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ISSN 1463-6298

Volume 13 Number 2 Summer 2010

Air Power, Coercion, and ... Irregular Warfare?

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Newton

Modern Airpower, Counter Insurgency and

Lawrence of Arabia
Group Captain Clive Blount

The RAF in Command: The Policing of

Mesopotamia from the Air
Captain Paul Horne

Air Power lessons from the counter insurgency

operations in Malaya, Borneo and Aden
Squadron Leader James Parker

Strategic Significance of the Battle of Britain

Air Commodore Russ La Forte

Adding Brain to Brawn: The School of

Advanced Air and Space Studies and
its Impact on Air Power Thinking
Dr Tamir Libel and Dr Joel Hayward

Historic Book Review

Air Commodore Neville Parton

Book Reviews
Air Commodore Neville Parton
Group Captain Ian Shields

Group Captain Al Byford and
Group Captain Ian Shields

Centre for Air Power Studies


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Dr J Hayward, Dean RAFC
Mr S Cox, Head of AHB (RAF)
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Gp Capt C Blount, Asst Hd of Air & Space, DCDC
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Photograph courtesy of:

Richard Paver

No1 AIDU, RAF Northolt
Air Power, Coercion, and ...
Irregular Warfare?
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Newton

Volume 13 Number 2 Summer 2010 Modern Airpower, Counter Insurgency
and Lawrence of Arabia
Group Captain Clive Blount

The RAF in Command: The Policing of
Mesopotamia from the Air
Captain Paul Horne

Air Power lessons from the counter
insurgency operations in Malaya,
Borneo and Aden
Squadron Leader James Parker

Strategic Significance of the
Battle of Britain
Air Commodore Russ La Forte

Adding Brain to Brawn: The School of
Advanced Air and Space Studies and
its Impact on Air Power Thinking
Dr Tamir Libel and Dr Joel Hayward

Historic Book Review
Air Commodore Neville Parton

Supermarine Spitfire P7350 (Mk IIa) Book Reviews
entered service in August 1940 with Air Commodore Neville Parton
266 Squadron at Wittering/Hornchurch Group Captain Ian Shields
and is the only Battle of Britain
Spitfire still flying. 95
Group Captain Al Byford and
Group Captain Ian Shields

his edition of Air Power Clive Blount, uses the experiences
Review, published as the of T E Lawrence to consider the
Strategic Defence and Security application of relevant lessons to
Review gets underway, contains a modern irregular operations. T E
mix of articles, both historic and Lawrence, - more popularly known
contemporary. The lead article is as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – is now
submitted by Lieutenant Colonel widely considered as one of the
(Retired) Richard Newton, US Air most successful leaders of insurgent
Force, and is a fascinating exploration warfare. His leadership of the rising
of the strategic utility of air power of the Arab tribes of the Hejaz
in irregular warfare. He contends against their Ottoman overlords
that in both theory and application, during the First World War has been
air power has the ability to change widely studied, and his main works
people’s behaviours through the contain a treasure trove of thought on
parallel mechanisms of influence and irregular warfare. This article, based
coercion. He accepts that, although on previous work published in the
irregular warfare is a struggle for USAF’s ‘Air and Space Power Journal’,
the allegiance and support of the describes Lawrence’s activities during
population, the antagonists play by the Arab Revolt, and introduces
different rules and that government Lawrence’s thoughts on insurgency.
forces must win the allegiance of In particular, it looks at Lawrence’s
the people, while the insurgents philosophies from the vantage
force that support through coercion. point of modern airmen; specifically
Therefore, Richard Newton concludes turning around Lawrence’s theories
that coercive applications of power by on how to conduct irregular warfare
the government need to be applied against a technologically superior
against the adversary leadership, threat in order to examine the
i.e., the decision-makers. Air power, possible roles of modern airpower in
traditionally employed in a kinetic
countering a modern insurgency that
manner, has a powerful role to play
is governed by Lawrence’s principles.
as both a coercive and an influencing
Blount concludes that by the flexible
mechanism in irregular warfare. The
and imaginative use of air power, air
article looks in some detail at how air
forces can deliver in a telling fashion.
power might be used at the strategic
level to force insurgent leaders to A further, purely historically based
come to the table, and at the tactical article is offered by Captain Paul
level, to restore security and stability. Horne, who looks at the use of air
The second article, by Group Captain power in Mesopotamia between the
wars, and how it was, he contends, the shed some light on present
making of the Royal Air Force (RAF). operations. The aim of the article,
At the conclusion of the Great War the therefore, is to analyse the strengths
fledgling RAF faced a new struggle and weaknesses of air power
for survival. Having existed as an as applied during the counter-
independent service for less than insurgencies of Malaya, Borneo
seven months it was naturally at great and Aden in the 1950s and 1960s,
risk in the new, rapidly demilitarising and to apply the key lessons to the
world in which it found itself with conduct of contemporary operations.
the Army and the Royal Navy keen Parker contends that, whilst
to revert to the pre-war, two Service, offensive air power can be extremely
status quo. To the RAF’s hierarchy, effective, especially following
Imperial policing seemed to offer the recent technological developments,
most immediate and cost effective unintended civilian casualties can
method of demonstrating the RAF’s have a detrimental impact on the
continued utility and the best and overall campaign. Thus, air power’s
non-violent contribution has played
most immediate way of securing their
a more valuable role. In particular,
hard won independence. This article
air transport aircraft – notably
examines the circumstances which
helicopters – can be important
led to the RAF taking command of
force multipliers in terms of tactical
security within the British Empire’s
mobility, re-supply and casualty
newest mandate, Mesopotamia, and
evacuation. Furthermore, the roles
how they went about the task; both in
of surveillance, reconnaissance and
the air and on the ground. psychological operations should not
The next article follows a similar be overlooked as they too can have
theme in that it examines a historical a significant effect. The article goes
scenario. Unlike the previous on to assert that, since air power
article, however, it attempts to draw is not applied in isolation during
lessons from historical campaigns any counter-insurgency, joint and
that can be applied to the irregular co-located headquarters are to the
conflicts that we are involved in advantage of all concerned. Finally,
at present. The author, Squadron the author concludes that air power
Leader James Parker, concedes that practitioners should remember that
the conduct of counter-insurgency the political context is of paramount
is, understandably, subject to much importance to the overall success of
scrutiny but he has attempted to take any counter-insurgency.
a fresh look at the area in order to The fifth article is an interesting
adaptation of a paper prepared by is jointly submitted by Dr Tamir
Air Commodore Russ La Forte for a Libel and Dr Joel Haward and
Higher Command and Staff Course is an exploration of the value of
staff ride. In this 70th anniversary understanding air power, looking
year of the Battle of Britain, it a timely specifically at the School for
piece that looks at the Strategic Advanced Air and Space Studies
significance of victory in the Battle (SAASS) in the United States. The
of Britain. It contends that as one of article contends that, especially after
the few truly strategically significant the Second World War, understanding
battles in history, British victory air power became a high priority for
in the Battle of Britain was pivotal military practitioners, policy-makers
to the course and outcome of the and theorists, with the United States
Second World War. Furthermore, leading the quest for sound ideas and
the article explains how German concepts for most of the following
attainment of air superiority in 1940 five decades. In the late-1980s the
would have led to the eventual defeat United States Air Force took this
of Britain either by direct aerial issue so seriously that it established
attack, blockade, and/or by invasion. a very senior graduate school to
British capitulation would very likely provide critical education to officers
have had fatal consequences for considered likely to gain promotion
the Soviet Union facing an earlier into strategic posts. The article
and stronger German offensive, traces and assesses the development
would have encouraged accelerated and role of the SAASS in order to
Japanese expansion in the Far East, determine why it originated and what
and probably delayed US entry into influence, if any, it has actually had
the War. Despite these undoubtedly on American and other air power
strategic consequences, the principal thinkers. The article concludes that,
strategic significance was the effect with its faculty and students at the
heart of air power scholarship, some
upon the moral component of British
of their books serving as standard
and German fighting power. The
texts, and with students going into
author concludes that victory in the
influential senior posts, the SAASS
Battle spawned a moral cohesion that
has lived up to and possibly exceeded
exerted a powerful grip on the British
the expectations of its founders.
psyche in 1940, a grip that continues
Indeed, the authors conclude that it
even today to permeate our national
is hard to identify a more influential
cultural, popular and political DNA.
centre of excellence in air power
The final article for this edition education than the SAASS, or even at
this stage to find a peer. the publication has left it as, de facto,
the last major public pronouncement
The previous article offers a neat
on the subject. Pape asserts that air
linkage to the viewpoint for this
power is most strategically effective
edition, entitled ‘W(h)ither Air Power
when used to coerce military targets
Education?‘, jointly authored by
and fielded forces. This of course
Group Captains Al Byford and Ian
throws up questions about the
Shields. They discuss the value of
utility of air power in insurgencies;
education to those serving in the
questions which 4 papers in this
RAF and contend that, particularly
edition of APR, and in particular the
in view of the complexity of modern
lead article by Richard D Newton,
operations, the ability to deal with
seek to answer.
ambiguity and to think strategically is
increasingly important. Furthermore,
they argue that it is by the delivery
of the appropriate education to the
correct people at the right stage in
their careers that the Service can
garner the greatest benefit and that
we fail to invest in this education at
our peril.
The edition contains book reviews by
Group Captain Ian Shields and Air
Commodore Neville Parton. Finally,
Air Commodore Neville Parton
also offers an historic book review
of Bombing to Win : Air Power and
Coercion in War by Robert Pape. This
is the very last in the series of Historic
Book Reviews, which started over
4 years ago with Maurice Baring’s
RFC Headquarters. Air Commodore
Parton contends that ‘Bombing to
Win’ fundamentally changed the
debate on the way in which ‘strategic’
air power works, and therefore has
to be taken seriously – especially as
the lack of any formal response to
The Chief of the Air Staff's
Fellowship Scheme

AS has personally endorsed a series of Fellowships aimed at increasing
the intellectual capital of the Air Force. The scheme provides an
excellent opportunity to expand knowledge, reflect on previous
experiences and broaden intellect while engaging with some of the best civilian
academic institutions in the country. It aims to improve the ability of RAF
personnel to develop the capability, concepts and doctrine of air power and to
articulate the contribution that air power and the RAF makes to the defence
and security of the UK.
The Fellowships: There are a broad range of both full-time and part-time
Fellowships, all of which are post-graduate level course. The eligibility criterion
varies for the individual fellowships, but the scheme encompasses all officers
and SNCOs.
The positive benefit of the Fellowships, to both the individual and the RAF, is
underlined by the fact that all applications for study are assessed and signed off
either by CAS or COS Pers.
For all of the Fellowships rank and pay is retained, and seniority will progress
as normal.
Where can I find out more? Further details can be found in AP 3379 Lflt
2460. Annually a DIN is published entitled ‘RAF CAS’s Fellowships’. The DIN
provides a more detailed breakdown of all the Fellowships and associated
application and selection procedures.
If you have any questions concerning these documents or the CAS’ Fellowships
in general please contact the Defence Studies (RAF) Training Officer on 96161
x4848 (Civilian No 01793 314848) or go to either:
• Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies (RAF CAPS) website at http://,
• RAF Learning Forces website at
Twenty Years in Iraq:
RAF Operations in the Gulf since 1990
Thursday 30 September 2010
To be held at the
Joint Services Command and Staff College
Shrivenham, United Kingdom


he Defence Studies Department of King’s College London and the Royal Air
Force Centre for Air Power Studies is hosting a one day conference involving
air power academics and specialists, military historians, experts on the Gulf
Wars, and RAF and other veterans of these conflicts. The aim is to share new analyses
of the RAF’s contribution to operations in Iraq across the broad spectrum of conflict,
including the 1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars, the policing of the no-fly zones between
1991 and 2003, and the counter-insurgency phase from 2003 to 2009. This conference
intends to bring together scholars and practitioners, including those with operational
experience, with an interest in the RAF’s participation in the various phases of the Iraq
development in order to explore the following (and any related) themes:

RAF transformation: from Cold War air force to expeditionary air force
The evolution of air-land integration from 1990 to 2009
Modern air operations and the media
Non-kinetic and psychological air power
Air policing and the ultility of air power in low intensity operations
Casualty tolerance and intolerance
Prisoners of war
International perspectives on the RAF’s role and performance in Iraq
The legacy of Iraq on the RAF today and the immediate future
For further details please contact
Twenty Years in Iraq Committee e-mail:
Defence Studies Department, King’s College London
Joint Services Command and Staff College
Shrivenham, Swindon SN6 8TS, United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)1793 788818 • Fax: +44 (0)1793 788295
RAFCAPS Prizes and Awards 2009
The Gordon Shephard Memorial Prize

he Gordon Shephard memorial prize is awarded in memory of Brigadier
G F Shephard DSO MC RAF. The competition provides a unique
opportunity for personnel to air their thoughts and ideas, directly relevant
to the Royal Air Force or to the employment of air power more generally, in a
Service paper or essay, with the chance of winning a cash prize of £200.
The winner of the 2009 Gordon Shephard Memorial Prize is Gp Capt Chris
Luck for his essay entitled ‘Air Power and the Contemporary Army’ which was
printed in APR Vol 12 No 3 (Autumn 2009).

The 2 Air Forces Award

In 1997, the Royal Air Force Historical Society agreed to a request from its
United States equivalent organisation, The Air Force Historical foundation,
to fund an annual award called “The Two Air Forces Award”. The award will
be given, on each side of the Atlantic, to the serving Officer, Airman or
Airwoman who writes the most pertinent article of the year on a Defence
related topic. The award is selected by the committee of The Royal Air Force
Historical Society.
The winner of the 2009 2 Air Forces Award is Gp Capt Alistair Byford for his
essay ‘Executive Fuller! – The Royal Air Force and the Channel Dash’ which was
printed in APR Vol 12 No 3 (Autumn 2009).
The Park Prize
The Park prize is awarded in memory of Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park who
was one of the most effective operational Air Commanders of the Second
World War. The prize is worth £200 and is awarded annually to the best essay
on an air-power related theme submitted to RAFCAPS by a serving RAF Junior
Officer, non-commissioned Officer, Airman or Airwoman.
The winner of the 2009 Park prize is Flt Lt Kenny Fuchter for his essay ‘China’s
Military Space Strategy’ which was printed in APR Vol 12 No 2 (Summer 2009).

The Salmond Prize

The Salmond prize is awarded in memory of Air Chief Marshal Sir John
Salmond who was appointed Chief of the Air Staff in succession to Trenchard.
The £200 prize is awarded annually to the best essay on an air power topic
submitted to RAFCAPs by a civilian or non-RAF serviceman or servicewomen
of any nationality.
The winner of the 2009 Salmond Prize is AVM (Retd) Peter Dye for his essay
‘France and the Development of British Military Aviation’ which was printed in
Vol 12 No 1 (Spring 2009).
Notes on Contributors
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Newton is a former Air Commando from
the U.S. Air Force. He served for 22 years as a combat rescue and special
operations helicopter pilot, planner, and educator. He had operational tours
in Korea, Florida, Iceland, and New Mexico, and is currently on the teaching
and research faculties at the NATO Special Operations Headquarters’ Training
and Education Programme at Chièvres AB, Belgium, and at the Joint Special
Operations University, MacDill AFB, Florida. Mr Newton earned a Bachelor
of Science in military history from the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds a
Master of Military Art and Science from the U.S. Army School of Advanced
Military Studies.

Group Captain Clive Blount joined the RAF in 1980 and is a fast-jet navigator.
He completed flying tours in Germany and the UK, including instructional and
test-flying tours, and has completed staff tours in the MOD, a major NATO
headquarters, and with HQ ARRC in Kosovo. He commanded RAF Gibraltar,
has served as an ACSC tutor and until recently was XO of the AWC Test and
Evaluation Division at Boscombe Down where he was responsible for the flight
trials of Fast Jet Mission Systems. He undertook a year of study via a Tedder
Fellowship, gaining an MPhil International Relations at the University of
Cambridge and is currently engaged, as a Portal Fellow, in part-time study for
a PhD with King’s College London, looking at decision making in the Kennedy
and Macmillan governments with regard to the crises in SE Asia.

Captain Paul Horne is a serving officer in the British Army. Educated at the
University of Aberdeen and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst he
commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Artillery in 2005 whereupon he served
with 29 Commando Regiment for three years, deploying on Op HERRICK
in 2006. He then completed the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Patrols
Course which allowed him to serve with 4/73 (Sphinx) Special OP Battery. He
continues to serve in 4/73 Battery and is currently deployed on Op HERRICK
as the Brigade Reconnaissance Force’s Fire Support Team Commander, a role
which ensures he has a vested interest in Air/Land integration. Captain Horne
is currently reading for an MSc in International Security.

Squadron Leader James Parker is a Flight Operations Officer in the Royal

Air Force. His operational appointments have included; Tactical Airlift Control
Element Operations Officer in support of Operation FINGAL, Brigade Air
Liaison Officer in Northern Ireland during Operation BANNER, SO3 J3/5 for
the Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) and SO2 Air for Task Force Helmand
with 3 Commando Brigade. He is currently Officer Commanding of the
Support Helicopter Force Headquarters at Royal Air Force Odiham.

Air Commodore La Forte is an RAF Regiment officer currently serving at HQ

2 Group as Assistant Chief of Staff Force Protection. La Forte joined the RAF as
a gunner directly from school in 1978 before being commissioned in 1982. He
has a history degree from the Open University (1994) and a Masters degree in
Defence Studies from Kings College London (2001); more recently (2009) he is
a graduate of the Higher Command and Staff Course and the Royal College of
Defence Studies. This article is based upon his staff ride paper for the Higher
Command and Staff Course 2009.

Dr Tamir Libel holds a BA in History from Tel-Aviv University and an MA and

PhD from Bar-Ilan University, both in Political Studies. He is a postdoctoral
fellow at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies and a freelance security analyst
for the Professional School and Services of Security. His dissertation compares
changes in western professional military education institutions between 1991
and 2003. He has published and presented papers on military education, Israeli
military doctrine and airpower.

Dr Joel Hayward is the Dean of the Royal Air Force College. He is also a
Director of the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies (RAF CAPS) and
the Head of King’s College London’s Air Power Studies Division. He is the
author or editor of eight books as well as many book chapters and journal
articles, some of which have appeared in German, Russian, Portuguese, Spanish
and Serbian translations. He lectures widely throughout Europe, Asia and
beyond on various defence topics.

Air Power, Coercion, and ...

Irregular Warfare?

By Lieutenant Colonel Richard Newton

In both theory and application, air power has the ability to change people’s
behaviours through the parallel mechanisms of influence and coercion.
Although irregular warfare is a struggle for the allegiance and support of the
population, the antagonists play by different rules. The government forces must
win the allegiance of the people, while the insurgents force the support through
coercion. Therefore, coercive applications of power by the government need
to be applied against the adversary leadership, i.e., the decision-makers, and
positive, influencing actions are employed to convince the populace that the
government can defend them and will provide the services necessary to earn
and maintain their allegiance. Air power, traditionally employed in a kinetic
manner, has a powerful role to play as both a coercive and an influencing
mechanism in irregular warfare. This article looks at how those air power might
be used at the strategic level to force insurgent leaders to quit the fight and join
the political process, and at the tactical level to restore security and stability.
Introduction caught in the midst of these disparate,
far-flung conflicts, the nature of
Since war is not an act of senseless
warfare has not changed and Western
passion but is controlled by its political
military professionals are adapting
object, the value of this object must
to the new strategic reality. Airmen
determine the sacrifices to be made for
especially need to get in the game.
it in magnitude and also in duration
It is time we stopped apologising
(emphasis in original). Once the
for our air-mindedness, roll up our
expenditure of effort exceeds the value
sleeves and figure out how to do
of the political object, the object must be
renounced and peace must follow.1 what air power does best in helping
to bring the current conflicts to
Carl von Clausewitz, On War
resolution and seeking to prevent
Of the four functions (of force), deterrence/ future irregular conflicts.
coercion is the one that if achieved alters According to the Global Strategic
directly the opponent’s intentions, so Trends, asymmetric conflict between
making it possible to win the clash of wills rebellious groups and nation-states
rather than the trial of strength.2 is a situation unlikely to change for
Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force the next three decades. The strategic
challenge is how to discourage these
Air and space power is ‘the ability to irregular actors, either through
project power from the air and space to coercion or deterrence.6 For modern
influence the behaviour of people or the military planners the challenge
course of events’.3 becomes effectively using air power,
AP 3000, British Air and Space Power Doctrine arguably the U.S. and U.K.’s strongest

