, increasing or decreasing? Second, how should governments take advantage of the dynamics of that relationship? By addressing the utility of aerospace power in a relative sense, rather than in an absolute one, this examination becomes a little more complicated and risky, but it also becomes more likely to produce an answer of some value to military force-structure policy. Everyone knows that military aerospace forces can contribute to peace operations in an absolute sense. That's interesting information but hardly instructive to decisions about the size and composition of either air forces or of their proportional role in the defense establishment. Only by knowing how aerospace power stacks up against land power can defense planners get into the serious business of picking and choosing force mixes and doctrines.

Before examining the specifics of the relationships of aerospace power, land power, and peace operations, this article begins with a partial encapsulation of the nature of peace operations. The purpose of this encapsulation is to provide a foundation for comparing the attributes and relationships of aerospace and land power in those operations. By suggesting that peace operations can be as much about Big Power hegemony as humanitarianism, this section aims to sharpen our understanding of why they so often involve fighting and how peace operators can apply military forces to them creatively and synergistically. Although this section can be taken as controversial, it is not digressive. Peace operations are controversial in general, and, given the presence of differing expressions of their nature and purposes, any effort to get at their operational and force-structure implications must be linked to a clear set of basic assumptions and assertions. …

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