Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Beyond Utility Targeting: Toward Axiological Air Operations

Academic journal article Aerospace Power Journal

Beyond Utility Targeting: Toward Axiological Air Operations

Article excerpt

Editorial Abstract: A hot topic in aerospace discussions today is targeting-what, where, how, and when to do it in order to achieve the desired effects. This piece argues that today the dominant mechanism and measurement for targeting is industrial-age utility and that in the future an equally important method should be targeting based on adversary leaders' values, depriving or holding at risk their ability to fulfill human needs.

The outcome of the air war was the destruction of the Kosovo we wanted to safeguard, renewed political tensions between the U.S. and Russia and an openended deployment of peacekeepers.

-Adm William Owens, US Navy, Retired

The single most important lesson of the conflict is that there is no cheap, easy way to prevent genocide or mass killing. Airpower alone will not generally determine what transpires on the ground. Only when paired with ground forces-- and only if used decisively-can airpower be expected to work.

-Ivo H. Daalder and Michael E. O'Hanlon

The targeting process in Operation Allied Force was incoherent and inept.

Dr. Earl H. Tilford

In an extraordinary paradox, a war based on the notion of discriminate force using dazzling information-age technology-B-2 bombers, cruise missiles, and joint direct-attack munitions-sacrificed the Albanian Kosovars to indiscriminate death at the hands of Serb forces using methods we associate with the Dark Ages. In humanitarian terms, the air war was an unmitigated disaster, and a cautionary warning for the West in employing force in future intra-state conflicts. This humanitarian failure will not prevent Western air force theorists from arguing that the war was a decisive victory for air power

-Dr. Michael Evans

If there's somebody in this town [Washington, D.C. ] who can speak to lessons learned from Kosovo, I'd like to meet him. There are lessons from Kosovo, but nobody's learned them, as far as I'm concerned.

-Lt Gen Michael C. Short, USAF, Retired

"He's Finished!"

-Placards at postelection rallies in Belgrade 28 September 2000

AND SO IT goes, continuing even with Slobodan Milosevic unseated. Airpower advocates argue, as they must, that Kosovo was an air war and that airpower "won" this war in Kosovo.1 Critics, as is their wont, argue otherwise. Sides count and dispute the numbers of bomb craters, the catastrophic kills of tanks and armored personnel carriers and decoys, and make their cases for the danger or usefulness of "gradualism."2 The debate remains heated, yet our aim is to enter this debate indirectly, if at all.

Our entry point is targeting. We probably take a rather broader view of targeting than others. To us, targeting is the activity that transforms a theory of conflict or conflict termination into behaviors-diplomacy, coalitionbuilding, propaganda, engagements, strikes, electronic combat, cyberwarfare, and supporting activities-that intend to affect the targeted objects and thereby intend to prove the theory's hypotheses. "Targets" in this view are the objects that our behaviors aim to affect.3 In our analysis we identify a target for diplomatic engagement just as we identify a target for an air strike. We engage neutrals. We entice allies. We attack tanks. The success or failure of each of these activities, to the degree that they are congruent with the larger theory of conflict or conflict termination employed, conditions or determines our judge ment as to whether, at the end of the day, we have won or lost.4 Whether or not the allies "won" and Milosevic "lost," or the allies won and Milosevic won too, or both the allies and Milosevic lost, the air war resulted in the testing of a theory, or perhaps theories, of targeting.5

Weighed in the balance, our hypothesis is a simple one. We argue that today the dominant mechanism and measurement for targeting is industrial-age (or "second wave") utility and that in the information-age (or "third wave") future, an equally important method should be targeting based on value. …

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