and most versatile tools, to achieve
rregular warfare is a political
political objectives in what is now
struggle, but still a fight, for the
acknowledged as the most likely form
allegiance and support of the
of conflict—ideologically motivated,
population. The population is the
irregular warfare, for political ends.
prize to be won, the battlespace
where the fighting occurs, and In theory and in application, air
sometimes even, the enemy fighting power has the ability to change
force. Rupert Smith’s characterisation behaviours through the parallel
of irregular warfare as ‘war amongst mechanisms of influence and
the people’ is now common usage.4 coercion. Moreover, air power has
In fact, it is widely acknowledged afforded U.S. and British soldiers
that the new strategic environment, an asymmetric advantage over their
fraught with state and non-state adversaries for at least the last seven
adversaries, pervasive news and decades. The ability of air power
pseudo-news media exposure, global to both deter, dissuade opponents
criminal cartels linked to political from acting, and to coerce, force
extremists, and well-meaning but our enemies to act by manipulating
often clumsy, supra-national interest costs and potential benefits, is well
groups, is complex, messy, and documented—but the conventional
uncomfortable.5 Although the current wisdom is that air power’s ability to
and predicted struggles may be for coerce is only applicable in regular-
the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people conventional war. This errant
perception has fostered a fractious through tacit or explicit agreement
‘boots on the ground’ attitude within or through intimidation. This is war
our respective defence communities. among the people.
Robert Pape, in Bombing to Win: Air
The idea that the struggle in irregular
Power and Coercion in War, noted that
warfare is for the ‘hearts and minds’
guerrillas were immune to coercion.7
of the population certainly holds true,
This paper suggests the opposite is
especially for U.S. and U.K. political
true; that insurgent leaders can and
and military leaders who are held
must be influenced, either deterring
accountable to their own populations,
them from or denying their forces
the ability to conduct politically the global community, and the
motivated violent actions or coercing affected population of the region in
them into negotiating an end to their question. The irony is that our two
campaigns of violence. nations must ‘play nicely’ while the
insurgents are free to use whatever
Irregular war is political war. While tactics and capabilities, nice or not
all wars are ostensibly fought for nice, they choose. In fact, the two
political purposes, the adversaries’ sides do not even play the same game
strategies differentiate regular- (as in chess and checkers—same
conventional war from irregular board, different games). Certainly, in
war. In the former case, military the present incarnation of irregular
actions take the fore with diplomatic, warfare, our adversaries cannot
economic, informational, and social make serious claim that they value
elements following attainment the opinion of the affected people.
of the military objective (think World Irregular actors/insurgents need only
War II). Combat normally takes acquiescence and passive loyalty from
the form of uniformed military the people and they don’t care how it
forces meeting and clashing on or is achieved or maintained.9
over a battlefield. Political, social,
and economic changes happen So, what do insurgents value? Power!
after the fighting ends. In irregular Insurgents, whether nationalist,
warfare the adversary’s objective is separatist, religious, socialist, ethnic,
to win (or force) the political case economic, or whatever, want to be
among the population. There may in charge. Insurgent leaders want
not be recognisable military forces on to decide who gets what rather than
one or both sides. David Galula in allowing the incumbent political
Counterinsurgency Operations apparatus that right. In general
makes the case that an insurgent terms, the insurgent’s goal is to
knows it is foolish to attack the replace the government (and its
government conventionally and thus foreign supporters) through violence
must ‘carry the fight to a different and eventually rule the region, area,
ground where he has a better chance nation, etc. as the new government.
to balance the physical odds against Determining the legitimacy of the
him’.8 Galula, as so many others, insurgent’s claim, supporting the
says that the ‘different ground’ is the methods they choose to employ,
population. The contest in irregular and accepting the insurgent
warfare therefore, becomes a tug-of- movement’s cultural, social, and
war for control of the population economic standards is what makes
insurgencies so complex, messy, Dictionary, coercion is the act of
and uncomfortable. Clausewitz’ persuading (an unwilling person)
concept of the Remarkable Trinity, to do something by using force or
the reasoned and rational interaction threats. This definition has a definite
between the government, the military, negative connotation. It is not unfair
and the population, barely applies to say that airmen’s emphasis for
to the insurgents because the people planning and employment has
have so little free choice when the tended towards kinetic targeting and
insurgents are in their midst. We will rather than the range of coercive
explore this further in the section on mechanisms that might be used to
coercion and irregular warfare. change enemy behaviour. Perhaps
this is a legacy of the air control
In Western liberal democracies,
period between the World Wars,
the people vote to decide who their
or maybe it is a failure to truly
rulers will be. There are mechanisms
understand and apply the theoretical
in place to peacefully change the
traditions of Douhet, Trenchard, and
leadership when the elected leaders
Mitchell to the new version of modern
and governments fail to meet
warfare. It does not matter. The time
expectations. Irregular actors and
is now for serious planners, no matter
insurgents, despite their public
what colour uniform, to understand
rhetoric, are generally autocratic
and apply air power’s powerful
and predominantly intimidating in
influencing effects, in concert with
the way they win and hold power.
those being exerted by the soldiers
The people have little, if any, choice
and marines on the ground.10
in the decision. To be completely
candid, though, people living at the Karl Mueller notes that coercion
subsistence level barely care who is in ranges from destruction through
charge as long as their physiological punishment, or that force which
(food, water, shelter) needs are is directly aimed at the enemy’s
met and their families are safe and will. Punishment is force used as
secure enough to live without fear. a negative reward for undesirable
Religion, ideology, group-think, and behaviour, but does not substantially
tribal culture may provide a sense effect enemy capabilities. Denial
of belonging and structure, but they is also aimed at the enemy’s will
become important only as a means with the intent of changing enemy
of gaining the basic levels of human behaviour by making a particular
needs—physiological and security. At course of action appear pointless.
the end of the day, whichever side in
an insurgency helps people feed their
families and keeps midnight armed
visitors away from their doors will
win the tug-of-war for the populace. Destruction, suggests Mueller, is
Whether it is freely given allegiance a physical objective intended to
or obedience through intimidation affect an opponent’s ability to make
only matters to the ‘good guys.’ or continue fighting. However,
destruction is not directed against
Coercion, Denial, and Persuasion,
enemy will. Punishment and denial
According to the Concise Oxford English constitute coercion because they
orient on the enemy’s will and with the ability to accurately, reliably,
the intent to force decision-makers and quickly transmit and receive
to make policy choices. Coercive the desired actions, threats, and
punishment would use air power demands.12 To illustrate, during the
as a punitive measure in response interwar years, the RAF was able
to an adversary’s actions. Coercive to control recalcitrant tribes in the
denial is the use of air power to Mideast, effectively implementing an
shape enemy expectations about the ‘air scheme’ to replace battalions on
future. One is a reflexive, while the the ground. British political officers
other is preventative. Evidence shows or RAF Special Service Officers who
that persuading the opponent that spoke the languages and were fully
political objectives will not be attained immersed in the cultures of their
(denial), rather than threatening regions would deliver messages to the
punishment unless combat actions errant tribes stating British or colonial
cease, provides the critical leverage demands, timelines for compliance,
for coercion in irregular warfare.11 and laid out the expectations/
threats should demands not be met
Coercion has three component
(communication). When demands
elements; credibility, capability, and
were not met, the RAF bombed their
communication. The first, credibility
villages (capability). And, the RAF
is the overt and intentional act of
was able to continue bombing, day
ensuring the adversary believes
and night, not allowing villagers to
we possess and will use whatever
re-enter and collect their valuables or
capabilities we threaten to employ.
resume normal life patterns, until the
demands were addressed (credibility).
Unless each of these ‘Cs’ is fully
addressed suggests Mueller, the
intended coercive impact falls short
or fails.
Robert Pape suggested that coercion
forces an opponent to consider the
relative costs and benefits of not
fighting versus continuing to fight.
Credibility is about reputation and While his book was written primarily
willpower. The enemy nearly always about regular-conventional war,
has a better understanding of our his argument bears consideration.
political will than we generally give Like Mueller, Pape notes that
them credit for. Therefore, the rule the challenge is convincing the
for planners and for politicians is, adversary leadership that acceding
‘Do not threaten unless you are truly to government demands is a better
prepared to act’. Second, capability, course of action than resisting them.13
deals with the tools used to deliver The devil, as is usually true, is in the
the threatened effects; whether details and historically this has been
weapons, bombs, intelligence- where the U.S. has come up short.
gathering systems, security forces, In order for coercion to be decisive,
or specialised capabilities. And the it must ‘target’ the opponent’s
third, communication, indicates critical requirements and critical
vulnerabilities, those elements of warfare, especially in its present
national or combat power absolutely incarnation, is knowing who to coerce,
necessary to wage war or the ‘Achilles i.e., who in the insurgent movement
heel’ with the potential to negate has the power to make decisions and
all other strengths and capabilities. the strength of position to lead the
Insurgents and other irregular actors movement to our desired outcome.
have different critical requirements Successful coercion depends on
and critical vulnerabilities than understanding the decision-making
peer and near-peer, conventional apparatus of an insurgent movement,
adversaries. The skills and the tools an extremely difficult undertaking
used for targeting and systems because of the secretive nature of
analysis in regular-conventional an insurgency, but also the cultural,
warfare, however, come up lacking in ethnic, and social differences between
irregular conflict. Therefore, planners adversaries. Closely related to this
and targeteers preparing for the first issue, is discerning what is
current and most likely future fight valuable enough to influence the
must develop alternative skills sets adversary’s decisions, i.e., those
in order to analyse, comprehend, and motivating and influencing factors,
address the peculiar requirements or the threats and incentives that will
and vulnerabilities of the irregular force decision-makers to act in ways
actors they are facing. that will end the violence and lead to
negotiated solutions. While coercion
Those alternative considerations will
exists in the cognitive domain, it acts
likely fall into the realm of persuasion,
in the physical domain to generate
or the more positive area of incentives
influencing effects.
and rewards. Too often, air planners
remain safely within their comfort We can take Lambert’s observations
zone of ‘Warheads on Foreheads’, and flavour them with a bit of Karl
using air-delivered firepower to Mueller’s work, to model coercion in
threaten or punish instead of seeking irregular warfare as the interaction
ways to deliver incentives and between power, presence, and
rewards via air power.14 This reversal
of mindset, from the nearly exclusive
tendency towards coercive targeting
to a more comprehensive approach,
which includes a more positive
orientation towards inducement
and persuasion, will be critical to
increasing air power’s impact in
irregular warfare.
Coercion in Irregular Warfare
perception. As previously established,
Gp Capt A.P.N. Lambert observed coercion is primarily about force
that if force was to be of utility in or the threat of force. Insurgents
irregular warfare, then it would be in have the power to intimidate the
a ‘more subtle, and hence coercive, populace and in the process compel
application’. The difficulty in the government to act and/or react.
applying coercion theory to irregular The government counters insurgent
actions by using its full range of programmes and activities that
civil and military powers to defend maintain the government’s credibility
the population and eliminate or and legitimacy among the people,
neutralise the insurgent threat. Power influencing them to shift or sustain
is wielded through Presence. their support to the government.
Reputation from the people’s
Insurgents will normally operate
perspective also matters. Incentives
at the local levels to provide or
to induce/influence the people to
displace government authority and
support the government rather than
control. The fertile grounds to grow
the insurgents are important, but they
insurgent movements are those areas
are only effective when the populace
ignored by or denied to government
perceives that the government is
institutions. Governments able
committed to their safety, welfare,
to establish a presence in remote
and protection over the long haul.
or hostile regions, providing and
maintaining educational, judicial The Power-Presence-Perception
system, policing, and some level of model can help planners design
medical and veterinary services, effective campaigns for irregular
all the while effectively defending warfare. Understanding that
the population from insurgent insurgents will use actual and
intimidation, are often successful threatened violence to force
countering insurgent efforts. It is government actions and drive popular
important to highlight that presence expectations. Insurgents know to
includes both defending the populace focus on the political leadership;
from intimidation and providing those individuals responsible for
essential government services. making national-level decisions
about continuing or quitting the fight.
Underpinning the entire model
The insurgent leadership generally
is Perception. Irregular warfare is
has a full understanding of the
fought for, about, and with influence.
government’s critical vulnerabilities
Perception efforts are aimed at
and exploits those vulnerabilities to
making the insurgent leadership
exhaust the government, with the
comprehend the consequences of not
ultimate goal of wresting political
meeting government requirements
power from those currently in
and ensuring they understand the
charge—politics from the barrel
opportunities available to resolve
of a gun to paraphrase Mao. This
the issues through the political
powerful and simple image reinforces
process. It includes the threatened
our understanding of the essence
use of force, made credible by the
of irregular warfare; politics with a
government’s demonstrated ability
healthy dose of violence added in.
and willingness to use the force.
Reputation matters; coercive efforts/ If political power is the insurgent’s
influence are only as good as the objective (end), what is the role of
extent to which the adversary believes the people? David Galula, one of the
the government will take all legal foremost counter-insurgency experts,
and ethical means at its disposal to makes the case that the insurgent
achieve the desired end-state. In knows it is foolish to fight the
addition, perception includes those government conventionally and thus
must ‘carry the fight to a different scarce funds, and diverting talented
ground where he has a better chance people to provide security that
to balance the physical odds against would probably be better employed
him’.16 Galula, like so many other addressing the grievances and solving
counter-insurgency theorists and the problems that spawned the
practitioners, says that the ‘different insurgency in the first place. To put it
ground’ is the population. The people simply, insurgents engage in fighting
then, become the means for securing but avoid warfare.
or maintaining political power.
This fact does not diminish the
In discussing the roots of rebellion importance of the people, especially
and insurgency, Ted Robert Gurr in a Maoist, 3-phase model of
wrote in Why Men Rebel that political insurgency; Strategic Defensive
violence begins with development (organisation and build-up, establish
of the discontent, transitions to the foundation), Strategic Stalemate (gain
politicisation of that discontent, support, build reputation, preserve
and finally results in violent action resources), and Strategic Offensive
against political objects and actors.17 (war of movement, demoralise the
He suggests that in order to counter government, establish solid popular
political violence the government’s support).19 Mao Zedong understood
objective must be that element the importance of the population in
able to identify and articulate the the Chinese model of revolutionary
collective dissatisfaction, energise warfare and designed a methodology
and mobilise the society, and then based on mobilisation of the masses
orchestrate the programme of to isolate the government and
political violence and destructive supplant government authority from
information that eventually brings the bottom upwards; protracted
down the government. people’s war. In his primer on
revolutionary warfare, Guerrilla
In the war of exhaustion the
Warfare, Mao noted that weapons
insurgents must necessarily fight, the
are an important factor, but not the
enemy’s path to achieving its desired
decisive factor; it is the people, not
end-state is usually through the
things that are decisive this sort of
government’s security forces. But not
warfare.20 He goes on to caution his
in ways regular-conventional soldiers
admirers and imitators to ‘not cut the
would prefer. The irregulars know
feet to fit the shoes’. Mao’s writings
they are likely to face overwhelming
were about revolutionary warfare
combat power should they engage
in agrarian China where the people
in large-scale confrontation with
were the richest source of power and
government forces. Therefore, they
after the Marxist-Leninist, top-down
will avoid those fights unless there is
approach proved ineffective. The
significant political gain to be won.18
3-phase model of insurgency was a
Actual and threatened guerrilla
model worth considering, but should
attacks, suicide bombers, improvised
not and could not be applied to every
explosive devices, ambushes,
insurgent situation.
and homemade rockets force the
government to defend everywhere, A problem for planners is that
exhausting friendly units, expending Western irregular warfare doctrine is
heavily weighted towards the Maoist considerable merit, we must
model. Not every group of irregular remember that it was written in
actors, though, chooses to follow the context of regular-conventional
the 3-phase model. Those using a warfare. When applied to
Marxist-Leninist approach use a top- ideologically-driven, politically-
down method and do not go through motivated, irregular warfare, the
the subversive, build-up phase. options for coercive action are
Instead, ‘professional’ revolutionaries intentionally constrained. Politics,
of the vanguard elite conspire to culture, history, geography, and
lead the state to a new political and economics will all come into play
economic order. In the Cuban model and limit the character and the
proffered by Castro and Chè Guevara, application of coercive force by the
the insurgent army is held out as the government. The enemy’s guerrilla
galvanising force and the vanguard tactics, surreptitious methods,
of the new order. Military successes and distributed network of small,
are used to discredit or embarrass autonomous fighting units will
the government, which pushes the further limit the coercive measures
people to switch their allegiance to that might be employed against the
the insurgent alternative. And finally, insurgent organisations.
the Urban Guerrilla model proposed
by Carlos Marighella uses focused There are commonalities among
attacks on the wealth and the power ideologically-based mass movements,
of the ruling and economic elites whether religious, political, economic,
in order to force government over- or nationalistic, or if Maoist, Marxist-
reaction, thus turning political crisis Leninist, Cuban, or Urban Guerrilla.
into repression and anarchy. These One of those common traits is the
three insurgent models hold the central role played by key leaders.
people in a different, less essential Eric Hoffer, in True Believers: Thoughts
stature than does Mao’s rural, mass- on the Nature of Mass Movements,
based model. More importantly, observed that every mass movement
though, this cursory review of other has True Believers, men of fanatical
models affirms the idea that while faith who embody and articulate
irregular conflicts and the actors the core tenets, inspire and mobilise
involved may hold similarities, there the masses, and lead the group
are important differences that must to action.22 Depending on the
be considered, especially with regard developmental phase of the mass
to the importance of the population, movement, those leaders will either
when designing coercive mechanisms be men of words, fanatics, or men of
to support counter-insurgency action (Hoffer’s titles). It helps our
strategies and campaigns. understanding and later application
of coercive theory to spend a bit of
According to Gp Capt Lambert,
time reviewing Hoffer’s research.
coercive force is effective only if
its target can affect the outcome. Men of words, said Hoffer, are the
Typically, he says, the targets are visionaries and charismatic orators
the leadership, the population, who pioneer the movement by
and/or the enemy forces.21 While discrediting the prevailing order
this perspective on coercion has and institutions, articulating a hope
for the future, and offering a vision its related organisations. But, it
for achieving that better future. was Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian, and
Interestingly, without the man of Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a Palestinian,
words to unify the masses, humans members of the Muslim Brotherhood
tend to accept their current situations, and teachers of Ayman Zawahiri
no matter how dismal, as the normal and Osama bin Laden, who were
state of affairs.23 It then takes the the men of words and provided the
fanatic to ignite the flames of rebellion ideological inspiration for the global
and mobilise the large, uncommitted jihadi movement. Sayyid Qutb’s
portion of the population. Fanatics book, Milestones, continues today as a
are those who can see the future manifesto of radical Islam. And it has
articulated by the men of words and been Ayman Zawahiri, controlling,
are prone to the physical actions administering, and sustaining the
needed to achieve that envisioned network, who can be considered al
future. The fanatic, according to Qaeda’s man of action.
Hoffer, thrives on chaos and will push
It is these True Believers, Hoffer’s
the man of words aside while still
fanatics and men of action, who
spouting the man of words’ doctrine
inspire, mobilise, guide, and sustain
and slogans in order to inflame and
the moral and physical strength of
mobilise the masses.24
an insurgent movement who should
Where it takes the man of words to be the focus of coercive actions. In
pioneer a movement (develop the example after example, from around
discontent) and the fanatic to give the world, it has been consistent—
substance to and mobilise mass without effective leadership mass
movements (politicise the discontent), movements, no matter if good or
it is men of action who consolidate evil, will fall apart. Furthermore,
the effort and institute the enduring so long as the insurgent leadership
elements that ensure the movement’s has little or no desire or impetus to
survival, longevity, and success. negotiate a settlement and rejoin
Hoffer notes that men of action ‘save the political process, then the
the movement from the suicidal government is obliged to continue
dissensions and the recklessness of the struggle if it wishes to remain in
the fanatics’.25 Men of action concern power. Coercion in irregular warfare
themselves with administering, must change the political algebra
preserving, and expanding any sufficiently to provide the needed
gains won during earlier phases of desire and impetus among the True
the insurgency (turn discontent into Believers to negotiate rather than
political violence). continue fighting.
To illustrate with a modern Counter-insurgency theorists Sir
example, Osama bin Laden might Robert Thompson, David Galula,
be considered the fanatic for the and Sir Frank Kitson, in addition to
al Qaeda movement. Through his countless observers and historians
efforts, commitment of personal of insurgent movements, have
fortune, and force of personality, he established that no counter-
has mobilised Muslims from around insurgency succeeds without
the world to support al Qaeda and widespread popular appeal. This
irregular warfare ‘truth’ has led some counter the steps which the enemy
to attribute centre of gravity status are taking to get their cause across
to the population. While such a view
might be acceptable at the tactical
(or local) level, at the operational and
strategic levels the centres of gravity
cannot be the populace.
Clausewitz’ original definition of
centre of gravity called it that ‘hub of
all power and movement upon which
everything depends’. British doctrine
to the population, but also has to
defines centre of gravity as the,
put across its own programme in an
‘characteristic, capability, or influence
attractive way’.28 The government
from which a nation, an alliance, a
may be forced to defend itself from
military force or other civil or militia
insurgent claims of misuse of power,
grouping draws its freedom action,
ethnic favouritism, economic failure,
physical strength, cohesion or will to
financial transgressions, religious
fight’.26 Using these definitions, and
deviation, or human rights abuses.
understanding that it is the insurgent
Insurgents are rarely required to
movement’s leadership that must
provide proof; they have the luxury
be convinced to cease fighting and
of making allegations and placing
accept the political process, it is the
the government on the defensive.
True Believers who are the capability
Governments, which are typically
from which an insurgency maintains
held to rigid standards of scrutiny
its cohesion and will to fight; they
and accountability not applied in
are the enemy centre of gravity in
equal measure to the insurgents,
irregular warfare. The True Believers
are then forced to expend efforts
are the focus of coercive mechanisms
proving the claims false while the
and must be convinced that they
insurgents move on to develop the
have no hope of political victory, that
next allegation. Also, the insurgents
continued resistance will not lead
need only intimidate the population
to a better political outcome, and
into compliance, whereas all but
that compliance with government
the most repressive and corrupt
demands or offers is an acceptable
governments must reassert and
option for the insurgents to join the
