Academic journal article Military Review

AIRPOWER IN SMALL WARS: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists

Academic journal article Military Review

AIRPOWER IN SMALL WARS: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists

Article excerpt

AIRPOWER IN SMALL WARS: Fighting Insurgents and Terrorists, James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson, University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, 2003, 521 pages, $45.00.

Despite catchy phrases like "surgical strike" and "precision bombing," airpower remains a blunt instrument in unconventional and small wars. Air strikes against guerrillas fail when guerrillas cannot be precisely located. Bombing civilians in retaliation (or error) is ineffective and counterproductive. The pre-World War II aviation concept of "air control," in which aviation occupies and controls a small country by airpower alone, is clearly outmoded and wrong. What then is the role of airpower in small wars?

James S. Corum and Wray R. Johnson have a clear vision of this role and have written extensively on air and ground power. Corum is a reserve army officer and a distinguished historian and professor at the U.S. Air Force (USAF) School of Advanced Airpower Studies. Wray R. Johnson is a retired USAF colonel who spent a career in special operations and is now professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University.

Airpower has been a player in small wars and counterinsurgencies since French aviators bombed Moroccan rebels in 1913. Sometimes airpower has been a key player; at other times, it has promised much more than it could deliver. In the case of French Indochina, airpower's failure to deliver as planned at Dien Bien Phu lost the war for the French. Air Power in Small Wars, the first comprehensive history of the subject, analyzes numerous conflicts with guerrillas, bandits, rebels, and terrorists in colonial wars, police actions, counterinsurgencies, and expeditions.

The book's pre-World War II section describes General John J. Pershing's expedition into Mexico; U.S. Marine Corps expeditions into the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua; British Colonial expeditions in Somaliland, Aden, Transjordan, Iraq, and the Northwest Frontier Province of India; Spanish Colonial expeditions in Spanish Morroco; French Colonial expeditions in French Morocco and Syria; and Italian Colonial expeditions in Libya and Eritrea. …

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