Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Air Power: A Centennial Appraisal / Rise of the Fighter Generals: The Problem of Air Force Leadership, 1945-1982

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Air Power: A Centennial Appraisal / Rise of the Fighter Generals: The Problem of Air Force Leadership, 1945-1982

Article excerpt

Air Power- A Centennial Appraisal by Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason. Brassey's, 8000 Westpark Drive, McLean, Virginia 22102, 1994, 320 pages, $36.95.

Rise of the Fighter Generals: The Problem of Air Force Leadership, 1945-1982 by Col Mike Worden. Air University Press, 170 West Selfridge Street, Maxwell AFB, Alabama 36112-6610, March 1998, 281 pages, $18.00.

After reading Air Power: A Centennial Appraisal and Rise of the Fighter Generals, one might conclude they have little or nothing in common. Mason's book traces the history of airpower from an obscure conference in 1893 to NATO action in Bosnia, searching for recurrent factors that affect the use of airpower. Worden's book explores the institutional dynamics of the US Air Force for a specified time period, searching for trends in education and organizational bias to explain how the service selected its senior leadership. The two subjects hardly seem related upon first glance, but further analysis reveals that both books explore an important aspect of airpower-change.

Both of these authors use adaptation to change as a vehicle to explore the evolution of airpower. On the one hand, Mason considers airpower's evolution into a mature element of modern warfare and explores how this maturation should relieve airmen of the need for zealots. He contends that these absolute airpower purists need a more pragmatic view of airpower that can articulate its limitations and advantages across the broad spectrum of conflict. Mason also answers the "how" and "why" questions regarding the maturation of airpower in this century. On the other hand, Worden discusses how people within the Air Force have dealt with the changing nature of airpower; explores the lasting impact of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam on the service; and addresses educational trends and organizational dynamics that have affected it. He uses people to explain Air Force ideas and doctrine and answers "what" and "why" regarding the changing nature of airpower in the Air Force.

Notice that both authors attempt to answer the 11 why" question. Their motives are similar in that they desire to create criteria that air-power advocates can use to help steer the proper application of airpower. Ultimately, both advocate a pragmatic view, Mason emphasizing a mature application of airpower to achieve political objectives and Worden stressing the need for a diverse Air Force leadership that can understand all of its aspects.

Two underlying themes run throughout each book: (1) the impact of the early airpower zealots' quests for independence and the implications of their approaches and promises and (2) the airpower debate over the decisiveness of strategic bombing. These themes interact within the undercurrent of change, which involves moving from an era of total war to limited war; from an Air Force leadership of airpower absolutists to one of airpower pragmatists; from technology that allowed only bombers to perform strategic missions to one that permitted fighters to do so; and, finally, from a reliance on nuclear weapons to a reliance on precision-guided munitions.

One should not be surprised that Air Vice Marshal Tony Mason has produced a credible book on airpower. A professor of aerospace policy in the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham, England, he is a long@time airpower advocate, has lectured worldwide, and has published several other books on airpower.

His thesis in Air Power: A Centennial Appraisal is that air-power's "relevance to any crisis or conflict, like all other kinds of military power, should be determined by policy. To that end there needs to be an understanding of the resources required to nourish it, the extent of the contribution it can make, and the recurring factors which may tend to constrain it" (xvi). He cites examples from history to elucidate these factors, which statesmen and airmen need to understand. …

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