defend their legitimacy to govern,
political process.27
winning back the hearts and minds of
Applications of force to compel the their populations. So, while coercing
population to support a government the population may be a valid
and withhold their physical and strategy from the insurgent’s
moral support from the irregulars perspective, a government exercising
has proven to have the opposite a coercive approach towards the
effects than those desired (consider population can expect to reinforce
the examples of occupied peoples in the insurgent’s anti-government
Europe during the 1940s). General messages, source additional
Kitson probably said it best, ‘… allegations of abuse or misconduct,
the government not only has to stoke anti-government sentiment, and
encourage insurgent recruiting. irregular actors. Government threats
to civilians have little, if any, effect on
Coercive action against irregular
the True Believers. Therefore,
forces is problematic. The very
the government’s actions must
nature of guerrilla warfare, i.e. elusive
threaten the insurgent leadership’s
guerrillas who rarely hold terrain
basic physiological needs (food,
and avoid combat operations except
water, shelter) and then their
on the most favourable of terms,
safety and security needs through
makes coercive punishment largely
an indirect approach to isolate,
useless against insurgent armed
marginalise, and discredit the leaders
elements. The Clear-Hold-Build-Win
and their message.
strategy that has proven so successful
countering insurgencies of all models When designing the campaign, one
is based upon coercive denial, should probably begin with the
preventing or discouraging adversary assumption that the True Believers
forces from acting. It begins with will be ‘untouchable’, either because
government security forces driving they do not wish to be found or they
irregular armed elements and enjoy geographical, political, or social
political enforcers out of an area sanctuary. The government’s options
(Clear). Then the insurgent presence for capturing or otherwise directly
is replaced with friendly forces and applying coercive impact will be
government services (Hold). Finally, limited by borders, terrain, threat,
the government arms and trains the the leaders’ real or perceived political
locals to assume responsibility for status, and/or their social status in
their own defence while programmes the world or region.29 Neutralising
and services restore the allegiance and compelling insurgent leadership
and active support of the people to to change attitudes and behaviour
the government (Build and Win). is the ‘complex, messy, and
The government’s challenge is uncomfortable’ part for most military
providing sufficient forces to protect planners. The comprehensive
every village, town, and vital node approach uses political, diplomatic,
from insurgent intimidation or social, economic, and judicial
attack. In irregular warfare, coercion methods, in addition to military
by denial is costly in terms of options, to isolate, marginalise, and
resources, troops, funding and time, discredit the True Believers.
but it is the only strategy that has
Meanwhile, at the local level the
been shown to be effective against
Clear-Hold-Build-Win strategy
determined insurgents.
pushes irregular forces out of an
Over time, coercive denial makes area, protects the people from
the True Believers, the insurgent intimidation and exploitation by
leadership, realise they have little to the insurgent armed elements, and
no chance of prevailing. Coercive restores government authority,
denial threatens what they value— credibility, and legitimacy in a region.
power and status. Enemy power When given a free choice, people will
and status are not military objectives withhold their support until the likely
however, thus a comprehensive winner emerges. The government
approach is needed to prevail against can threaten True Believers by
forcing the insurgent political questioned the government’s ability
organisers and armed elements into to prevent further intimidation (it was
inconsequential spaces, effectively noted later that Taliban insurgents
denying them from exercising any were in attendance at the meeting)
power over the people. It is the and provide a safe and secure
combination of an effective denial environment for them and their
effort at the local level, combined families over the long term. Further,
with strategic-level programmes to the village elders needed assurances
isolate, marginalise, and discredit the that the government would take
insurgent leadership that provides whatever means necessary to protect
the comprehensive coercive force to the village should they accept
compel the True Believers to seek a government reconstruction projects
political settlement. and aid. The same story has been
told, albeit with different actors,
Airpower, Coercion, and
in the Philippines, Colombia, Nepal,
Irregular Warfare
Kampuchea, Vietnam, Algeria, and
The British and you [Afghan Army] have so many other irregular conflicts.
the guns, the Taliban have the guns, we The normal epilogue to these
are just the people whose land you are stories usually goes something like,
using to do your fighting. We hear fine ‘You soldiers might as well kill me
words now, but will you be here in the yourself, right now, because tonight
future to protect us when the Taliban when you are gone, the [insert name
come back to punish us for co-operating of insurgent armed force] will come and
with you? Or will you do what you have kill me anyway’.
done in the past, come here, say fine
Coercion in irregular warfare, as
words and then just leave?’30
illustrated by the examples given
The above exchange occurred and others implied, is about the
during a 2010 meeting with tribal interdependence between power,
elders in Showal, a village in presence, and perception. Air
Helmand province Afghanistan, power, like land power, acts within
to discuss reconstruction and
stabilisation projects being offered
in the aftermath of recent combat
operations. During the meeting, as
village leaders failed to embrace the
reconstruction projects, work-for-
pay opportunities, and infrastructure
upgrades (school, irrigation, clinic,
bazaar) being offered, one elder
questioned the Afghan and British
officers with the above statement.
The villagers’ concerns were at
the basic level of human needs;
physiological and safety. While they these three domains to provide
accepted that the Army was strong coercive effects. How air power
enough to force the Taliban to leave is exercised to influence irregular
their village for the moment, they actors is necessarily dependent upon
each situation. Despite similarities Modern aircraft are fully capable of
among them, every war is different. conducting more than one mission,
It is incumbent upon planners often on the same sortie. For
to understand each component’s example, a single unmanned aerial
strengths and limitations in terms vehicle has the endurance to loiter
of geography, political constraints, over a target area for long periods of
and social perceptions in order to time in order to establish patterns
develop strategies appropriate for of life, collect signals intelligence,
the irregular enemies they are likely and track a potential high-payoff
to face. The Israelis’ 2006 campaign target (HPT) in its intelligence and
against Hezbollah illustrates the situational awareness role, identify
consequences of favouring one and strike adversary air defence
component over another instead of threats it may discover in its air
taking a holistic approach. Hezbollah, control role, and provide the vital air-
an adaptive, elusive enemy, able land integration and terminal attack
to hide among the population, linkages a forward air controller
effectively blunted Israel’s air power needs to manage ground assisted air
advantages by aggressively using interdiction, close air support, and
the collective power of regional close combat attack sorties from fast
and global information systems as jets and attack helicopters supporting
a coercive tool to influence Israeli troops on the ground in its attack role.
government actions through third-
Air power’s ability to find, fix, track,
party actors.
and target irregular forces and
‘Boots on the ground’ is a critical insurgent leaders has powerful
requirement for successful counter- influencing effects in all three
insurgency at the local level. The domains—Power, Presence, and
soldier and the policeman patrolling Perception. First, an aircraft overhead
in the village provide a very potent establishes temporary presence.
deterrent force, operating in all three The UAV loitering in the local area
domains of coercion; demonstrating for example, may be a visible, and
the government’s power, providing is often an audible reminder that
the presence and assurance of the government forces are at hand and
government’s commitment to the actively working to defend the people
people, and building the perception and hunt the insurgents. The people
and understanding to counter the on the ground, whether insurgent
insurgent’s message and pre-empt leaders, irregular forces, or the
further threats to the people. And, people caught in the middle, have
while the protective-deterrent role no way of knowing whether or not
is absolutely critical to the overall the sensors on board the aircraft are
scheme to force the insurgents to looking at them. Next, the ability
cease fighting, strategic-level coercive of modern aircraft to deliver very
actions must be directed at insurgent precise air-launched weapons, day or
leadership. Air power’s agility, in night, is well known and repeatedly
addition to its speed, reach, and publicised. Again, the people on
ubiquity gives it the ability to provide the ground have no way to know
an asymmetric advantage from the if the aircraft is armed or not. The
tactical through the strategic levels. threat of air-delivered weapons is
a coercive power that is difficult to platforms above the battlespace,
counter and the resulting sense of some dedicated to the intelligence
helplessness from being unable to and situational awareness role and
fight back or defend against these others providing intelligence and
measures exerts significant influence situational awareness as an adjunct
on enemy behaviour. The perception to their primary roles, have proven
third of the triad is achieved when their ability across the different
the insurgency’s leaders comprehend intelligence disciplines; signals,
the full extent of the government’s imagery, electronics, communications,
ability and commitment to restrict etc. Insurgent leaders’ perception
and counter enemy actions; force the of counter-insurgents’ ability to
leadership into unassailable areas, find, intercept, track and collect on
limit communications, restrict electronic systems is a deterrent
movements, and penetrate heretofore to their use and threatens their
sanctuaries with multi-spectral sanctuary, with resulting constraints
sensors. Perception is further on the insurgents’ ability to
enhanced when such programmes command and control the armed
convince the populace that the and supporting elements.
government is able to effectively Air and space-based surveillance
protect them from insurgent threats systems may also provide strategic
and intimidation. coercive effects. Satellites, long-
Coercion has a dual role to play in endurance UAVs, fit for purpose
irregular warfare. At the strategic or aeroplanes, and surveillance systems
operational level, it is focused on the mounted on non-ISR aircraft all
insurgent leadership, with the intent combine to provide near constant
of forcing the leaders to cease their surveillance of areas of infiltration
political violence and encouraging routes, sanctuaries, and other areas
them to join the peaceful political of strategic interest from high above
process. At the tactical, or local, the battlespace and often without
level meanwhile, coercive actions violating the sovereign airspace of
are aimed at the armed elements the nation providing the insurgent
that terrorise and intimidate the leadership sanctuary. Air power’s
population. The goal at the local level ability to reconnoitre and observe
is to deter the guerrillas by protecting insurgent activities in politically or
geographically denied areas from the
the people, making it too dangerous
global common spaces is a potent
for the irregular fighters to operate,
influencing capability. Knowing
and denying them access to the
that their actions are or might be
support they need to survive.
watched, even though safely in a
Air power has a significant ability to political or social sanctuary, influence
put what insurgent leaders’ value; insurgent actions by forcing them to
political status, power over the conceal their actions, constraining the
people, and power to threaten the location, duration, and extent of the
government, at risk. It begins with training and preparatory actions, and
the remarkable intelligence collection limiting the timing, routing, and size
and processing capabilities air of group movements. Remarkable
power brings to the fight. Airborne reconnaissance and surveillance
capabilities, when combined 7.6 magnitude earthquake destroyed
with very capable and precise air much of Musaffarabad, Kashmir, 60
mobility and attack capabilities, miles north of Islamabad, Pakistan.
may be to directly threaten the Over 80,000 people died and up
insurgent leadership if political to three million people were left
obstacles can be overcome, thereby homeless with Himalayan winter
degrading, shaping, or eliminating fast approaching. Within a few
the insurgents’ sanctuaries, forcing days, Western nations, under the
the leadership into difficult and NATO banner, began airlifting food,
undesirable places, and limiting their shelter, medicine, supplies, and a
abilities to control and employ forces. field hospital into the region. On
scene, NATO helicopters deployed
In the hunt to capture, kill, or into the region began distributing
otherwise marginalise the insurgent the supplies, evacuating disaster
leadership, coercive actions that victims, and carrying relief workers
play heavily in the attack and into areas inaccessible by road.
intelligence and situational awareness Engineers rebuilt facilities, repaired
roles normally take the fore. The roads, cleared debris, and constructed
considerable contributions of air camps for refugees. NATO air
mobility as a coercive force providing controllers managed the airfields and
manoeuvre and speed to eliminate coordinated with civil authorities
safe places are often forgotten. In to handle the exponential increase
addition, air mobility forces offer in air traffic flying into the region.
significant alternatives to negative By February 2006, NATO was able
coercive effects. At the strategic level to transition operation of the relief
air mobility forces have given Western effort to the government of Pakistan
political leaders opportunities to and Western air and ground forces
demonstrate their commitment to returned home. These are but two
Muslim communities in need and of many examples of air mobility
thereby raise doubts about the al providing a powerful contradiction to
Qaeda’s anti-Western rhetoric. anti-Western messages of exploitation
For example, after the December and the weaknesses of non-believing
2004 tsunami that devastated the Western democracies. Air mobility
staunchly Muslim province of Aceh helped sow seeds of doubt and
in Indonesia (230,000 dead), the effectively demonstrated air power’s
Western world mobilised a massive ability to influence the insurgents’
relief effort and the first inter-theatre target audiences with positive,
transport aircraft were landing with contrary effects. Unfortunately, the
supplies and relief workers within initial messages of Western charity,
days. Intra-theatre airlift aeroplanes willpower, and commitment were
and helicopters were soon at work not followed up with an effective
distributing food, water, and supplies, strategic information campaign to
evacuating stricken residents from take advantage of the initiative that
danger zones, and transporting the had been gained.
relief workers into areas inaccessible
At the tactical level, air power can
by land.
expand the soldiers’ abilities to
Nine months later, in October 2005, a deter insurgent actions, deny access
to the people, and increase the air power’s ability to see and strike,
insurgents’ risk of operating in an nearly at will, provides the soldiers on
area. Surveillance of critical routes, the ground with considerable power
villages and neighbourhoods, and and influence at the tactical level.
tactical areas of interest helps remove
Air mobility has an equally powerful
the insurgent’s sanctuary of the night.
role to play as an influencing
The persistence of aerial surveillance,
instrument at the tactical level. The
both day and night, has proven to
ability to insert troops and keep
influence insurgent activities at
them resupplied without respect to
the tactical level. In a conflict not
ground transport and its attendant
often studied, Dr. Christina Goulter
opportunities for ambushes, mines,
noted that British use of Wellington
bombers equipped with Leigh Lights, and choke points is an asymmetric
powerful searchlights originally advantage provided by air mobility
developed for night anti-submarine that forces insurgent actions. In the
operations, allowed soldiers on continuing cycle of action-reaction-
the ground during anti-guerrilla adaptation, as adversary forces have
operations in Greece to influence learned to counter the coercive impact
insurgent operations and had a direct of highly responsive air assault
effect on irregular forces’ morale. forces, technology has given friendly
‘The insurgents came to associate forces the ability to mass precision
reconnaissance aircraft with attacks, parachute-borne forces on an
as the two effects of reconnaissance objective and keep them resupplied,
and attack were usually close in often from stealthy, stand-off ranges
time and space.’31 She goes on to through the use of precision air-drop
describe how the insurgents, unable systems. The ability to insert and
to be absolutely certain if aircraft sustain ground forces from the air
were benign or lethal were forced is complemented by air mobility’s
to assume the worst case. The very influence on the insurgent’s message.
presence of aircraft overhead had a An Afghan villager tells the story of
significant coercive effect. his daughter’s leg being badly cut in a
farming accident. Western helicopters
This case is by no means singular. brought her to a hospital where she
Once the El Salvadoran air force was successfully treated and returned
acquired AC-47 gunships (Power) and to her village and her parents, saving
became proficient at night operations
the long and dangerous journey by
(Presence), FMLN insurgents
road where she likely would have
would break off their attacks at the
died. What convinced the girl’s father,
sound of a multi-engine aeroplane
as it has so many others, to support
circling overhead (Perception). In
the government was realisation that
Afghanistan today, the effect of a
the Taliban insurgents are unable to
drone circling in the vicinity has the
provide such humanitarian services.
power to shape insurgent activities.
The current crop of irregular Paul Colley observed that influence
adversaries fully comprehends was a goal at the strategic level of
the integrated capabilities of the warfare, but had great utility at
‘unblinking eye’ and precision strike. the tactical level of all contemporary
As a coercive force, the perception of warfare.32 The coercive potential
of air power, in all four of its roles power will be a war-winner; however
(control of the air, intelligence and it very likely will be a war-decider.33
situational awareness, air mobility, The current edition of AP 3000,
and attack), provides an asymmetric British Air and Space Doctrine, gives
advantage that must be fully planners a good starting point when
understood and integrated into considering the application of air
campaign planning for irregular power’s coercive impact on irregular
warfare. Irregular actors/ insurgents forces. The next step is effectively
normally hold the initiative and they applying those concepts to the current
invariably play by different rules and future conflicts, most likely of an
than does the government and irregular or hybrid nature, which our
government forces. Air power offers nations will continue to face.
a powerful means of influencing
Richard Newton is a retired air
the enemy leadership, deterring
commando from the U.S. Air Force. He
and denying enemy actions, and
served for 22 years as a combat rescue
helping persuade the populace to
and special operations helicopter pilot,
support the government.
planner, and educator. He is currently
Conclusion on the teaching and research faculty at
NATO Special Operations Headquarters’
Effective air power in irregular
Training and Education Programme and
warfare acts within three domains
at Joint Special Operations University.
of coercion; power, presence, and
Mr Newton is a graduate of the U.S. Air
perception. The inherent attributes
Force Academy and the U.S. Army School
of air power, when appropriately
of Advanced Military Studies.
applied, offer the government
tremendous advantage, however Notes
the application of air power is very 1
Carl von Clausewitz, On War,
dependent upon the situation at
Michael Howard and Peter Paret, ed
hand. Air attacks inspire emotional
(Princeton, NJ, Princeton University
responses and their use must be
Press, 1976), pg 92.
carefully considered in light of second 2
Rupert Smith, The Utility of Force:
or third-order political, cultural,
The Art of War in the Modern World
and social effects. This is a reality
(London: Penguin Books, 2006),
that must be faced, head-on, as one
pg 376.
considers coercive and persuasive 3
AP3000, Fourth Edition, British Air
applications of air power in the
and Space Power Doctrine (London: Air
context of guerrilla warfare, hybrid
Staff, Ministry of Defence, 2010).
warfare, fourth-generation warfare, or 4
Smith, pp 3 – 4.
whatever moniker one wishes to use 5
General John R. Galvin,
to characterise the current incarnation
‘Uncomfortable Wars: Toward a New
of irregular war-fighting.
Paradigm’, Parameters (Dec 1986).
Also, as one considers the coercive Global Strategic Trends—Out to 2040
and persuasive effects of air power (Shrivenham, U.K.: Ministry of
in irregular warfare, it must be done Defence Development, Concepts, and
from a holistic perspective. Irregular Doctrine Centre, 2010), pg 77.
warfare is an inherently land-centric Robert Pape, Bombing to Win: Air
enterprise. It is unlikely that air Power and Coercion in War (New York:
Cornell University Press, 1996), pg 74 15
Gp Capt A.P.N. Lambert, ‘Air Power
David Galula, Counterinsurgency and Coercion’, Air Power in its Wider
Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Context, Stuart Peach, ed., London:
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1964), pg 7. HMSO, 1998, pg 267.
A not-too-strenuous internet 16
Galula, pg 7.
search from the last few years 17
Ted Robert Gurr, Why Men Rebel
yields countless stories of midnight (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
visitors, gunmen terrorising the Press, 1970), pg 12.
local population, in rural and urban 18
The classic case is the 1968
settings, to ensure they provide Tet Offensive in South Vietnam.
food, refuge, recruits, ‘taxes’, and Although a tremendous tactical loss
information to the insurgents. The for North Vietnam and their Viet
stories were the same whether the Cong allies, it was a strategic victory
conflicts were nationalist, separatist, because it invigorated the anti-war
socialist, religious, ethnic, or economic movement in the U.S. and destroyed
in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Gaza, the Viet Cong as an effective fighting
Philippines, Nepal, Thailand, Somalia, force, letting the U.S. eliminate a
Colombia, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, and future political problem for North
on and on. Insurgents needn’t win Vietnam.
the hearts and minds. They have the 19
Mao Zedong, On Protracted War, at
luxury of taking them.
Colin S. Gray, The Airpower archive/mao/selected-works/
Advantage in Future War: The Need volume-2, May 1938, pg 19, accessed
for Strategy, (Maxwell AFB, AL: 21 Apr 2010.
Airpower Research Institute, Dec 20
Mao Zedong, pg 24.
2007), pg 31. ‘…it would be bizarre, Lambert, pg 278. This list is vaguely
actually impossible, as well as foolish reminiscent of the 5-Ring model of
for the country’s military planners strategic paralysis proposed by air
and strategists not to look for every power theorist, John A. Warden, III,
effective way in which airpower can ‘The Enemy as a System’, Airpower
deliver advantage’. Journal, (Spring 1995). Warden
Karl Mueller, ‘The Essence of placed the enemy leadership at the
Coercive Air Power: A Primer for centre of five concentric rings. If
Military Strategists’, Royal Air Force prevented from directly targeting
Air Power Review, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Autumn the leadership, then strategists and
2001), pg 47. planners should design a campaign
Mueller, pg 50. to isolate or neutralise the centre
Pape, pg 15. through actions in the outer rings.
A 2008 article in Air Force magazine The further one ventured from the
(Anna Mulrine, ‘Warheads on centre, suggested Warden, the more
Foreheads’, Air Force, Vol. 91, No. difficult and the longer it would take
10 (Oct 2008), pp 44-47.) noted that to achieve strategic paralysis of the
the U.S. Air Force’s contribution leadership. The additional rings, in
to counterinsurgency in Iraq was order from the centre outwards, were
looking for individuals and small Organic Essentials (energy, money),
groups to strike with bombs from Infrastructure, Population, and
unmanned aerial vehicles. Fielded Forces.
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer: South Africa and Aung San Suu Kyi
Thoughts on the Nature of Mass in Burma.
Movements (New York: Perennial Kim Sengupta, ‘Under their flag, but
Classics, 2002, originally published still under fire’, The Independent, 26 Feb
in 1951). 2010, pg 37.
Gurr, pg 24. ‘The existence of what Christina J.M. Goulter, ‘The RAF in
the observer judges to be abject Counter-Insurgency Warfare: British
poverty or “absolute deprivation” is Intervention in Greece, 1944-45’, Air
not necessarily thought to be unjust or Power, Insurgency, and the “War on
irremediable by those who experience Terror”, Joel Hayward, ed. (Cranwell,
it… if people have no reason to UK: Royal Air Force Centre for Air
expect or hope for more than they can Power Studies, 2009), pg 105.
achieve, they will be less discontented Air Commodore Paul Colley,
with what they have, or even grateful ‘Soldiers are from Mars and airmen
simply to be able to hold on to it’. are from Venus: Does air power do
Eric Hoffer, 144. what it says on the tin?’, Royal Air
Eric Hoffer, 149. Force Air Power Review, Vol. 11, No. 2
Joint Doctrine Publication 01 (Summer 2008), pg 106.
(Shrivenham, U.K.: Development, The terms are from Colin S. Gray.
Concepts and Doctrine Centre, Dec An excellent example of this was
2008), pg 3-22. reported by Anthony Lloyd in The
This is based upon Joint Doctrine Times on Monday, 1 Mar 2010, pg 35.
Note 2/08, Integrated air-land Operations ‘Significant leaders of the Pakistani
in Contemporary Warfare (Shrivenham, Taleban have been killed or captured
U.K.: Development, Concepts and in an onslaught of frontier ground
Doctrine Centre, Aug 2008), pg 2A-7, and air attacks…. The kind of hits the
though it is my interpretation to relate leadership has taken…the [Pakistani
these doctrinal conditions to the Taleban] is no longer significant…. It
political nature of irregular warfare. doesn’t exist any more as an umbrella
General Sir Frank Kitson, Low organisation that can influence
Intensity Operations: Subversion, militancy anywhere’. The men of
Insurgency, and Peacekeeping (St action have been eliminated and the
Petersburg, FL: Hailer Publishing, movement is currently ineffective.
2007 reprint), pg 77.
By ‘political sanctuary’ it is meant
the protections that accrue once
insurgent leaders are afforded
diplomatic recognition by the
United Nations and the like, e.g.,
Yasser Arafat from the Palestinian
Liberation Organisation. ‘Social
sanctuary’ is status accorded by the
global or regional media. While the
government may restrict the leader’s
movements and access, their life is not
in danger because of their ‘celebrity’
status, e.g., Nelson Mandela from

Modern Airpower,
Counter Insurgency and
Lawrence of Arabia

By Group Captain Clive Blount

TE Lawrence, - more popularly known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – is now widely

considered as one of the most successful leaders of insurgent warfare. His
leadership of the rising of the Arab tribes of the Hejaz against their Ottoman
overlords during the First World War has been widely studied, and his main
works contain a treasure trove of thought on irregular warfare. Introducing
the notions of ‘eating soup with a knife’ and the ‘kingfisher flash’, they give the
modern military officer much to ponder, especially engaged as we are in live
operations against a modern insurgent threat. This article, based on previous
work published in the USAF’s ‘Air and Space Power Journal’, describes
Lawrence’s activities during the Arab Revolt, and introduces Lawrence’s
thoughts on insurgency. In particular, it looks at Lawrence’s philosophies from
our vantage point as modern airmen; specifically turning around Lawrence’s
theories on how to conduct irregular warfare against a technologically superior
threat in order to examine the possible roles of modern airpower in countering
a modern insurgency that is governed by Lawrence’s principles.
Introduction discuss his views from our vantage

point as modern airmen - more
ne of the more enigmatic
specifically turning Lawrence’s
and eccentric of English
exposition on irregular warfare
heroes, TE Lawrence - more
around in an attempt to examine
popularly known as ‘Lawrence of
the possible roles of airpower in
Arabia’ - has risen in the military
countering an insurgency that is
psyche from obscure young
governed by the principles that
archaeologist to one of the key
Lawrence espoused.
thinkers and writers, and indeed, in
his day, one of the most successful During the First World War, the
practical leaders, of what has become Ottoman Empire (ruled by what
the widespread modern phenomena is now modern Turkey) sided with
of insurgent warfare. His leadership Germany and Austria-Hungary
of the rising of the Arab tribes of the against the Entente Powers.
Hejaz against their Ottoman overlords Generations of poor treatment by
has been widely studied by military their Ottoman overlords caused
minds as diverse as Mao Tse Tung and Grand Sharif Hussein, as the head
John Boyd.1 of the Arab nationalists and ruler of
Mecca, to enter into an alliance with
Although his main works - ‘The Seven the United Kingdom and France
Pillars of Wisdom’ 2 and ‘The Mint’ 3 - against the Ottomans in June 1916.
are widely known, beloved of Hussein had become convinced that
staff college tutors and oft-quoted the Ottoman Government 5 was
(although I suspect rather less planning to depose him at the end
widely read!), it is a relatively minor of the war and began an exchange
article, originally written for The of letters with the British High
Army Quarterly and reprinted in the Commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry
1939 volume ‘Oriental Assembly,4 McMahon. This correspondence,
that brings together the nuggets of which has since become highly
his ideas and is a treasure trove of controversial, convinced Hussein that
thought on irregular warfare; it is a Arab commitment to the side of the
resource that it is worth revisiting in Triple Entente would be rewarded
the light of modern experience. In by an independent Arab empire
addition to introducing the notions encompassing a wide swathe of the
of ‘eating soup with a knife’ and the middle east, with the exception of
‘kingfisher flash’, his description of British Imperial possessions and
the Evolution of the Arab Revolt, British interests in Kuwait, Aden,
which commenced in June 1916, and the Syrian coast.6 French and
gives the modern airman much to British naval forces had cleared the
ponder, especially when engaged Red Sea of Ottoman gunboats early
in live operations against a modern in the war so the maritime flank was
insurgent threat. In an effort to secure. The port of Jidda was attacked
stimulate debate, this article will by 3,500 Arabs on 10 June 1916 with
describe Lawrence’s activities the assistance of seaplanes and naval
during the Arab Revolt, and thereby gunfire support from British warships;
introduce Lawrence’s thoughts on the Ottoman garrison surrendering 5
insurgency. In particular, I will days later. By the end of September
1916, Arab armies with Royal Navy of British and Arabs landed from
support had taken the coastal cities HMS Hardinge; they were joined by
of Rabegh, Yenbo, and Qunfida; the Faisal’s main force within 36 hours.8
remaining Ottoman forces in the Following the loss of Wajh, the
Hejaz numbered some 150,000 well- Ottoman leadership abandoned their
armed regular troops. intended plan to capture Mecca and
consolidated their defensive position
In October 1916, the British Army
in Medina with small detachments
in Cairo sent Lawrence, a young
scattered along the Hejaz railway.
officer previously employed on
The Arab force deployed in three
cartography and relatively minor
main groups. Ali's force threatened
intelligence roles, to assist in
Medina, Abdullah operated from
liaising with Hussein’s Arabs.
Wadi Ais harassing Ottoman
Lawrence spoke Arabic well and
communications and capturing their
had travelled extensively in Arabia
supplies, and Faisal based his force at
as an archaeologist before the war.
Wajh. Camel-mounted Arab raiding
Lawrence's initial contribution to
parties had an effective radius of
the revolt was convincing the Arab
around 1000 miles carrying their
leaders (Hussein’s sons Ali, Faisal
own food – which consisted mainly
Abdullah and Zeid) to co-ordinate
of a form of flour from which they
their actions in support of British
made a simple form of bread - and
strategy. He persuaded them not
taking water from a system of wells
to attack and attempt to drive the
approximately 100 miles apart 9 …
Ottomans out of Medina, but instead
an enviable support requirement by
devised a strategy whereby the Arabs
the standards of today’s logisticians!
attacked the Hejaz railway along
Putative allied air support was most
which the Medina garrison was
effective during the campaign, both
supplied and reinforced. This tied
in provision of striking power 10 and
up far more Ottoman troops, who
in resupply.11
were forced to protect the railway and
repair the constant damage, whilst The Arab Revolt tied up some
still using up resources defending 30,000 Turkish troops along the
Medina against harassing attacks.7 Hejaz railway, prevented a link-up
A plan was devised to mount the between the Turkish forces in Arabia
attacks from ports along the Red Sea, and the Germans in East Africa
initially from the coastal city of Wajh. and, by adopting harassing ‘hit and
On 3 January 1917, Faisal began an run’ tactics, gradually weakened
advance northward along the Red the Turkish Armies by small scale
Sea coast with a force of around attrition. The actual defeat of the
10,000 men and some 1200 camels; Turks was, however, directed by
he was to be resupplied by the Royal Britain’s General Sir Edmund Allenby.
Navy (RN) from the sea. However, Nicknamed “the Bull,” Allenby
moving such a large force took time launched a successful offensive from
and the RN, in the shape of HMS Sinai the Autumn of 1917, sweeping
Hardinge, arrived first at Wajh on 22 up into Palestine to occupy Jerusalem
Jan 1917, commencing an attack the in December 1917. His advance was
next morning. Wajh surrendered delayed by severe winter weather
on 25 January 1917 to a small force in 1917-18 and continuing stubborn
Turkish resistance, but in the following that ‘our nation has tasted humiliation
year, with the Arab irregulars on his and contempt for more than 80 years.’ 17
right flank, he advanced to eventual
Lawrence’s thinking on the conduct
victory; taking Damascus on 1 Oct 18,
of desert warfare developed as the
and Beirut on 8 Oct 18. The use of air
campaign progressed and his writings
power in this stage of the campaign
contain much useful discussion and
was crucial, and there are several
clear indications of how his ideas
references to its use in Seven Pillars.12
were derived. However, at the end
Further south in the Ottoman Empire
of the chapter on the Arab Revolt in
in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq),
Oriental Assembly (and also contained
the British had overturned early
in ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ 18 ),
disasters (in 1916, 8,000 Anglo-Indian
Lawrence helpfully sums up his view
troops had surrendered to the Turks
of insurgent warfare in fifty words:
at Kut – despite an early attempt
to use air support to resupply the ‘…Granted mobility, Security (in the
beleaguered garrison) and, under form of denying targets to the enemy),
the leadership of General Maude, time, and doctrine (the idea to convert
captured Baghdad on 15 March every subject to friendliness), victory will
1917;13 by the end of 1918, Iraq was rest with the insurgents, for the algebraic
in British hands. The war against factors are in the end decisive, and against
the Turks came to an end on 30 Oct them perfections of means and spirit
18 when Turkey signed the Mudros struggle in vain’.19
armistice.14 The Arab peoples of the
So what does Lawrence mean by
Hejaz and Syria were justly proud
these ‘fifty words’? What follows is
of the part they had played to secure
an examination of these factors in
Allied victory and looked forward to
detail, firstly in an attempt to fully
the Arab homeland promised to them
understand Lawrence’s thinking,
by McMahon. However, they were
before moving on to examine possible
soon to be disappointed as the extent
ramifications and opportunities
of the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot
for the use of modern airpower in
agreement,15 and the ramifications of
countering such a strategy.
the Balfour Declaration16 in support
of Zionist aspirations for a Jewish First, mobility. Lawrence was seeking
homeland, became more widely the ability for his insurgents to move
apparent. The scene was thus set for at will across the battlespace in which
the series of events that became the they operated. He points out that the
genesis of the current problems in number of conventional troops that
the Middle East. In addition to the would be required to fully secure the
cause of an Arab Palestine that sits Hejaz was huge – over 600,000 – so
at the centre of modern conflict, the the Turks could only occupy certain
deep-seated resentment based on the areas or hold wider areas for only
perceived betrayal of the Arabs by the short periods. The success of the
British after the Revolt still provides a insurgency depended on his ability
motivation for anti-western sentiment. to bypass these areas and to operate
Osama Bin Laden referred to this fluidly in the interstitial space. He
betrayal when, in his first public likens the Turkish Army as ‘plants,
pronouncement post 9/11, he stated immobile as a whole, firm-rooted,
nourished through long stems to As an historical aside, the Turks
the head’ whilst the insurgents used many methods, including
‘were an influence, an idea, a thing primitive airpower, in a ‘Counter-IED
invulnerable, intangible, without campaign’ to keep the Hejaz railway
front or back, drifting about like a open,23 flying recce aircraft forward
gas.’ 20 As his early recommendation of trains to detect the disturbed sand
not to recapture Medina shows, and tracks associated with mining
he had no use for territory – rather activity and any insurgents waiting in
Lawrence exploited the fact that the ambush. Air counter-IED operations
enemy would adopt a conventional have therefore certainly been a facet
approach - that of attempting to of counter-insurgency for some time.
dominate ground - and would use I appreciate that current doctrine for
this fact to tie up enemy forces and stabilization requires ‘boots on the
to create a logistical drag on the ground’ to win ‘hearts and minds’
enemy system. Attacks on Medina and to provide security for Other
were to continue, but solely to force Government Department (OGD) and
the enemy to use up ammunition other Non-Government Organisation
and supplies, and to heighten the (NGO) activity, but at what stage do
importance of the Hejaz railway – the ‘boots on the ground’ become part
protection of which then became of the problem and when does the
another burden for the Turkish activity required to protect such a
Army. Air Cdre Julian Stinton, in his force, with its inevitable ‘collateral
otherwise excellent ‘viewpoint’ in Air damage’, lead to alienation; when
Power Review 21 discusses modern do ‘liberators’ becoming ‘invaders’?
Counter-Improvised Explosive If it accepted that ‘Boots’ are indeed
Devices (IED) operations as a ‘critical required then their movement
tactical facet’ - which such operations around the battlespace, and their
undoubtedly are - but then dismisses resupply, open up potential targets
the movement of land forces by air for the insurgent. Attacks on NATO
as an alternative, suggesting that convoys and bridges in the Khyber
would surrender the ground to the Pass region have recently illustrated
enemy and would have the effect this point – a land force requires
of fixing ‘us’ further. I would take much heavy materiel and Afghanistan
issue with this last point and argue has no Red Sea maritime flank!
that the reliance on land Lines of The continuing tragic loss of young
Communications (LOCs) and the slow soldiers to IEDs is fast becoming the
speed of movement on land is fast focus of both military planners and,
becoming our ‘Hejaz Railway’. Air via an increasingly inquisitive media
mobility, one of the four fundamental and with a government fighting for
Air and Space Power roles,22 frees its life, with the population at home.
a commander from reliance on land Any opportunity to reduce our
routes and enables rapid movement physical footprint, and dependence
of troops and material throughout on soldiers in ‘harm’s way’, by the
the theatre – to be delivered where use of airpower is surely a good idea?
and when the commander wishes, We must not lose track of the fact,
with little pre-notice, and enabling us in our many studies of insurgent
to dictate the pace of the campaign. tactics and culture, and the tactics
of the ‘Underdog’, that Air is our Lawrence’s strategy - the ability to
‘asymmetric advantage’, especially know what is going on across the
if we can continue to protect our battlespace. A complete and accurate
aircraft; moving by land merely picture enables the commander to ‘fix’
proves targets for the insurgent – the insurgents - not in the traditional
which was Lawrence’s view of the physical sense of pinning them in
Turkish Army. In the same edition space, but multi-dimensionally, with
of Air Power Review as Air Cdre the ability to dislocate their decision
Stinton’s ‘Viewpoint’, Gp Capt cycle by destroying their mobility
Carl Scott clearly articulates the and denying them the opportunity to
advantages of Air over soldiers on move undetected and strike at will.
the ground in terms of persistence, Air power then becomes the ‘gas’,
tactical surprise and collateral particularly against an asymmetric
damage, among other factors.24 opponent with no air capability, and
In addition to reducing the reliance the enemy becomes increasingly
on land LOCs, modern air power rooted. As Air Cdre Stinton states
can seriously hamper the insurgents’ in his article, the ‘Find’ function
ability to ‘drift about like a gas’. The has become a key role, although
use of air striking power is well ‘Understand’ may be a more accurate
documented 25 and, indeed, played descriptor. Lawrence himself says;
a successful part in ‘air policing’ ‘The corollary of such a rule was
operations in the Middle East very perfect ‘intelligence’, so that we could
early in Airpower’s history. However, plan in certainty. The chief agent
more modern use of air power in must be the general’s head; and his
asymmetric warfare has, for various understanding must be faultless,
reasons subject to endless debate, leaving no room for chance.’ 26
been somewhat inconsistent in its
contribution to campaign success So what does Lawrence mean by
and has failed to provide ‘what it says Security? He states that ‘rebellion
on the tin’. The cause has not been must have an unassailable base,
helped by enthusiastic airmen… and something guarded not merely
politicians… perhaps making over- from attack, but from the fear of it.27
optimistic claims about the efficacy of Lawrence used the Red Sea ports as
air power. However, recent advances a start point and was able to rely on
in technology have enabled rapid, the Royal Navy’s dominance of the
tailored effect with unprecedented area to secure his base. The Arab
accuracy and, coupling reach and, revolt is only one of several examples
increasingly, persistence with this in modern history of an insurgency
increasing technical capability, using a secure flank for re-supply.
the utility of air striking power is North Vietnamese forces used
developing a pace. However, we can bases and supply routes in neutral
be an awful lot smarter about how Cambodia and Laos, throughout
we use airpower, and we are seeing the Vietnam War, to support the
rapid developments in the use of air insurgency by the Viet Cong in the
assets to give the commander a far South – the so-called Ho Chi Minh
more useful capability, some would trail. This forced the United States
say fundamental capability, against into the first of several difficult moral
dilemmas that it was required to damage, potentially handing the
face during the conflict – did they enemy a propaganda coup. The
maintain international legitimacy, drive when faced by a fleeting target
and the moral high ground, but is always to attack, for fear of being
accept that the North could re-supply unable to re-acquire the target if it is
its forces at will or did they risk lost to ‘view’. A more robust picture
condemnation by interdicting targets enables the commander to choose
in ‘neutral’ territory? Currently, our his moment and, if more tactically
opponents in Afghanistan clearly desirable, merely ‘watch’ rather
rely on their influence in the North than ‘shoot’. I would also argue
West Tribal areas of Pakistan as a that a neutral base is useless to the
neutral secure base.28 Any damage insurgent if they can be targeted
to international relations with the the instant they leave its protection.
(unwilling?) host nation is a ‘win’ for In addition, and although very
the insurgent who can add more allies controversial, history has shown
to his cause. When that host nation that the delivery of effect into a
is nuclear armed and struggling to neutral ‘haven’ by air is considerably
remain stable, such a ‘win’ may have more acceptable (or perhaps more
far reaching strategic consequences. deniable?) than the presence of a
raiding, or invading land force –
So, does the insurgent’s security
examples include Nixon’s bombing
provide a ‘target set’ for the modern
of Cambodia or, more recently,
airman? Well, again it comes down
UAS-launched missile strikes against
to the ‘find’ function. The domination
Taleban leadership in Pakistan. We
of the high plateau of air, and indeed
as airman are of course fully aware
space, enables the construction of
of the psychological effect of attack
complete situational awareness.
from the air but it could perhaps
Whilst air cannot provide the entire
be best summed up in this context
picture, and as FA&SOC 2009 says
by Gp Capt Scott, who quotes an
‘plumb the depths of strategic nuance
insurgent speaking to the New York
and tactical complexity,’ 29 traditional
Times: ‘We pray to Allah that we have
properties of air power - technological
American soldiers to kill… these
capability, ubiquity and reach - must
bombs from the air we cannot fight.’ 30
be increasingly supplemented by
The psychological effect is more
persistence and backed up with
than a security issue; it also heavily
vastly increased processing and
influences Lawrence’s doctrine which I
analysis to ensure that the enemy
shall discuss shortly.
cannot ‘hide’, enabling us to strike
both whenever we want to, and using Friendly conventional forces also
the most appropriate strike assets. have a ‘security’ issue. The current
Perhaps more importantly, it also cry is always for more troops to fulfil
gives us the option to strike only our security tasks. However, it is
IF we want to – reliable situational also recognised that force protection
awareness may mean that our cause is vital if our forces aren’t merely to
may be better served by not striking, become targets for insurgency. In
thus preserving intelligence sources, addition, our footprint in theatre
keeping the ‘known’ enemy guessing must be strictly controlled if the ‘teeth
and reducing the risk of collateral to tail’ ratio is to remain efficient in
terms of fighting power. Although well-understood and permanent
air bases require force protection and fundamental of western counter-
logistic support, I would argue that air insurgency doctrine, but the methods
power is a very efficient way of using of winning this battle are many and
real estate in theatre and is certainly varied. I have argued the strengths
effective in terms of effect delivered of air power to provide a ‘hands off’
versus support infrastructure. capability and reduce the footprint
Especially if the unique reach of air of the ‘foreign soldier’, adding to
power can be utilised and power campaign legitimacy and popular
can be projected from outside the support. The presence of foreign
immediate area of operations. The troops hands a potential propaganda
ratio of combat effect to supporting victory to the insurgent – ‘How can
forces has always been an issue, Sir this government be legitimate if it
Robert Thompson, renowned expert relies on the infidel?’ However, it is
in counter-insurgency and known for also well known that a stray bomb
his leadership role in the Malayan can provide a very effective enemy
emergency, had this to say about the propaganda victory so application of
US presence in Vietnam in the latter force from the air must be carefully
stages of the conflict: controlled and accurately delivered.34
We must also not dismiss the moral
How many Americans, out of 500,000,
effect on the enemy. Strike from
were only defending each other, writing
the air is difficult for the insurgent
memos to each other, and how many were
to counter, as I have postulated
actually making a positive contribution to
previously, it is our ‘asymmetric
the future security of Vietnam?...31
advantage’ and thus badly affects
I have already briefly mentioned morale – particularly if the strike is
Doctrine. When Lawrence talks unexpected and in an area thought
of Doctrine, I think it is clear that to be safe. John Boyd, creator of the
this means ideas – ideas to unify ‘OODA’ 35 loop, was clear that the
and motivate his force, and ideas aim of a commander should be to
to motivate the support of the create ‘moral conflict’ – ‘…to increase
population at large. Lawrence states menace, uncertainty and mistrust
that a rebellion can be successful in the mind of the enemy whilst
with only 2% of the population increasing initiative, adaptability and
active in a striking force as long harmony within friendly forces…’,36
as the remaining 98% is passively and indeed quoted Lawrence as
sympathetic.32 I would stress here the stating that the commander must
word ‘sympathetic’… not ‘supportive’, ‘arrange the mind’ of the enemy.37
merely sympathetic. He goes on to It is in this area that the primacy of
state that: emerging information operations
becomes apparent. Thomas X
‘We had not won a province until we had
Hammes, in his treatise on the
taught the civilians in it to die for our
development of 21st Century warfare,
ideal of freedom: the presence or absence
The Sling and the Stone, suggests that
of the enemy was a secondary matter’.33
his Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW)
The battle for the hearts and minds takes place tactically in a low intensity
of the indigenous population is a conflict, but that, at the operational
level ‘…all an opponent has to move how much military, coercive, effect Air
is ideas.’38 Again, Lawrence was a Power can deliver with little political
trendsetter: ‘…the printing press is controversy at home.
the greatest weapon in the armoury of
TE Lawrence was an enigmatic,
the modern commander.’ 39
ascetic, character who was the
I have left time until last. Speed subject of much controversy during
has always been a key property of his lifetime. On return from the
air power 40 and the ability to react, war, and after attending the Paris
theatre-wide, is a major advantage Peace negotiations – where he was
we hold. It is our key asymmetric dismayed by the British and French
advantage and, applied thoughtfully, attitude towards Arab independence
should enable the commander to - he eventually shunned publicity
drive the rhythm of the battle. Again, and, in 1922, enlisted in the ranks of
the fascination of ‘boots on the the RAF as AC John Ross. He was
ground’ and ‘dominating ground’ soon discovered and was forced to
would be known to Julius Caesar and leave the RAF, enlisting as a private
Wellington – surely we must use our in the Royal Tank Regiment. After
advantage to dominate the conflict 2 years service, friends in the Prime
in all dimensions rather than merely Minister’s office enabled a transfer
to support a ‘conventional approach? back to the RAF, and Lawrence was
Time also plays a key role in the posted as an airman to RAF Cranwell.
insurgent’s campaign plan. His aims He retired from the RAF in February
are long and absolute. Unwilling 1935 and only 2 months later died
to compromise on the eventual end in a motorcycle accident near his
state, most insurgencies are willing home in Dorset.42 Basil Liddell Hart
to be patient and to fight a long argued that:
campaign. Western, conventional
Military History cannot dismiss him
forces, with democratic governments,
as merely a leader of irregulars; he is...
are rarely afforded that luxury, with
a strategist of genius who had the
the need to justify the continuing
vision to anticipate the guerrilla trend
expense and increasing casualty toll
of civilised warfare that arises from
to constituents, and public opinion
the growing dependence of nations on
being a key driver – especially
industrial resources’.43
when, to them, it is a ‘war in a far
flung land’ rather than a fight for Conventional employment of modern,
survival in a disputed homeland. joint, expeditionary force has proved
Democratic governments will always an expensive and controversial means
have problems fighting long drawn of countering modern insurgencies
out campaigns against distant and has had historically, at best,
threats. Loss of life and material mixed success. The ‘traditional’
will exacerbate those problems and use of airpower as a panacea to
will drive public opinion and hence an unconventional threat has also
government decision-making. As proved problematic, and of limited
Robert Thompson said of Vietnam effectiveness. By examining the
‘…the South can only lose it on “the concepts espoused by TE Lawrence
Hill”’.41 The lessons of many years of for the conduct of irregular warfare,
‘Southern Watch’ over Iraq show just and by careful consideration of
historical campaigns, I propose that set, exacerbating political problems
imaginative application of modern and risking the political sensitive,
airpower, and in particular airpower and tragic, casualties that the ‘boots
as a provider of the ‘find’ - and where on the ground’ that a conventional
possible, ‘understand’ functions - joint force may attract. It is my view
holds the key to countering future that with an innovative approach,
insurgencies. We must be bold, both emerging technology and a
as airmen in pushing the boundaries willingness to confront ‘sacred cows’,
of new air capabilities and thinking Air and Space Power is on the verge
more radically than we have ever of delivering what we airmen have
done in the past about our way of always promised.
doing business, in order to fully
utilize our ‘asymmetric advantage’
and, whilst recognising the need to Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot
truly understand the motivation and who Changed the Art of War’, (Back Bay
mindset of potential adversaries, Books: New York, 2002)
use our unique strengths to fight TE Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom,
on our terms and at our pace. John (Jonathan Cape: London, 1935)
Nagl quotes former US Secretary TE Lawrence, The Mint, (Jonathan
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Cape: London, 1973)
referring to the US Special Forces TE Lawrence, Oriental Assembly,
cavalry ‘charge’ at Mazar-i-Sharif in (Imperial War Museum: London, 1939)
November 2001: TE Lawrence, Seven Pillars of
Wisdom, p50
‘The Lesson… is not that the US Army 6
Margaret Macmillan, Peacemakers –
should start stockpiling saddles. Rather
The Paris Conference of 1919 and
it is that preparing for the future will
Its Attempt to End War, (Murray:
require new ways of thinking, and the
London, 2002)
development of forces and abilities that 7
Adrian Greaves, Lawrence
can adapt quickly to new challenges and
of Arabia, Mirage of a Desert
unexpected circumstances’ 44
War,(Phoenix:London, 2008)p88
Military airmen have always been James Barr, Setting the Desert on Fire,
innovators… but have always had (Bloomsbury: London, 2007) pp 91-93
to guard against those in the joint Lawrence, Oriental Assembly, p124
arena that merely see airpower Barr, Setting the Desert on Fire p145
as enabling a ‘view over the hill’, Lawrence, Oriental Assembly, p127
‘flying trucks’ or ‘joint fires’. The Lawrence, Seven Pillars, pp 613-5
fundamental air power properties Barr, Setting the Desert on Fire, p120
of agility, reach, ubiquity and speed Wiliam L Cleveland, A History of the
of response,45 combined with the Modern Middle East, (Westview Press:
imminent development of a persistent Oxford, 2004) p155
presence in theatre and minimal The Sykes Picot agreement was a
tactical footprint, will allow air power secret treaty signed between Britain
to play a much greater role in denying and France in May 1916 and, in
an insurgent enemy the requirements essence, agreed a division of former
stated in Lawrence’s ‘fifty words’ - Ottoman lands in the Middle East
without providing the enemy a target between France and Britain. See
Cleveland p163 the Stone – on war in the 21st Century,
The Balfour Declaration was (Zenith Press: St Paul, MN, 2006)
contained in a letter from Arthur Lawrence, Oriental Assembly, p118
Balfour, the then British Foreign AP3000 , p16
Secretary, to Lord Montagu, a leading Thompson, Make For the Hills, p182
British Zionist, on 2 Nov 17 and Adrian Greaves, Lawrence of Arabia,
contained affirmation of Britain’s Mirage of a Desert War, (Phoenix:
future support for a Jewish Homeland London, 2007) p230
in Palestine. See Cleveland p 244. Basil Lidell Hart, TE Lawrence in
Osama Bin Laden. Reported in Arabia and after, (Cape:London, 1948) p 438
south_asia1585636.stm, quoted in John A Nagl, Learning to Eat Soup
Barr, p314 with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons
Lawrence, Seven Pillars, pp 193-7 from Malaya and Vietnam, (University
Lawrence, Oriental Assembly, p134 of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2002) p xxi
20 45
Op cit p120 AP3000 p16
Air Cdre Julian Stinton, ‘Integrated
Air Operations - Some Ramifications
for our Modus Operandi’, Air Power
Review, Vol 11, Number 3, Winter 2008.
AP3000, Fourth Edition, p41
Eg see Barr Setting the Desert on
Fire, p110
Gp Capt Carl Scott, ‘Letter from
America’, Air Power Review, Vol 11,
Number 3, Winter 2008, p80
(Future Air and Space Operational
Concept (FA&SOC) 2009, p2-5,
AP3000, p50.
Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom,
pp 193-7
Lawrence, Oriental Assembly, p133
For a recent example see The Times,
12 Feb 2009, p35
FA&SOC 2009 p2-4
Gp Capt Carl Scott, ‘Letter from
America’, Air Power Review, Vol 11,
Number 3, Winter 2008, p80.
Sir Robert Thompson, Make For the
Hills(Leo Cooper:London, 1989) p168
ibid p134
Lawrence, Oriental Assembly, p118
AP3000 p51
Coram, Boyd p337
Lawrence, Seven Pillars, p 193
Thomas X Hammes, The Sling and

The RAF in Command:

The Policing of Mesopotamia
from the Air

By Captain Paul Horne

At the conclusion of the Great War the fledgling Royal Air Force faced a new
struggle for survival. Having existed as an independent service for less than
seven months it was naturally at great risk in the new, rapidly demilitarising
world in which it found itself with the Army and the Royal Navy keen to revert
to the pre-war, two Service, status quo. The Royal Air Force needed to justify
its existence and quickly. To the RAF’s hierarchy Imperial policing seemed
to offer the most immediate and cost effective method of demonstrating the
RAF’s continued utility and securing their hard won independence. This article
examines the circumstances which lead to the RAF taking command of security
within the British Empire’s newest mandate, Mesopotamia, and how they went
about the task; both in the air and on the ground.
Introduction had required the re-enforcement of

the garrison by nineteen Battalions
t the conclusion of the Great
of the Indian Army and a further two
War the British Government
RAF Squadrons.2 Moreover the fiscal
found itself in an unenviable
cost of the campaign sent shockwaves
position; four years of war had
through Westminster:
brought the nation to the brink
of bankruptcy. Its arms race was “In order to maintain control of a minor
now turned into a race to disarm colonial mandate with little strategic
as treasury sought to slash its value, British military operations had
expenditure on the armed forces. A cost the treasury 40 million pounds,
restive public put pressure on their considerably more than the British had
political masters as they sought spent in supporting the Arab revolt
to return to some semblance of against the Turks in World War I.”3
normality following four long years
Such enormous expenditure in men,
as a martial society. The pace at
material and money contrasted
which the Government went about
sharply with the RAF’s recent success
demilitarising was relentless:
in the British Somaliland campaign
“In 1919 [defence spending] was about against the ‘Mad Mullah’ Said
£604 million a year; a year later the level Mohammed Bin Abdulla Hussan and
had dropped off to £292 million. In the his 10,000 Dervish followers. Here
succeeding year, the level fell to £110 a joint force consisting of “one RAF
million. The rapidly declining budget squadron working in collaboration
caused severe force reductions. The three with the local gendarmerie regiment,
and one-half million man force in 1918 the Somaliland Camel Corps and
was 800,000 in 1919; and by 1920 the a battalion of the King’s African
figure stood at about 370,000. In just Rifles”4 succeeded where the army
under 23 months the British military had failed on numerous previous
structure had been reduced by at least... occasions and drove the Mullah out
89 percent.”1 of the British protectorate once and
for all, capturing or finally dispersing
However, following the
his followers; all at the relatively
dismemberment of the Ottoman
negligible cost of only £84,000.
Empire the British Government
found that its own Empire had Policing the Empire by air was
expanded to include the troublesome an attractive prospect to both the
region of Mesopotamia. In 1920 there RAF and the Government; for Lord
were over 60,000 British and Indian Trenchard, the Chief of the Air Staff,
troops garrisoning Mesopotamia it offered him the opportunity to
at considerable cost to the treasury carve out a new role for the RAF
and when, in the summer of 1920, which would ensure its survival
the simmering political tensions in and prevent it being broken up
the region boiled over into full scale and returned to the two senior
revolt even this vast force was unable services who were resentful of the
to put down the offensive. The revolt claims this young upstart made
was eventually suppressed at a cost upon the defence estimates. For the
of 1,040 killed and missing soldiers government the benefits of such a
with a further 1,228 wounded but it scheme were tangible fiscal gains
as the estimated cost of garrisoning faced and they had a number of
Mesopotamia would fall from £25 methods at their disposal. Chief
million a year under the army 5 to the among their uses of air power
£5 – 6million that was being offered were offensive bombing (with or
to the RAF to take on the task. without the support of ground
troops), punitive strikes, interference
The RAF took command of all British
and propaganda.
military forces within Mesopotamia
on 1st October 1921. This force, under The first real challenge to the RAF’s
the command of Air Vice-Marshal authority came in 1922 as the Turks
Sir John Salmond, was composed of crossed the border and entered the
“eight RAF Squadrons and four RAF disputed Mosul province:
armoured car companies, 15,000 Iraqi
“Imperial troops were defending the area,
levies and police and six Indian army
but were having a rough of it when the
brigades.”6 As we can see, Sir John
RAF began attacking Turkish outposts in
Salmond had a vast array of troops
November 1922. The bombing campaign
at his disposal, the majority of which
intensified in December, and in February
were land based rather than airborne.
1923 a combined air-ground campaign
Nonetheless, it was, naturally, his
effectively ejected the last remaining
airborne forces which would shape
Turkish forces from the area.”8
the most radical changes in the
policing of this unstable land. The RAF had secured a resounding
victory for the much maligned policy
Mesopotamia’s insecurity stemmed
of air policing; by operating in close
from three main causes; the
concert with ground troops they
continued overtures being made
had acted as a force multiplier and
by the Turks towards the Mosul
enabled a victory that ensured the
region; the unsettled and potentially
border between Mesopotamia and
rebellious Kurdish tribes in the
Turkey was no longer in dispute.
north and the marauding desert
tribes and raiders from Njed in the However, this type of all out offensive
south. Such diverse and overlapping action was rare during the RAF’s
threats to security created a complex tenure policing Mesopotamia; more
political and military landscape for usually the RAF policed its mandate
the RAF to operate in. In addition to using a combination of punitive
these pressures junior commanders strikes and interference. Punitive
received no formal doctrine to strikes were an old and well known
support their new venture of air method of policing the Empire and
policing within a state until 1924 and had in the past followed a reasonable
the guidance given to them prior to set pattern: a rebellious tribe would
this was often “more policy orientated transgress in some way shape or
than... operationally orientated, and form, a mobile column of varying size
from an air commander’s view would would march or ride out to the tribal
have been considered constraints on centre where they would burn crops,
air actions.”7 destroy encampments or villages and
possibly killing any rebels who were
Nonetheless, the RAF quickly
foolish enough to make a stand.
adapted their operations to best
confront the challenges that they Such expeditions were undoubtedly
successful but they were slow and It was the ability of the RAF to strike
manpower intensive too. The speed at the same tribe or village, day after
and the reach of a small force of day for an indefinite period, with
aircraft meant that “air control meant relatively little risk to aircrew, which
substituting aerial bombardment made interference so effective:
for the traditional ground-based
“the real weight of air action lies in the
punitive expedition”9 and this
daily interruption of normal life which it
smaller, faster force was by no means
can affect, if necessary for an indefinite
less destructive: period, while offering negligible chances
“within 45 minutes a full-sized village... of loot or of hitting back... [air action]
can be practically wiped out and a can knock the roofs of huts about and
third of its inhabitants killed or injured prevent their repair, a considerable
by four or five planes which offer no inconvenience in winter time. It can
real target and no opportunity for seriously interfere with ploughing or
glory or avarice.”10 harvesting – a vital matter – or burn up
stores laboriously piled up and garnered
The potential to launch such a rapid, for the winter. By attacks on livestock,
violent response ensured that the which is the main form of capital and
tribal regions soon appreciated that source of wealth to the less settled tribes,
the government’s retribution would it can impose in effect a considerable
soon follow hot on the heels of any fine or seriously interfere with the actual
transgression. Indeed the extended sources of the tribe – and in the end the
reach and speed meant that punitive tribesman finds it much the best to obey
raids could be employed to punish the government.”13
offences that would have previously
been deemed too minor to launch a Such interference quickly brought
ground expedition: recalcitrant tribes to order as they
realised the harsh consequences
“in several instances [the RAF] bombed facing their families should this
tribes who refused to pay their taxes... harassment continue. However, in
Once tribes got the message that the stark contrast to the punitive raids
British were really serious about mounted by ground troops, air action
paying taxes, fiscal cooperation seems also reduced the residual resentment
to have been the order of the day, and felt towards government forces
tax compliance in Iraq reached a through sound use of intelligence
satisfactory level.”11 and propaganda both during and
Whilst these punitive air expeditions after the action.
were at least as lethal as their The RAF utilised the junior officers of
predecessors mounted by ground its ground forces for the purpose of
troops the RAF began to develop its intelligence gathering. These officers
doctrine of ‘interference’. Sir John acted as the military attaché to local
Salmond had realised “that aircraft political officers or governors14 and
achieve their result by their effect “it was their duty to familiarise
on morale, by the damage they do, themselves with the district to
by the interference they cause to the which they were accredited in such
daily routine of life and not through a manner that, should air operations
the infliction of casualties.”12 suddenly be required, they would be
enabled to make such arrangements a guerrilla campaign which sought
as were necessary to ensure that to re-establish Kurdish autonomy
aircraft found their correct targets.”15 or even independence, the attempts
to put down this insurgency by air
Having then identified their targets
power alone were unsuccessful and
leaflets would be dropped the
the aircraft of the RAF had to take a
transgressors spelling out in clear
supporting role:
terms what they had done wrong,
what action the government intended “The RAF bombed Suliamania [the
to take and how they might avoid this Kurdish capital] for many months
action. If this initial attempt to avoid without noticeable effect on the morale
violence failed leaflet drops and of Mahmud and his supporters. In the
propaganda from loudspeakers fitted operations against Mahmud, the air force
to the aircraft continued to emphasise cooperated with the army and police
“the peaceful intent of the British columns trying to corner the rebels.
demands and stressed the futility of The army columns were often mounted
resistance against the impersonal, as light as possible. The primary role
invulnerable and ubiquitous air of the RAF in such operations was
force”16 throughout the bombing or reconnaissance, and in this role the
interference campaign. aircraft proved fairly effective. When the
British/Iraqi troops cornered the rebels,
The RAF’s use of air as a means
the RAF provided heavy firepower in the
of delivering propaganda both
form of close air support.”18
before and during these operations
was complemented by the use of This tough and politically motivated
aircraft after a campaign “as a means opposition had shown that air power
of positive contact with the former alone could not overcome formidable
enemy: doctors were flown to the opposition. Nonetheless the RAF
remote sites when needed, were able to adapt their tactics and
natives were evacuated to large assume the subordinate role within
medical facilities if required, the combined air/ground campaign
messages were delivered from one which eventually defeated the
local chief to another in the course Kurdish uprising and forced Sheik
of normal flying duties and similar Mahmud into exile. Such versatility
acts of good faith were performed.”17 highlights the fact that the RAF’s
Such acts had a great deal of developing doctrine of Air Control
influence upon these recently was not firmly rooted in the concept
pacified communities and served of bombing one’s enemies into
to reinforce the positive benefits of submission and aircrews could adapt
accepting government rule. their tactics to best suit the nature of
each individual threat.
Whilst air policing was able to punish
and even rehabilitate recalcitrant By 1925 it was clear that Air Control
tribes in Mesopotamia, air power had been successful in policing
alone was seldom enough to Mesopotamia and the critics back
influence or quell more organised in the United Kingdom had been
and hard-line resistance. When, silenced. Indeed, plaudits flooded in
in 1923, the Kurdish leader Sheik from every quarter. Henry Dobbs,
Mahmud and his followers began the High Commissioner, boasted that
“Air Control has been so brilliantly, systems that he believed were key centres
magnificently successful that of gravity to exploit any foe. The systems
it has far outstripped the Warden picked were: leadership, organic
expectations of the Cairo Conference essentials, infrastructure, population and
of 1921”19 whilst the Secretary of fielded military force. One could envisage
this model as a series of five concentric
State for the Colonies, Leo Amery,
rings with the most important element at in
was of the opinion that “a general the centre and progressively less important
rising against the government was ones moving outward. A way to think
almost inconceivable.”20 about defeating an enemy was to attack
Whilst many observers in the United the concentric circles from the inside out.
That is, disable the most important centre
Kingdom saw Air Control as being
of gravity first and work outward to less
exclusively exercised by the bomber
important rings.
it is important to remember that
“Air Control occurred when the Air
Ministry assumed responsibility for Such a theory would have appeared
the defence of a particular region radical to an Air Force formed amidst
of the empire”21 and the RAF’s the bloody attritional slog of the
successes in policing the tribes in Great War. Indeed the RAF’s early
Mesopotamia was as much to do with campaigns in Mesopotamia against
the successful integration of ground the Turks seem to have conformed
troops into their operations as it was to this doctrine of chipping away
their ability to launch successive, at the outer layers of the circle.
rapid and long range strikes. Nonetheless, the RAF seem to have
It is worthwhile examining the attempted to strike at the ‘centre’ of
role the RAF’s method of targeting their enemy with their bombing of
played in their successful policing Suliamania during their campaign
of Mesopotamia. Traditional utility against Sheik Mahmud, although
targeting is perhaps best epitomised with little success. It must have
in Col. John Wardens Five Concentric become quickly apparent that such
Rings (Fig .1) utility based bombing was unsuited
to their objectives in a country such
as Mesopotamia. Utility targeting has
the best effect whilst utilised in inter-
state conflicts rather than against the
disparate tribes and ethnic groups
that made up Mesopotamia.
However, the RAF did make
considerable progress in moving
away from a purely attritional
doctrine throughout their time in
Mesopotamia. As we have seen,
although capable of inflicting grave
casualties the RAF moved towards
an interference based policy of
Fig. 122
policing. Such a policy more closely
Col. Warden selected five general areas or resembles the modern model of value
targeting (Fig. 2) are somewhat misguided, the RAF
were not in Mesopotamia to solve
the ethnic problems of this young
nation but to police it in a manner
that enabled it to be administered
effectively and their inability to
dominate ground was made up for
Physiological Needs
by their ability to strike further, more
Safety and Social Needs quickly and more continuously than
Belonging and Social Activity Needs ground troops alone and with far less
Esteem and Status Needs risk to those aircrews involved.
Self-Realisation and Fulfillment Needs
These aircrews also acted as a force
23 multiplier in their engagements in
Fig. 2
support of ground troops. Their
Value targeting’s aim is that “while ability to conduct reconnaissance
eliminating or in some cases even and give Close Air Support gave the
ignoring the utility of [the enemy’s] ground forces the advantage on many
warfighting tools, to attempt to occasions. It is also important to note
change their behaviour by holding that the task of policing Mesopotamia
their more highly valued but ‘lower’ fell to the RAF – not just its aircrews.
and stronger needs at risk.”24 Such a The system of intelligence networks,
system well suited the RAF who were, the propaganda campaigns, the
by and large, policing a people with armoured car squadrons, the
no real warfighting tools which posed development of the doctrine of
a suitable target. By striking at their interference and the close air/ground
‘safety and security needs’, along with relationship all had an important
their ‘belonging and social activity part to play in the RAF’s policing
needs’, by means of their interference mandate; indeed one must question
campaign the RAF were targeting and whether a police force modelled
denying that which the recalcitrant around the older empire model
tribes valued highly – the ability to would have fared as well.
conduct their daily routine according
Such a ground led campaign would
to their own needs or desires.
have certainly cost more in men
There were of course criticisms of Air and money; throughout their ten
Control chief among these was the year tenure policing Mesopotamia
assertion that Air Control had only a the RAF lost only fourteen aircrew
transitory effect and that it lacked the killed by enemy action and eighty-
ability to hold and dominate ground. four wounded 26 and within a year
Another was that “ Air control was of taking control they “had reduced
never as effective as advertised, British expenditure in the region
and it could not provide answers from about £23 million to around £4
to the political causes of colonial million”27 and this is the crux of the
insurgencies. Except in the case issue – the RAF were despatched to
of minor policing, airpower served Mesopotamia with two objectives;
mostly as a support arm to ground one of their own making and one of
forces.”25 I believe these criticisms the Government’s. The latter was to
police the mandate at a cost which Corum, JS “The Myth of Air Control:
would be acceptable to the British Reassessing the History,” Aerospace
people – which they achieved beyond Power Journal (Winter 2000) p. 5
a shadow of a doubt. The former was Corum, JS “The Myth of Air Control:
to secure a role for themselves, and Reassessing the History,” Aerospace
their survival as a separate service, Power Journal (Winter 2000) p. 6
amid the post-War cost-cutting and Salmond, correspondence file
demilitarisation. Here again the in AIR/338 taken from Longoria,
RAF achieved a resounding success, MA, A Historical View of Air Policing
securing once and for all their future Doctrine: Lessons From the British
as a fully independent service. Experience Between the Wars, 1919 –
1939 (Alabama: Air University Press,
1993, p. 21
1 13
Longoria, MA, A Historical View of Salmond to Trenchard, 29 Sep. 1923:
Air Policing Doctrine: Lessons From the Trenchard Papers, C11/27/1432 taken
British Experience Between the Wars, from Gray, PW, “The Myths of Air
1919 – 1939 (Alabama: Air University Control and the Realities of Imperial
Press, 1993) p. 7/8 Policing” Air Power Review Vol. 4 No. 2
Corum, JS “The Myth of Air Control: (2001) p. 44
Reassessing the History,” Aerospace Hoffman, B, British Air Power In
Power Journal (Winter 2000) p. 3 Peripheral Conflict, 1919 – 1939, (Santa
Ibid. Monica: RAND, 1989) p. 15
4 15
Hall, D, “Ruling the Empire out of Glubb JB, War in the Desert: An RAF
the Central Blue: Royal Air Force Frontier Campaign, (London: Hodder
and Counter-Insurgency (COIN) & Stoughton, 1960)
Operations in the Inter-War Period” Dean, DJ, Air Power in Small Wars:
Air Power Review, 10:2 (2007) p. 71 the British Air Control Experience,
Towle, PA, Pilots and Rebels: The use
of Aircraft in Unconventional Warfare, Ibid
1918 – 1988 (London: Brassey’s, Corum, JS “The Myth of Air
1989) p.15 Control: Reassessing the History,”
Hall, D, “Ruling the Empire out of Aerospace Power Journal (Winter
the Central Blue: Royal Air Force 2000) p.6
and Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Omissi, DE, Air Power and Colonial
Operations in the Inter-War Period” Control: The Royal Air Force 1919 – 1939
Air Power Review, 10:2 (2007) p. 71 (Manchester: Manchester University
Longoria, MA, A Historical View of Press, 1990) p. 35
Air Policing Doctrine: Lessons From the Ibid p. 35
British Experience Between the Wars, Longoria, MA, A Historical View of
1919 – 1939 (Alabama: Air University Air Policing Doctrine: Lessons From the
Press, 1993) p. 21 British Experience Between the Wars,
Ibid p. 20 1919 – 1939 (Alabama: Air University
Corum, JS “The Myth of Air Control: Press, 1993) p. 2
Reassessing the History,” Aerospace Wijninga, WW and Szafranski, R,
Power Journal (Winter 2000) p. 4 “Beyond Utility Targeting: Towards
Salmond, Notes on the employment Axiological Air Operations,” Air Power
of the air arm in Iraq cited in Journal Vol. 3 No. 2 (2006) p. 139
Ibid p. 143
Ibid p. 147
Corum, JS “The Myth of Air
Control: Reassessing the History,”
Aerospace Power Journal (Winter
2000) p. 13
Parsons, DW, British Air Control: A
Model Application of Air Power in Low-
Intensity conflict?
ADA215899 p. 9
Omissi, DE, Air Power and Colonial
Control: The Royal Air Force 1919 – 1939
(Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1990) P. 36

Air Power lessons from the

counter insurgency operations in
Malaya, Borneo and Aden

By Squadron Leader James Parker

The conduct of counter-insurgency is, understandably, currently subject to

much scrutiny. The aim of the following article is to analyse the strengths
and weaknesses of air power as applied during the counter-insurgencies of
Malaya, Borneo and Aden in the 1950s and 1960s, and to apply the key lessons
to the conduct of contemporary operations. It will be argued that offensive
air power can be extremely effective, especially following recent technological
developments, but unintended civilian casualties can have a more detrimental
impact on the overall campaign. Thus, air power’s non-violent contribution
has played a more valuable role. In particular, air transport aircraft – notably
helicopters – can be important force multipliers in terms of tactical mobility,
re-supply and casualty evacuation. Furthermore, the roles of surveillance,
reconnaissance and psychological operations should not be overlooked as they
too can have a significant effect. However, it is self-evident that air power is
not applied in isolation during any counter-insurgency. As history has proved,
joint and co-located headquarters are to the advantage of all concerned.
Finally, air power practitioners should remember that the political context is of
paramount importance to the overall success of any counter-insurgency.
Introduction – to the result of the campaign.

Indeed, the Royal Air Force’s role was
his article aims to analyse the
broadly similar in all three examples,
strengths and weaknesses of
but the crucial factor was a difference
air power as applied during
in political approach. Consequently,
selected counter-insurgencies
Borneo was determined as a positive
conducted within Southeast Asia in
outcome and Malaya is still regarded
the 1950s and 1960s, and will attempt
as a model for counter-insurgency
to relate key lessons to the conduct of
conduct; however, Aden was a
contemporary operations. In order
strategic failure that undermined
to do this, the essay will explore the
any tactical achievements. Although
fundamental principle that aircraft
every insurgency is unique, there
can contribute more than just an
are many common themes regarding
offensive capability and explosive
the application of air power in the
effect, with the aim of explaining
three historical examples that are
how air power practitioners have
still applicable to contemporary
learned to complement both military
operations, and these will be
and civilian activities. As will be
highlighted throughout.
outlined, the Royal Air Force was
generally regarded as effective in Offensive Air Power
the counter-insurgency operations
Land forces have traditionally
of Malaya, Borneo and Aden
regarded offensive action as the
primarily because of the non-
principal role of air power during
destructive impact it delivered, and
counter-insurgency operations. Close
that lesson endures today.
Air Support effectively assisted
This article will initially highlight troops in contact during the Aden
some of the successes and limitations campaign, when ‘ground attack
of offensive air support and then aircraft … were frequently called in
consider the importance of military to strike rebel forces’ that were within
command relationships. The merits close proximity of British infantry
of air transport activities, surveillance but out of artillery range.1 However,
and reconnaissance capabilities and in Malaya the insurgents usually
psychological operations will then withdrew before strike aircraft could
be reviewed because commanders react,2 so more often than not their
have increasingly realised their greatest effect was deterrence rather
effectiveness in supporting both than destruction. The value of these
military and civilian activities. The lessons is still apparent today in
Royal Air Force has been involved in Afghanistan, where ground forces
numerous counter-insurgencies, but can be rapidly allocated Close Air
the historical examples will be drawn Support to defeat insurgents fighting
exclusively from those of Malaya tactical engagements. Nonetheless,
(1948-60), Borneo (1962-66) and Aden then as now, careful co-ordination
(1963-67). These were some of the and control procedures are required
more significant operations, but also between land and air forces to
highlight the apparent paradox to air maximise the effectiveness of the
power practitioners that their efforts latter’s support. For example, attack
were important – but not fundamental aircraft were the only means of
preventing rebels from over-running (including unmanned aerial systems
an isolated Special Air Service patrol and attack helicopters as well as
on one occasion in Aden3 although fast-jets) and weapon technology
the arrangements for directing the (particularly advanced targeting
aircraft were improvised 4 due to pods and smart-bombs) now enable
insufficient planning. Fortunately, British combat air power to operate
‘forward air control techniques were effectively in all types of conflict.
steadily refined’ 5 during the Aden Thus, practitioners have learned
campaign, with improved planning, the importance of developing and
training and communications acquiring equipment for a broad
increasing the overall effectiveness range of applications rather than
of offensive air power. The use of procuring it purely for contemporary
experienced forward air controllers counter-insurgency operations,
was also a factor in the Borneo thereby maintaining a balanced
campaign,6 so that air attacks not force structure for war fighting
only caused maximum damage to and counter-insurgency. Given
the insurgent but also minimum increasingly stringent financial
civilian casualties. For much the constraints, this is likely to prove a
same reasons, on current operations key challenge for policy-makers and
there is a continuing requirement for will inevitably be the subject of much
sufficient personnel to be properly future debate.
trained and equipped for the important
The importance of adapting strategy
role of forward air control.
to minimise civilian casualties was
Offensive air support was conducted also a lesson learned during the
in Malaya both against specific featured campaigns. The negative
targets – such as terrorist camps – effect of civilian injuries and deaths
and areas of jungle judged to contain on the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign
insurgents.7 Unfortunately, ‘the was well understood in Borneo by
impact of offensive strikes was greatly those in command 11 as they had
limited’ because the dense jungle seen the benefits of a controlled
canopy not only absorbed much of approach to minimising civilian
the weapons’ explosive force but also casualties in Malaya. Today when the
made target acquisition difficult.8 ‘population is the prize’ there remains
Consequently, it was argued that much concern over the possible
piston-engine aircraft were more adverse consequences of employing
effective for counter-insurgency unnecessary or indiscriminate air
operations than the newly introduced delivered munitions because they
fast-jets, because their slower speed can alienate the local population.12
meant pilots had longer to locate These concerns are even greater
targets.9 However, it was recognised in contemporary operations as
then – and remains true today – improved global communications
that the Royal Air Force ‘will have enable near-instantaneous media
to fight the war with the equipment coverage, so the use of air power
… [they] have for other types of faces ‘criticism and scrutiny from
war’ 10 because a two-tier inventory a much wider and potentially less
is unaffordable. Furthermore, sympathetic audience.’13 As such,
subsequent developments in platforms non-lethal escalation measures by
low flying Close Air Support aircraft Force Commander, to head the
are employed whenever feasible in Provincial Reconstruction Team.19
Afghanistan.14 Also, the (former) Nevertheless, the British government
Commander of the International must underpin these command
Security Assistance Force directed and control relationships with the
that ‘minimizing civilian casualties necessary will to conduct counter-
is of paramount importance’ and any insurgency operations. The Labour
caused by coalition forces must be government’s Defence Review in
immediately acknowledged in the 1966 concluded (primarily due to a
media.15 All this underlies the fact changing strategic outlook coupled
that offensive air power can really with economic pressures) that Britain
only treat the violent symptoms of would not maintain its military bases
an insurgency and not the root in Aden beyond 1968, a decision
cause, which requires an integrated that ‘contributed to the escalating
civil-military approach – including violence’ 20 as it gave succour to
the contribution of other forms of the insurgents. There are parallels
air power. to the demands between 2003 and
2009 for a date to withdraw from
Command and Control Iraq, albeit more because the initial
Operations in Malaya, Borneo and invasion had been unpopular and
Aden revealed that command and the subsequent counter-insurgency
control relationships are crucial to appeared unwinnable, which
the overall effectiveness of counter- arguably ultimately undermined the
insurgency operations, but that the effectiveness of British military
overarching political and strategic action, including air power. Thus, it
approach will ultimately determine is worth remembering that politicians
the success or otherwise of a rather than military commanders
counter-insurgency campaign. In are the key to determining the final
particular, it was learned in Malaya outcome of a campaign.
and Borneo that ‘military operations While the role of politicians is
are always subordinate to political paramount, the military can make
considerations’16 because ‘military its contribution more successful
action counts for little unless its if it adapts a cohesive approach
effect contributes tangibly to a clearly rather than operating along single-
defined strategic or operational end service lines. It has been argued
state.’ 17 However, in Aden ‘the British that in Malaya the Royal Air Force
never developed the apparatus of ‘appreciated the support role as being
civil-military co-operation that had the dominant role for air power in
proved so effective in Malaya’ and counterinsurgency warfare,’ 21 but did
Borneo because for political reasons not become a mere adjunct to land
no overarching Director of Operations operations. The creation of a Joint
was appointed,18 which is one of Operations Centre during the Malaya
the factors why the campaign was Emergency ‘was the keystone of the
ultimately unsuccessful. This lesson inter-service co-operation on which
has been reinforced in Helmand the campaign was fought and won,’ 22
with the establishment of a Foreign and resulted in better allocation of
Office post that outranks the Task aircraft because airmen understood
the tactical importance of each task as it was regarded that ‘helicopters were
a consequence of their close working the key to the mobility and speed of
relationship with Army colleagues. the [military] campaign.’ 26
Joint headquarters are still important In contemporary operations
for air and land components to commanders continue to apply these
better understand each other’s same lessons, with troops exploiting
requirements, capabilities and the surprise achieved by aviation
limitations. However, Afghanistan manoeuvre ranging from a battle
counter-insurgency operations see group assault to a patrol bounce.
the Headquarters of the International However, it is crucial that sufficient
Security Assistance Force in Kabul helicopters are available to achieve
and the Combined Air Operations tactical mobility, which was not
Centre in Qatar because the latter is always the case in Borneo 27 or Aden 28
also responsible for air operations – reflecting both the cost and the
elsewhere in the region. An Air complex engineering of this relatively
Coordination Element is forward new capability, which limited
based, but its critics have stated that procurement of extensive numbers
the weight of air planning effort is of aircraft. Paucity of assets was a
too far removed from theatre – and noteworthy issue in Afghanistan that
liaison therefore more difficult has been somewhat alleviated by the
(not least due to communications recent American surge, but it still
difficulties) – which can mean remains that while ‘Commanders on
operations are not as fully integrated the ground have sufficient helicopters
as they might have been otherwise. to undertake their key tasks … greater
availability of these helicopters
Air Transport would give them more flexibility in
Air transport’s non-destructive the planning of deliberate offensive
capabilities have supported both operations.’ 29 Fortunately, debate
military and civilian activity during over whether air or land should
past British counter-insurgency command and control helicopters at
operations, particularly in the forms the tactical level, which manifested
of mobility, re-supply and casualty itself during Malaya and Aden 30
evacuation. Air transport aircraft with resultant conflicts in tasking
have significantly increased the priorities, is no longer a noteworthy
tactical mobility of ground forces problem because British assets are
and the development of helicopters deployed within a Joint Helicopter
was a major contributory factor. Force under command and control of
Analysis of Malaya suggests that an Army headquarters.
without helicopters ‘four times as While helicopters have proved highly
many ground forces would have successful in terms of achieving
been required’ 23 to overcome the tactical mobility where the terrain
limited mobility given the terrain and threat would have inhibited other
and infrastructure, significantly forms of ground and air transport, use
influencing how future counter- of fixed-wing aircraft has also been
insurgency operations would be important. For example, in Borneo
conducted.24 In Borneo 25 and Aden ‘ninety troops were loaded into a
this approach was continued, where Beverley, which made a swift landing
on Seria airfield where the troops as well as the reputation of the civil
leapt clear’ 31 and ultimately re-took power. Therefore, even when aircraft
the town although the aircraft suffered may be sparse and the perceived
damage from small arms fire. The opportunity cost to military tasking
lesson for contemporary operations is high, non-military tasks can be
is for air power practitioners to the most effective means to further
balance what air transport aircraft can progress towards the overall end state.
achieve, for example surprise, speed
Aerial re-supply was another crucial
and reach, in relation to the risks
force multiplier, especially in Malaya
involved. Nowadays, the increasingly
and Borneo. For example, although
high value attached to fixed-wing
British forces were outnumbered ten
aircraft means the benefits need
to one in Borneo, they were successful
to be compelling given the impact
as the Army could dominate the
of recent Royal Air Force Hercules
jungle ‘because of air re-supply’36
C130 aircraft losses.32 Furthermore,
rather then expend much effort and
not all historical examples have
resource on simply sustaining itself.
been positive – particularly those
Of note, ‘ninety per cent of the logistic
attempting to achieve tactical mobility
supply within Borneo was by air,
by parachuting. In Malaya ‘experience
both air-landed and air dropped.’37
showed that about half of the troops
However, ‘although aerial re-supply
dropped in any operation would in
played a vital role in Malaya, it
fact become caught in the trees,’ 33
played a far smaller role in Aden
causing injury to some and adversely
and, although important, did not
affecting what the unit involved could
have the decisive impact.’38 This was
subsequently achieve. Consequently,
because the Malayan jungle was much
this underlines the requirement for
more impenetrable than the Radfan
suitable operational risk management.
desert – despite its mountains and
Air transport can also be used lack of roads - and the city of Aden
with less risk and more reward to itself. Thus, air power’s comparative
further civilian aspects of counter- advantage over ground manoeuvre
insurgency operations. In Malaya, very much depends on the operating
‘on one occasion aborigines were environment itself. Today, aerial
flown to Kuala Lumpar to show the re-supply is a critical capability
falsity of insurgents’ claims about the in Afghanistan, where convoys to
collapse of the government.’34 The forward operating bases are
credibility of the nascent Afghan fraught with danger from improvised
civil administration was similarly explosive devices. Thus, helicopters
strengthened in 2002 when the Royal are often used for logistics purposes,
Air Force flew Hajj pilgrims to Mecca thereby contributing to the
from Kabul because the Afghan maintenance of political will for
airline could not meet the demand.35 the campaign because these tasks
In both examples, minimal effort help reduce casualty numbers. In
by one facet of military capability addition, Royal Air Force Hercules
generated disproportionate benefit for C130 aircraft can conduct air despatch
those conducting counter-insurgency to re-supply forward operating bases
campaigns as it boosted local and mobile reconnaissance patrols,
perceptions of the British military, allowing them to conduct longer
operations as a result. able to complement such activity,45 as
The post-Word War Two development occurred during the Malaya, Borneo
of casualty evacuation by aircraft, and Aden campaigns. In Malaya,
particularly helicopters, proved photographic reconnaissance was
‘momentous’ 39 and ‘became a vital undertaken to produce maps and
component in operations.’ 40 Soldiers generate aerial photographs for
could receive medical treatment intelligence and briefing purposes.46
in hospital within hours of being These ‘were used during nearly all
injured without requiring a patrol ground and air operations as a matter
to be abandoned, and by the end of of course and materially contributed
the Malaya campaign almost 5,000 to any success which they had’47 as
casualties had been transported troops could familiarise themselves
by helicopter.41 In Aden, ‘between with the ground on which they would
April and September 1964 alone, operate. In Aden, ‘the absence of
five Army pilots [evacuated] 89 accurate maps made on-the-scene
serious casualties’42 from the Radfan. reconnaissance, which could only
Arguably, troops fought that much be done from the air, essential;’48
harder because they knew they would thus, highlighting the flexibility
soon receive hospital treatment if and speed of what aircraft could
wounded; another immeasurable achieve. This function of air power
benefit of air power. Military is unlikely to be decisive in itself, but
planners have consistently put this has usefully contributed to the overall
knowledge into practice since then, effectiveness of military operations.
and during modern-day operations in Fast-forwarding to Afghanistan,
Iraq and Afghanistan coalition forces photographic reconnaissance has
routinely conduct life-saving casualty benefited from the advancement
evacuation missions. In Malaya, of technology. Aircraft advanced
injured civilians were also picked-up, targeting pods can down-link images
which duly strengthened the ‘hearts to troops on the ground in real-
and minds’ aspects of the campaign’.43 time and analysed pictures can be
Injured civilians in Afghanistan are e-mailed from the collecting aircraft’s
often moved by helicopter to coalition base location to the requesting
medical facilities, which can then be battle group headquarters extremely
publicised by media operations to quickly. Satellite technology
improve perceptions amongst the facilitates more accurate mapping by
population of the military’s role in cartographers. Updated maps
counter-insurgency operations. indicate newly constructed
compounds that can significantly
Surveillance and Reconnaissance
affect collateral damage estimates.
‘Good intelligence is undoubtedly Furthermore, technology can be
one of the greatest battle-winning applied to images collected from
factors in counter-insurgency airborne reconnaissance platforms
warfare.’ 44 Human intelligence to identify potential improvised
is likely to be the most valuable explosive device locations, greatly
source of information for counter- assisting convoy commanders to
insurgency; however, airborne plan their routes. Unfortunately,
surveillance and reconnaissance are technological advances can also be
used against coalition forces; for technology has helped overcome
example, commercial satellite imagery this historical difficulty, with the
websites allow insurgents to better introduction of platforms such as the
target their indirect fire attacks.49 Royal Air Force’s Sentinel Airborne
Stand-Off Radar aircraft, which
Surveillance has also proved an
conduct wide-area radar sweeps to
effective facet of air power. In Malaya,
cross-cue (alert) visual surveillance
airborne surveillance ‘occasionally
aircraft to a potential target. Similar
got fairly good spotting’ 50 of ‘terrorist
effects can also be achieved utilising
hideouts’.51 It is difficult to quantify
signals intelligence platforms.
the effect achieved, but numerous
insurgent camps and cultivations Psychological Operations
were located over a sustained
Psychological operations may
period.52 Deception tactics by aircrew
require more niche capabilities than
were required to retain surprise
traditional warfare, but previous
as insurgents became ‘extremely operations suggest a potentially
conscious of aerial surveillance and positive contribution to overall
were liable to move away from an campaign success. In Malaya air
area if they thought they had been power facilitated a large-scale
spotted … on the assumption that psychological operations campaign
it heralded the presence of ground to undermine support for the
forces or imminent air-strike action.’ 53 insurgents and their cause. In
That said, the deterrent effect achieved total, the Commonwealth air forces
by these surveillance aircraft delivered nearly 500 million leaflets
contributed to the overall attrition of and broadcast almost 4,000 hours
the insurgents. However, the Malayan of voice recordings.56 Significant
weather – especially heavy cloud in numbers of those who surrendered
the afternoon – meant that constant attributed their actions to hearing
monitoring was not achievable. The or seeing these products, which
importance of surveillance was also arguably played a greater role than
realised in Aden, where ‘the British force in defeating the insurgent,57
employed helicopters in crowded even if ‘the exact number who
urban areas to alert ground forces to were thus persuaded will never be
any sign of trouble (such as crowds known.’ 58 Measuring the success
massing, incipient riots, etc.) as well of non-destructive warfare is still
as to spot terrorist movement.’ 54 very difficult, although it is possible
Today, visual surveillance is more to assess effectiveness based upon
likely to be conducted by unmanned predicted reactions, which may be
aerial systems, but even these ‘can observed by airborne surveillance.
be limited by the weather’ 55 – Not all attempts to utilise air
particularly wind and cloud – and power for psychological operations
their noise can alert the enemy. have been successful. The British
Insurgents in Afghanistan coalesce attempted to ‘reimpose a form of
even more rarely than those in air control’ 59 during 1964 in the
Malaya. This makes locating them Radfan and leaflets were occasionally
through visual surveillance alone dropped to provide warnings that
more difficult. The development of a punitive air bombardment of a
specific target would follow. This type – can help change the cognitive
of air policing and control was limited environment, which is more likely to
as (unlike during the inter-war period yield successful results in the longer-
when such techniques were similarly term than offensive air support.
applied) the effects were quickly
broadcast and poorly perceived by a
global audience. Such actions would In conclusion, analysis of Malaya,
not be countenanced nowadays, but Borneo and Aden indicates that
non-violent psychological operations offensive action is not the sole
in Afghanistan have been used to effective means of employing air
publicise tangible reconstruction power when conducting a counter-
achievements and they have also insurgency campaign. Close Air
attempted to influence insurgents Support can be effective at the
that are deemed reconcilable.60 In tactical level, but the impact of
this way, psychological operations civilian casualties – particularly when
are not only used to gain military highlighted by the media – although
advantage, but also enhance civilian unintended can have adverse
campaign activities such as improving strategic consequences. Thus, the
the perception of governance non-violent contribution of air power
amongst the local population. Air has often played a more valuable role.
power’s reach can mean it may be Air transport is a critical capability
the only way of delivering the of tactical mobility. Certainly the
desired message. development of helicopters has
enabled more effective delivery
The Royal Air Force did not initially
means and brought a sea change
possess aircraft to effectively
with regard to casualty evacuation,
broadcast the psychological
while aerial re-supply continues
operations messages in Malaya, but
to be an effective force multiplier.
these were soon procured from the
Crucially, air power can generate
United States.61 Today, there are
disproportionate advantages to the
similar challenges regarding balanced
conduct of what would normally be
force structures. Technology allows
considered civilian lines of operation,
messages to be broadcast onto
such as improving the perception of
televisions and radios (rather than
governance, although the apparent
by loud-speakers on aircraft) but
cost to military activity may prohibit
the Royal Air Force lacks platforms
practitioners from employing
with this capability despite their
such methods. Technology has
utility in both high and low-intensity
particularly enhanced surveillance
warfare. Consequently, American
and reconnaissance platforms (which
aircraft must be requested, but might
are increasingly space-based) and
be subsequently tasked elsewhere,
psychological operations capabilities;
potentially adversely affecting the
however, while these non-destructive
credibility of British psychological
capabilities can achieve great success,
operations if such broadcasts had
they must be applied appropriately
been promised at a certain time.
and the effects may initially be
Nonetheless, air power’s non-
difficult to quantify.
violent contribution to psychological
operations – if applied appropriately The military campaigns of Malaya,
Borneo and Aden have provided MacMillan, 2002), 115.
lessons about the importance of Julian Paget, Last Post: Aden 1964-67
military command structures. Joint (London: Faber and Faber, 1969), 65.
and co-located headquarters offer Sebastian Ritchie, “RAF Counter-
the best construct to fully integrate Insurgency Operations”, 67.
all military efforts; thereby increasing 6
Walter Walker, “Borneo”. British
the likelihood that air power is a Army Review, no. 32, (August 1969), 12.
valued partner playing a supporting 7
Postgate, Operation Firedog, 40.
role rather than an adjunct to land 8
James Corum and Wray Johnson,
operations – to the advantage of all Airpower in Small Wars (Kansas:
concerned. Nonetheless, air power’s University Press of Kansas, 2003),194
roles and command chain are just a 9
ibid., 197.
few pieces in the complex jigsaw of 10
A Peterson, G Reinhardt and E
counter-insurgency. Whether the Conger, eds, Symposium on the Role
picture will be successfully completed of Airpower in Counterinsurgency and
depends very much upon the overall Unconventional Warfare: The Malayan
political approach. For example, Emergency (Santa Monica: RAND,
in Aden ‘air power had proved a 1963), 82.
winning factor in a lost war.’ 62 11
Walker, “Borneo”, 9.
In sum, the experience gained from Stephen Grey, “A bloody risky
Malaya, Borneo and Aden ‘continues way to beat the Taliban.”The Times,
to inform Royal Air Force thinking in online copy at http://www.
with respect to the role of airpower
in small wars.’ 63 When applied article4136791.ece, accessed 23
appropriately, the non-violent as January 2010.
well as strike capabilities of air David Jordan, “Countering
power can be extremely effective Insurgency from the Air: The Postwar
and therefore contribute much Lessons.” Contemporary Security Policy
to the overall counter-insurgency 28, no. 1 (April 2007), 108.
operation. In conclusion though, Harry Kemsley, “Air power in
history has demonstrated to air Counter-Insurgency: A Sophisticated
power practitioners that their efforts Language or Blunt Expression?” in
can help win battles of both bullets Dimensions of Counter-insurgency, eds.
and minds, but politics is equally Tim Benbow and Rod Thornton
important to determining the result (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), 111.
of the campaign. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
Headquarters International Security
Notes Assistance Force, Tactical Directive
Sebastian Ritchie, “RAF Counter- (Kabul, 2008), 2 in online copy at
Insurgency Operations in Oman and
Aden, 1950-1970.” Air Power Review 11, texts/Tactical%20Directive_090114.
no. 1 (Spring 2008), 64. pdf, accessed 23 January 2010.
2 16
Malcolm Postgate, Operation Firedog Julian Paget, Counter-Insurgency
(London: HMSO, 1992), 41. Campaigning (London: Faber and
John Newsinger, British Faber, 1967), 159.
Counterinsurgency From Palestine to Ritchie, “RAF Counter-Insurgency
Northern Ireland (Basingstoke: Palgrave Operations”, 69.
18 39
Mockaitis, British counterinsurgency Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 92.
in the post-imperial era, 57-58. Jordan, “Countering Insurgency from
Mark Urban, “How to win in the Air”, 99.
Helmand.” BBC Newsnight, in online Postgate, Operation Firedog, 107.
copy at Bruce Hoffman, British Air Power
newsnight/markurban/2008/06/how_ in Peripheral Conflict, 1919-76 (Santa
to_win_helmand.html, accessed 23 Monica: RAND, 1989), 105.
January 2010. Jordan, “Countering Insurgency from
Mockaitis, British counterinsurgency the Air”, 99.
in the post-imperial era, 64. Paget, Counter-Insurgency
Corum and Johnson, Airpower in Campaigning, 163-164.
Small Wars, 216. United States of America. U.S.
Malcolm Postgate, Operation Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency
Firedog, 36. Field Manual (USA: The University of
Peterson, Reinhardt and Conger, Chicago Press, 2007), 365.
eds, Symposium on the Role of Postgate, Operation Firedog, 124.
Airpower, 72. ibid.,134
24 48
Philip Towle, Pilots and Rebels Hoffman, British Air Power in
(London: Brassey’s Ltd., 1989), 95. Peripheral Conflict, 1919-76, 106.
25 49
Walker, “Borneo”, 9. Thomas Harding, “Terrorists 'use
Paget, Last Post: Aden 1964-67, 104. Google maps to hit UK troops'.”The
Walker, “Borneo”, 7. Daily Telegraph, in online copy at
Paget, Last Post: Aden 1964-67, 60.
United Kingdom. National Audit expatresources/4202583/Terrorists-use-
Office, Support to High Intensity Google-maps-to-hit-UK-troops.html,
Operations (London: The Stationery accessed 23 January 2010.
Office, 2009), 17. Peterson, Reinhardt and Conger,
Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 148. eds, Symposium on the Role of
ibid., 137/139. Airpower, 76.
32 51
United Kingdom. National Audit Postgate, Operation Firedog, 129.
Office, Hercules C-130 Tactical Fixed ibid., 134.
Wing Airlift Capability (London: The ibid.,130.
Stationery Office, 2008), 14. Hoffman, British Air Power in
Towle, Pilots and Rebels, 91. Peripheral Conflict, 1919-76, 96.
34 55
ibid., 90. National Audit Office, Support to
Ministry of Defence, “RAF helps High Intensity Operations, 17.
Afghan pilgrims get to Mecca.” Bryan Hunt, “Air Power and
Ministry of Defence, in online copy Psychological Warfare Operations
at Malaya 1948-1960.” Air Power Review
afghanistan/newsItem_id=1472.htm, 11, no. 1 (Spring 2008), 14.
accessed 23 January 2010. ibid., 16.
36 58
Roger Annett, Drop Zone Borneo Postgate, Operation Firedog, 122.
(Barnsley: Pen and Sword Aviation, Hoffman, British Air Power in
2006), 142. Peripheral Conflict, 1919-76, 93.
37 60
Walker, “Borneo”, 8. United Kingdom. House of
Corum and Johnson, Airpower in Commons Defence Committee, UK
Small Wars, 207. Operations in Afghanistan (London: The
Stationery Office, 2007), 42.
Hunt, “Air Power and Psychological
Warfare Operations”, 12.
Hoffman, British Air Power in
Peripheral Conflict, 1919-76, 106.
Corum and Johnson, Airpower in
Small Wars: 218.

‘The Strategic, Moral and

Conceptual Significance of Victory
in the Battle of Britain’

By Air Commodore Russ La Forte

One of the few truly strategically significant battles in history, British victory
in the Battle of Britain was pivotal to the course and outcome of the Second
World War. German attainment of air superiority in 1940 would have led to
the eventual defeat of Britain either by direct aerial attack, blockade, and/or by
invasion. British capitulation would very likely have had fatal consequences
for the Soviet Union facing an earlier and stronger German offensive, would
have encouraged accelerated Japanese expansion in the Far East, and probably
delayed US entry into the War. The principal strategic significance though, was
the effect upon the moral component of British and German fighting power.
Victory in the Battle spawned a moral cohesion that exerted a powerful grip
on the British psyche in 1940, a grip that continues even today to permeate our
national cultural, popular and political DNA. In this respect it was an event in
British military history like no other.
Introduction superiority to the Germans have led
to the invasion of Britain, and if so,
'The contest between the British and
could it have succeeded? Would the
German air forces in the late summer
loss of air superiority to the Germans
of 1940 has become a defining moment
have led to the defeat of Britain? What
in our history, as Trafalgar was for
could have been the consequences
the Victorians'
of British capitulation? Secondly,
Richard Overy1 in a critical area that has received
comparatively little attention in the

hurchill's memorable phrase, plethora of research on the Battle;
'Never in the field of human the article will examine the strategic
conflict was so much owed significance of victory to the British
by so many to so few', encapsulates and German moral components of
the standard perception of the fighting power. This section will also
strategic significance of the 'Spitfire address its enduring effects today
Summer' of 1940. However, perhaps upon the RAF and the British people.
inevitably with the passage of time, Finally, the article will address the
this perception is often clouded significance of the Battle to the
by hyperbole and inaccuracy, conceptual component of fighting
leading revisionists to challenge power: innovation, the ability to
the traditional story of the Battle of learn and adapt, and doctrine.
Britain, positing an imminent German Analysis will include the doctrinal
invasion and a united Britain as a primacy of air control: the assertion
myth. Nevertheless, Overy's assertion that 'no warfighting operation on land
hints at the iconic status that the or at sea anywhere within the
Battle enjoys in the psyche of the spectrum of conflict can be
British Nation. The achievements of satisfactorily concluded without
the 'Few' had profound geo-political control of the air'2 remains as
and moral implications at the time axiomatic in 2009 Afghanistan as
and still exert a powerful grip today, it did in 1940 Britain. Importantly
shaping key elements of our sense however, this final section will also
of British national identity - for good identify themes from the Battle for
and bad. Why and how should this the broader (and topical) doctrinal
be so? The purpose of this article context of cultural understanding.
is neither to provide a historical
narrative of the course of the Battle STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE
of Britain, nor to examine the reasons OF VICTORY:
for British victory, both of which THE COURSE AND OUTCOME OF
of have beaten a deservedly well- THE SECOND WORLD WAR
trodden analytical path. Instead, this
'Hitler knows he will have to break us in
article will focus holistically upon the
this island or lose the war'
significance of the victory in 3 areas.
Winston Churchill, 18 Jun 1940
Firstly, the article will examine the
geo-political implications of the RAF's British sources cite the period of the
victory in the Battle of Britain to the Battle of Britain as the 10 July to 31
course and outcome of the Second October 1940, comprising 4 phases:
World War. Would the loss of air firstly (10 July to 7 August), attrition of
RAF fighters, using the bait of attacks this war must go on'. The appeal was
on Channel shipping; secondly (8- dismissed peremptorily in a 22 July
23 August), attacks against Fighter BBC broadcast.
Command infrastructure; thirdly
German military opinion was
(24 August to 6 September) the
similarly divided. The tipping
main focus of attacks switches to
point for a quick, decisive invasion
London; finally (7 September to 31
had been missed. Liddell Hart's
October), attacks further extended to
view is typical, 'If the Germans
a wider variety of economic targets.
had landed in England any time
Temporally imprecise, the Battle
in the month following the fall of
petered-out rather than reaching
France, there would have been
a climactic conclusion, with the
little chance of resisting them.'3
Luftwaffe failing to achieve its aim of
Kesselring (commanding Luftflotte
air superiority over southern Britain.
2) and Fricke (Head of Naval Plans)
Any assessment of the strategic
had urged in vain that the British
significance of this failure to the
be followed across the Channel
outcome of the War must be clear
after Dunkirk, before they could
about German strategic objectives -
recover. Extraordinarily though, there
difficult, given that Germany herself
appeared to be no plans in place,
was unclear, not least her intentions
inducing the 'morass of uncertainty in
regarding the invasion of Britain.
which German strategy was labouring
With Russia the focus of Hitler's during this period.'4 On 16 July,
national strategic aim, a diplomatically- Hitler issued his 'Directive No16',
negotiated peace with Britain was 'I have decided to begin to prepare
preferred in order to concentrate for, and if necessary to carry out, an
military resources upon 'tackling invasion of England … and if necessary
the Russian problem'. Churchillian the island will be occupied' - the
defiance in May was seen as a bluff, caveats are revealing. The Germans
and a crucial month passed, waiting considered 3 possible military courses
for the British to recognise their of action to defeat Britain: air and
'militarily hopeless situation'. The naval blockade, direct air attack, and
Germans had identified (as the Allies seaborne invasion - either as the
did in 1944) the political risks of a main effort or a later coup de grâce.
failed landing, with the Armed Forces The unenthusiastic Army had no
High Command reporting to Hitler on qualms about taking on its shattered
11 August 'Under no circumstances British counterparts, but was deeply
must the landing operation fail. The apprehensive about its vulnerability
political consequences of a fiasco whilst embarked, lobbying for a wide
might be far more far-reaching than front of 90 miles to stretch British
the military'. With the Nazi regime defences. Conversely, Admiral
divided on the matter, Hitler appealed Raeder, conscious of British naval
for Britain to see sense in a speech superiority, argued for a narrow,
to the Reichstag on 19 July, 'In this mine-covered corridor, but in fact
hour I feel it to be my duty before my favoured a policy of blockade.
conscience to appeal once more to Meanwhile, Goering assured Hitler
reason and common sense in Great that the Luftwaffe would check RN
Britain … I can see no reason why and RAF interference. The only thing
that they all agreed upon was the the best chance of conquering her by
necessity for air superiority as an invasion, he could have developed
essential prerequisite to all military such a stranglehold, by combined
options. Ultimately, they were air and submarine pressure, as to
all to be disappointed, and when ensure her gradual starvation and
one considers his later complete ultimate collapse'.6 Joseph Kennedy,
unwillingness to accept 'excuses' from the US Ambassador in London,
the military, Hitler's agreement on 12 was similarly unequivocal on 2
October to postpone SEALION until August, 'if the Germans possessed
Spring 1941 is indicative of his true the air power everybody supposed,
strategic priority. they would put the RAF out of
If the Luftwaffe had achieved air commission, after which British
superiority in 1940, a vanguard of 3 surrender would be inevitable.'7
to 4 German divisions could have Britain's capitulation in 1940 would
overwhelmed British defences have been catastrophic, initially for
with relative ease. Dunkirk had Russia. Wavell would have been
decimated the British Army who, unable to launch his offensive on the
even supported by the 'brassard and Italians in Africa, with no consequent
shotgun' Local Defence Volunteers, German reinforcement requirement.
would have unable to contain, let There would have been no British
alone repel Blitzkrieg. A far greater intervention in Greece in Spring
deterrent was the RN who, despite 1941, and absence of British support
recent losses, dwarfed her German would have deterred the March
counterpart. The RN would have 1941 coup in Belgrade. Consequent
battled courageously, potentially German campaigns in Greece and
causing serious damage, especially to the Balkans were successful, but
German second and third echelons diverted valuable combat power and
(for which, there was a dire lack of induced several weeks delay in the
suitable landing craft). However, the launching of Barbarossa. A (stronger)
Germans could have mitigated naval Wehrmacht would otherwise have
interdiction by securing airfields on reached Moscow before the onset of
the South Coast. Furthermore, the winter. Hitler's failure to conquer
RN would have been mauled by the Britain before attacking Russia
Luftwaffe in the narrow confines of resulted in him having to fight a war
the Channel.5 In just one week of the not on the 2 fronts often claimed,
Battle's first phase, the Luftwaffe sunk but on several fronts in 1941. These
3 destroyers and seriously damaged included: aerial bombardment and
another 2 in the Channel, leading naval blockade of Britain; defensive
the RN to abandon Dover as a base garrisoning of Occupied Europe; an
on 29 July and withdraw northwards. expeditionary force in North Africa;
Liddell Hart had no doubt that counterinsurgency campaigns in
Luftwaffe air superiority would have Greece, Yugoslavia and Crete against
led to Britain's defeat, whether by guerrillas sustained from Britain;
invasion or otherwise, 'Had Hitler and interdiction of British convoys to
concentrated on defeating Britain, Russia. Meanwhile, what of Japanese
her doom would have been almost aspirations? The collapse of France
certain … although he had missed had accelerated Japanese invasion of
French Indo-China and thus British but we’ll knock shit out of some of you, at
Far Eastern possessions, principally least for as long as we can … attack, get
Hong Kong and the Malay Peninsula, stuck in, and trust in the Lord’
would very likely have suffered the
(Pilot Officer Geoffrey Wellum,11
same accelerated fate in 1940 had
September 1940).
London capitulated. Japan could then
have focused upon Australia and Leadership
India, arguably delaying the attack on
Pearl Harbour. The Battle had significant
consequences for the leadership on
Seeking another term in the both sides. Victory had fundamental,
forthcoming November 1940 enduring benefits to Churchill's
US election, Roosevelt walked reputation, coming to personify
a tightrope of public opinion the 'bulldog spirit' of Britain's (and
between vociferous opposition to his) 'finest hour'. Promoting public
entanglement in foreign wars, and
ambivalence, even dislike in many
concern over German and Japanese
quarters in May 1940, Churchill was
aggression, and German victory
idolised by the end of the year, and
in the Battle would seriously have
even in 2002 was voted 'the greatest
compounded Roosevelt's dilemma.
Briton of all time' in a BBC poll.12
Hallion describes the impact in
Meanwhile, the machinations of
the US of the RAF's victory thus,
senior RAF leadership during and
'it ended forever the aura of Nazi
after the Battle provided 'a backdrop
invulnerability, greatly encouraged
of soap-opera proportions.'13
the pro-British interventionist lobby,
Dowding, Fighter Command's
and launched the US on the road
victorious Commander-in-Chief
to rearmament',8 a bold assertion
became, according to Sir Arthur
probably correct only in the longer
term. US policy remained firmly Harris, 'the only commander who
isolationist in 1940 and 1941, with won one of the few decisive battles
British lobbying instilling sympathy in history and got sacked for his
but not belligerence. But whilst pains'. A whole host of personal
British victory in the Battle did not issues and Service politics lay behind
bring the US into the War, it 'did Dowding's dismissal, but the crux
create circumstances that allowed of the issue was his failure to grip
US political and military leaders to his subordinates, most notably the
contemplate the prospect seriously.'9 increasingly acrimonious relationship
between Park and Leigh Mallory.
THE STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE Fighter Command's poor night-time
OF VICTORY: performance in the subsequent
THE MORAL COMPONENT10 Blitz was the final blow, Churchill
was compelled to intervene, and
‘These are the King’s enemies. These
Dowding was dismissed on 14
are Huns attacking England, our small
November. Other casualties included
country, intent upon invasion and
Newall (Chief of the Air Staff) and
eventual occupation. We are on our
Park, who was moved sideways into
own against this Teutonic monster, this
a training appointment.
arrogant bully, this invader of small
countries … Well, there’s not many of us, The consequences of defeat to the
Nazi leadership were not immediate, of downtrodden or despairing men
but a seed was sown. For Hitler, it and women throughout Europe'. This
represented 'His first great failure, sense of moral integrity bolstered
of far greater ultimate consequence the RAF and public will to fight,
than all his victories.' 14 Furthermore, summarised by Wellum thus: 'Bloody
Goering was damaged militarily as Nazis, somebody has got to stop
head of the Luftwaffe, and politically them.' 18 This resolve was seriously
as Hitler's deputy. Following underrated in Berlin, and if the air
earlier stunning victories, 'defeat offensive and threat of invasion was
was a shock, especially to Goering an attack upon British morale, it
and his Luftwaffe generals whose backfired spectacularly. By the end
incompetence was revealed all too of 1940, Germany faced a British
clearly by post-battle recriminations. public far more determined to fight
All at once it was realised that the than it had been at the beginning.
war was by no means won as Hitler On 21 June, the British Ministry of
continued to claim.' 15 Defeat also Information reported 'difficulty arose
dealt a serious blow to the Luftwaffe's in satisfying people that the war could
reputation as the World's strongest be won'. By November, the mood
air force, 'the air offensive against had changed with a recommendation
England would reveal to the enemy that the ubiquitous slogan 'Britain
the limitations and weaknesses of the can take it!' be changed to 'Britain
Luftwaffe and thus rob Germany of can give it!' German faith in the
the strongest military-political trump decisive effect of aerial attack upon
card she then held'. 16 civilian morale had crystallised
during the 1940 Blitzkrieg, particularly
Motivation Rotterdam. This influenced Goering's
For the British, this was a 'Just War' decision (supported by Kesselring)
not only of national survival, but on 7 September to switch the main
with 10 nations already under Nazi effort from Fighter Command bases
occupation, Britons readily subscribed to London, a decision now regarded
to Churchill's extrapolation 'Upon as the turning point of the Campaign.
this battle depends the fate of Meanwhile, Luftwaffe morale ebbed
Christian civilisation'. It was a view away as the battle progressed, as
shared in US political circles, 'any Adolf Galland, one of their most
concession on the part of the British noted fighter aces later observed
Government would destroy forever 'failure to achieve any noticeable
the chance of eradicating the forces success, constantly changing orders
which are threatening our own betraying lack of purpose and obvious
civilisation, with England silenced, misjudgement of the situation, and
the force of democracy would be unjustified accusations had a most
annihilated'.17 Churchill also posited demoralising effect on us fighter
British victory as crucial to the morale pilots, who were already overtaxed by
of Occupied Europe, 'The fact that the physical and mental strain.' 19
British Empire stands invincible, and
Moral Cohesion
that Nazidom is still being resisted,
will kindle again the spark of hope in For the military, moral cohesion
the breasts of hundreds of millions comprises professional ethos, self-
esteem and tradition; yet RAF policy felt about shooting down German
in the immediate aftermath of the bombers, he replied that he preferred
Battle was not to glamorise Fighter to send them home badly damaged:
Command and its individual aces. 'With a dead rear gunner, a dead
The reasons were partly institutional. navigator, and the pilot coughing
Now in the House of Lords, Trenchard up his lungs as he lands. It has a
resisted the commemoration of only better effect on their morale'. In the
part of the Service and had difficulty contemporary RAF, the Battle still
coming to terms with 'merely' enjoys iconic status as its historical
a defensive battle. Dowding's 'blue riband' event. Indeed, annual
subsequent controversial dismissal Battle of Britain parades, cocktail
was also problematic. Furthermore, parties and the Memorial Flight
for much of the population, the worst provide the principal fora through
of the Blitz was yet to come. The focus which RAF units engage socially with
was thus on deliverance from invasion the local community.
rather than victory, and the Service The strategic significance of the Battle
as a whole. Bomber Command upon the moral cohesion of the British
had taken the fight to the German nation was palpable. In early-1940,
heartland, invasion shipping and the British people were far from
barges. Coastal Command conducted united, and there were enclaves of
anti-invasion patrols, attacking defeatism even within Government,
shipping and German-controlled including the Foreign Secretary, and
ports. The Roll of Honour in a cabal of 30 MPs headed by Lloyd
Westminster Abbey's Battle of Britain George. Other opposition included
Memorial Chapel, lists 1495 aircrew an unholy alliance of pacifists,
killed - 449 from Fighter Command, fascists and communists. However,
718 from Bomber Command, 280 public opinion was overwhelmingly
from Coastal Command and 34 behind Churchill. Paradoxically,
from the Fleet Air Arm. Not listed, the fall of France had been met with
is the still all-too-often overlooked widespread relief across the social
sacrifice of the 185 RAF personnel spectrum, from the chirpy doorman
killed on the ground by the Luftwaffe. who remarked to a Minister 'at least
Undoubtedly, the fighter pilots of 1940 we've made it to the final sir, and
saw themselves as a special breed, we're playing at home!', to the King,
a view reinforced by Churchill's who wrote to his mother on 27 June,
invocation of 'The Few' as the heroes 'Personally I feel happier now that
of the Nation. The First World War we have no allies to be polite to.' 21
had generated the notion of fighter As the Battle continued, morale
pilots as the 'knights of the sky', strengthened. People appreciated
where in contrast to trench carnage, that they could contribute directly
aerial warfare provided 'detachment, to the war effort (the Spitfire Fund
chivalry and manliness, a new elite, for example) and were on the front
lone warrior.' 20 However, stereotypes line, under fire, watchful for invasion,
can be misleading. 'Sailor' Malan, spies and German paratroops.
commanding 74 Squadron in the Churchill recognised a growing
Battle, espoused an altogether more sense of a 'people's war' serving as
aggressive approach. Asked how he an extraordinarily powerful rallying
effect, 'a white glow, overpowering, the dispensation of Providence.' 24
sublime, which ran through our Today, we see an enduring effect
Island from end to end.'22 Of in popular culture: Spitfire Beer
course, this was not an exclusively 'Bottle of Britain' advertisements;
British affair. The Empire was well the chant 'Ten German Bombers' is
represented amongst the 'Few'. a staple amongst England football
Amongst the top ten aces were 2 supporters; the campaign to erect
New Zealanders and an Australian. a statue of Keith Park in Trafalgar
Poles accounted for 20% of 'kills', and Square, to name but a few. Perhaps
the Czech pilot Joseph Franticek was more sinister is the British National
the Battle's highest scoring ace with Party's use of the strap-line 'Battle for
17 victories. Britain' and Spitfire imagery in their
Once the Battle was over, its full 2009 European Election Campaign. In
significance was not immediately sum, 'The principal effect of post-war
apparent as the Blitz raged on. Then British history has been to convince
in March 1941, the Air Ministry many policy-makers that Britain's
published the pamphlet 'The Battle destiny must always remain separate
of Britain', and the seed of legend from that of Europe. In particular,
germinated. Public interest exploded. the development of a federal Europe,
More than a million copies were which appeared to threaten British
sold in Britain alone, 300 000 on the independence, awoke disturbing
first day and 15 million in all. From memories of 1940.' 25
this seed, newsreels, movies, books,
even children's comics blossomed
in enduring thematic abundance. OF VICTORY:
Today, whilst the impact of all events THE CONCEPTUAL COMPONENT 26
fades over time, the Battle still exerts 'The real, the ultimate reason why Hitler
on the British psyche, a powerful failed to invade England was that he
influence like no other military failed to understand her'
event in our history. It was a unique
(Peter Fleming)27
battle of national survival fought
over a landscape that represented Conceptual Innovation
the 'crown jewels of English national
identity',23 like the white cliffs of British innovation proved a battle-
Dover and St Paul's Cathedral, winning trait, yet there seemed an
witnessed by large swathes of the inability to learn and adapt after
public. The notion of Britain alone, victory had been won. The reverse
defiantly championing freedom was the case for the Luftwaffe,
against European totalitarianism indicating that organisations learn
underpins what critics term a 'Little more from defeats than victories.
England' psyche that began in 1940. Baldwin's famous1932 assertion 'the
France had capitulated, allowing bomber will always get through'
German (and from October, Italian) chimed with RAF predilection for the
bombers free access to British skies. strategic bomber as a safeguard for
'Never since the days of Nelson had independence against a predatory
the British been more conscious of Navy and Army. It was not until
living on an island, or happier with 1936 that Air Defence was given
new impetus, exploiting new their RAF counterparts, and then
radar and aircraft technology, and tied to the bombers in order to
reorganising into the functional ensure bombing objectives were
commands that proved ideal for met. On 15 August, he even removed
the air defence of the UK. During British radar from the Luftwaffe
the Battle itself, Newall intervened target list. Nevertheless, the fact
quickly to correct Churchill's that the Luftwaffe's next target, the
potentially suicidal assertion that Soviet Air Force, was destroyed in
it was better to shoot the Luftwaffe 2-3 days, suggests they had learned
down over France than Britain, and from their mistakes.
the RAF adapted its tactics quickly
against the more battle-hardened Doctrine - Air Control
Luftwaffe. Yet these lessons proved Arguing for the doctrinal primacy of
curiously non-adhesive after the air control is pushing on a long-open
Battle. For example, the first action of door; indeed, it was the only thing
Dowding's replacement was to order that all German commanders agreed
RAF fighter sweeps over occupied upon in considering Op SEALION.
France, thereby effectively reversing Churchill's views were also clear -
the force gradient disadvantages 'The only real security upon which
that the Luftwaffe had suffered, sound military principles will apply
unsurprisingly resulting in more RAF is that you should be master of your
pilots killed than the Battle of Britain own air'. Virtually all air theorists
(including Tedder's eldest son, Dick). accept the premise of the first of
Furthermore, the failure to recognise Meilinger's seminal Ten Propositions
the deduction of its own Intelligence of Air Power, 'Whoever controls the
Reports on the ineffectiveness air generally controls the surface.' 29
of aerial attack upon civilian The 6-day Israeli victory of 1967 and
morale obviously escaped Bomber the 1991 Gulf War are but 2 examples.
Command's attention as it pursued its Of course, Meilinger was talking
implacable assault on German cities about conventional war and not 'wars
throughout the War. amongst the people'. The US and
Conversely, the Luftwaffe was slower Soviet Union lost the Vietnam and
to innovate but learned quickly. Afghan Wars respectively despite air
Fatally and unlike the German Navy, superiority, but this reinforces the
they had discounted radar's potential, point that, as with Germany in the
'an extraordinary advantage which Battle of Britain and the Coalition in
we could never overcome throughout 2010 Afghanistan, the achievement of
the entire war.' 28 They had even air control is almost never an end in
captured a mobile set at Dunkirk, but itself. Nor, in modern operations is
considered it ineffective. Luftwaffe complete air supremacy achievable,
analysts concluded that the RAF's even against 'primitive' opposition.
Integrated Air Defence System The tipping point for the Soviets
limited flexibility and would be in Afghanistan was Mujahideen
swamped by mass attacks. Goering's acquisition of Stinger MANPADS;
micromanagement during the Battle eventually, the Soviets were to
was unhelpful and inconsistent, with lose 451 aircraft (including 333
fighters left free initially early to attrit helicopters) in the campaign. Today,
Coalition fast jets in Afghanistan Doctrine - Cultural Awareness
are largely immune once airborne,
The recently-issued JDN 1/09
but insurgents do contest the lower
(Cultural Awareness) opens with the
airspace with SAA and MANPADs.
quote 'To operate without cultural
The airbases from which they operate
understanding is to operate blind
are also regular targets for insurgent
and deaf.' 33 This was certainly true of
ground attack, and aircraft are
German strategy in 1940. The failure
particularly vulnerable as they take
to have planned for the need to
off and land.
defeat Britain militarily after the fall
British doctrine has recently been of France was 'a failure in foresight,
reviewed to better reflect air power an error in psychology rather than
in contemporary operations. For in pure strategy.' 34 After the British
example, the 7 air power roles rejection of Hitler's compromise
identified in the previous edition peace in 1940, Goebbels told his staff
of AP 3000 (British Air Power on 22 July 'With their totally different,
Doctrine) have been reduced to 4, a un-European mentality, the British
change anticipated in both JDN 2/08 are unable to believe that the offer
(Integrated Air-Land Operations) made in the Führer's speech was
and the new Future Air and Space not just a bluff but meant seriously'.
Operational Concept. Crucially Subsequent German propaganda
though, 'Control of the Air' retains was a cultural red flag to a bull, it
its primacy as the foremost of the was 'sheer folly to try to browbeat
roles.30 In addition to opening with the British with the threat that their
Montgomery's 1942 axiom 'If we lose country was about to be occupied,
the war in the air; we lose the war, it instilled in even the sceptic, the
and we lose it very quickly', JDN 2/08 slacker and the dullard a sense of the
evokes the powerful image of the Gulf immediacy of the danger.' 35 On 1
War of 2003 when 'coalition soldiers August, when the Luftwaffe dropped
did not look up at the sky in dread leaflets of Hitler's 'Last Appeal to
in the way that those they fought Reason' speech, the British press
did.' 31 If anything, the importance of delighted in photographing people
air control in modern operations has cutting them up, threading string
increased commensurate with rising through them and fastening them to
demand for air-provided intelligence the toliet door. Rather than inducing
and 'soft' psychological effects such mass panic, social upheaval, and
as shows of presence and force that blame for Churchill for prolonging
provide battle-winning effects against the war, 40000 civilian deaths in
asymmetric adversaries, as well as the Battle and the subsequent Blitz
reassuring friendly forces. As Richard merely served to intensify hatred
Holmes observed about 1 PWRR in of the Germans, bolster national
Maysan Province 'The AC130 effect unity and stiffen resolve - a lesson
on morale was palpable.' 32 It remains seemingly missed by Bomber
the case though that air superiority Command. Whilst focusing almost
alone is meaningless without the exclusively on cultural understanding
political will to exploit it, with hard of the adversary, JDN 1/09 does
power if required - as events in acknowledge the need for self-
Bosnia and Somalia proved. awareness to avoid ethnocentrism,
an innate belief in one's own cultural offensive, would have encouraged
superiority, a trap that the Nazis accelerated Japanese expansion in the
continually fell into, and one the Far East, and probably delayed the
Coalition should keep in mind entry of the US into the War. The
whilst dealing with contemporary principal effect though, both at the
Islamist insurgencies. time and, importantly to this day, was
the strategic effect upon the moral
Conclusion component of British fighting power,
'By their valiant deeds our fighters had Overy again, 'The Battle of Britain
saved Britain and saved civilisation. mattered above all to the British
After myself seeing the camp at people, who were saved the fate that
Auschwitz, I know the fate which would overtook the rest of Europe. The
have been in store for us apart from that result was one of the key moral
deliverance. Their deed saved the world moments of the war, when the
from the most terrible attack ever made on uncertainties and divisions of the
the fellowship of men.' 36 summer gave way to a greater sense
of purpose and a more united
Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Westminster Abbey,
people.' 38 To this day, victory in
19 September 1945
the Battle, and the British spirit
The strategic significance of victory engendered thereafter continue to
in the Battle of Britain was decisive exert a powerful grip, for good and
and its effects enduring, as John occasionally bad, on the British psyche.
Keegan asserts, it 'inflicted on Nazi In this respect it is an event in British
Germany its first defeat. The legacy military history like no other.
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1937 - 1940 (New York: Harper 'The Royal Navy did not win the
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Second World War (London: Pan, 1973). 1940', RUSI Journal, Vol 151, Issue 5,
October 2006, p66-67.
Macksey, Kenneth, Why the Germans
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Military Superiority (London: Greenhill Battle of Britain: so we already know
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Initial Conquests in Europe (Oxford: Today, September 2006, p38-40.
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July – October 1940 (London: Headline How Did the Few Win?’, Military
Book Publishing, 2000). History Quarterly, Summer 1990,
pp 8-13, 16-21. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1952) p109.
The potential for which was
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demonstrated during the May 1941
Research Papers
evacuation from Crete, when the
Illingworth, Major J T E, "Air RN lost 9 warships (3 cruisers and 6
Superiority – A Pre-Requisite for destroyers) plus another 7 seriously
Subsequent Operations"?, Defence damaged (including 2 battleships) -
Research Paper, JSCSC, 1999. all to Luftwaffe air attack. During the
1940 Dunkirk evacuation, 200 sea craft
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had been lost, nearly all by air attack,
Propositions Regarding Air Power",
including 9 destroyers sunk and a
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further 19 damaged.
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Liddell Hart, History of the Second
Studies, 1995.
World War, p741.
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"What are the Implications of Wars Everett, The Challenge to Isolation 1937
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Electronic Sources
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a4081510.shtml (accessed 10 March Pimlico, 2000), p82.
2009). Overy, Richard, "How Significant
was the Battle?", in The Burning Blue: A
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Lost at Sea 1939-45'. http://www.
Addison, Paul and Crang, Jeremy A
(London: Pimlico, 2000), p270.
45RNLoss.htm (accessed 10 March 10
The moral component of fighting
power is about getting people to
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Defence Doctrine, Shrivenham, DCDC,
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1 11
Overy, Richard, The Battle of Britain: Wellum, Geoffrey, First Light
The Myth and Reality (London: Norton, (London: Penguin, 2003), p147.
2000), pIX. BBC. 'WW2 People's War'. http//
Johns, Air Chief Marshal Sir Richard,
‘Sir Frederick Tymms Memorial stories/10/a4081510.shtml (accessed 10
Lecture’, RAF Air Power Review, Vol 3, March 2009).
No 1, Spring 2000, p3. Gray, Group Captain Peter W, 'The
Liddell Hart, B. H., History of the Battle of Britain: so we already know
Second World War (London: Pan, the story?', RAF Air Power Review, Vol
1973), p741. 3, No 3, Autumn 2000, p21.
4 14
Warlimont, General Walter, Inside Wilmot, Chester, The Struggle for
Hitler's Headquarters, (London: Europe (London: The Reprint
Society, 1952). Mobility and Lift, Intelligence and
Macksey, Kenneth, Why the Germans Situational Awareness, and Attack.
Lose at War: The Myth of German Joint Doctrine Note 2/08, Integrated
Military Superiority (London: Greenhill Air-Land Operations in Contemporary
Books, 1996), p117. Warfare (Shrivenham: DCDC,
16 2008), p2-2.
Galland, Adolf, The First and the Last:
The German Fighter Force in World War JDN 2/08, p2-10.
II (London: Methuen), 1955, p61. Joint Doctrine Note 1/09, The
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Roosevelt from US Embassy in Berlin, (Shrivenham: DCDC, 2009), p1-1.
29 Jul 1940. Fleming, Operation Sealion, p299.
Wellum, First Light, p130. ibid, p206.
Galland, The First and the Last, p73-74. The Times, reporting on the Battle
Mosse, George, "The Knights of of Britain Memorial Service in
the Sky and the Myth of the War Westminster Abbey, 19 Sep 45.
Experience", in War: A Cruel Necessity, Keegan, John, The Second World War
eds. Hinde and Watson, (London: (London: Pimlico, 1997), p81.
Tauris Academic Studies, 1995). Overy The Battle of Britain: The Myth
Quoted in Terraine, John, The Right and Reality, p132.
of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the
European War 1939-45, (Kent: Hodder
and Stoughton, 1988),p169.
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July – October 1940, (London: Headline
Book Publishing, 2000), p319.
Addison, Paul and Crang, Jeremy A,
The Burning Blue, p250.
Bell, P, Britain and France 1900-1940:
Entente and Estrangement (London:
Longman, 1996), p253.
Addison and Crang, The Burning
Blue, p260.
The conceptual component of
fighting power comprises conceptual
innovation (how military thinking
changes over time in response to new
contexts, challenges and technologies)
and doctrine.
Fleming, Peter, Operation Sealion
(London: Pan, 2003), p300.
Galland, The First and the Last, p69.
Meilinger, Colonel P S, Ten
Propositions Regarding Air Power,
Monograph (Maxwell Air Force
Base, School of Advanced Airpower
Studies, 1995).
The 4 roles are Control of the Air,

Adding Brain to Brawn:

The School of Advanced Air and
Space Studies and its Impact
on Air Power Thinking

By Dr Tamir Libel and Dr Joel Hayward

Especially after the Second World War, understanding air power became a
high priority for military practitioners, policy-makers and theorists, with the
United States leading the quest for sound ideas and concepts for most of the
following five decades. In the late-1980s the United States Air Force took this
issue so seriously that it established a very senior graduate school to provide
critical education to officers considered likely to gain promotion into strategic
posts. This article traces and assesses the development and role of the School
for Advanced Air and Space Studies in order to determine why it originated
and what influence, if any, it has actually had on American and other air power
thinkers. The article concludes that, with its faculty and students at the heart
of air power scholarship, some of their books serving as standard texts, and
with students going into influential senior posts, the SAASS has lived up to and
possibly exceeded the expectations of its founders. Indeed, it is hard to identify
a more influential centre of excellence in air power education than the SAASS,
or even at this stage to find a peer.
Introduction of unsupported declarations that

seemed designed primarily to protect
ir power has neither ended
the equities of airpower.” In contrast,
war nor ended civilisation,
he argued, the USAF needed
as Winston Churchill once
coherent and comprehensible
warned it might, yet it has undeniably
strategy and doctrine that would
become the dominant form of military
provide “substance".
force and it is generally considered
indispensable across the entire Welch initially tried to increase the
spectrum of war. The first set of intellectual horsepower of his service
grand ideas about its potential use by engaging officers at colonel rank
as a tool of strategy, flowing from the in new initiatives and programmes.
First World War, were speculative at Yet after arriving at a conclusion that
best and later led to misapplications indirect interventions would prove
during the Second World War and inadequate, and that the colonel
later conflicts. Understanding air rank was probably too late, he rather
power — particularly the relative boldly decided on a solution that
strategic contributions of independent would, rather ambitiously, create
and integrated air power — became a “agents of change”. As part of his
high priority for military practitioners, intellectual enrichment strategy, he
policy-makers and theorists, with the established a “school” within the
United States leading the quest for Air University designed to teach
sound ideas and concepts for most of critical air power thinking at the
the last five decades. In the late-1980s strategic level as a logical follow-on,
the United States Air Force took this for selected students, from the Air
issue so seriously that it established Command and Staff College (ACSC).
a very senior school to provide critical This new specialist unit, the School
education to officers considered likely of Advanced Airpower Studies,
to gain promotion into strategic tucked away above the Fairchild
posts. This article will trace and Library (now gloriously re-titled
assess the development and role of the Fairchild Information Research
the School for Advanced Airpower Centre) after two previous temporary
Studies (which later gained the locations, would annually enrol only
edition of space as a focus) in order twenty-five majors (or even some
to determine why it originated and lieutenant colonels) who possessed
what influence, if any, it has actually the "talent, vision, and interest to
had on American and other air pursue strategic studies".
power thinkers. The idea of educating a select cadre
Genesis of the most talented graduates of
the Air Command and Staff Course
At the end of the seemingly within a bespoke first-rate graduate-
conceptually stagnant 1980s, General level, strategy-oriented air power
Larry Welch, Chief of Staff of the studies programme closely matched
United States Air Force, felt convinced the U.S. Army's aspirations for its
that his service had lost its way in School of Advanced Military Studies
terms of strategic concepts and (SAMS). The simultaneity of, and
ideas and that American air power obvious similarities between, both
doctrine had become “largely a group activities should not be seen as
intellectual theft by one service or desires public in June 1988 at a
other. Similar things often develop hearing of the House Armed Services
simultaneously but in conceptual Committee Military Education Panel
isolation, and neither the USAF nor in response to questions from the
the Army worried much about one- Honorable Ike Skelton, the AU staff
upmanship during this period when slightly refocused and significantly
both services, and indeed the Marine accelerated its work.2 These efforts
Corps (but not yet the Navy), were led to the founding of the SAAS
searching for the best ways to in 1988 with the inaugural course
develop innovative and adaptive, commencing in the summer of 1991
critically minded officers who with 25 students. They graduated in
could excel in the art of command June 1992.3
in contexts of ambiguity. Indeed,
Welch merely commented that he Creating strategic thinkers
was aware of "the difference in the The ten initial faculty members did
concentration on fighting doctrine not want their new school to focus
and its relationship to strategy in the on producing leaders or warriors,
Army and the Air Force". but more ambitiously (and vaguely)
One scholar who has researched on developing strategists. Their
the establishment of the SAAS — objective differed from the convention
Professor of Military Theory and in professional military education
History Dr Harold Winton, a former institutions, which focused mainly
Army Officer and Deputy Director on the teaching of leadership,
of the Army’s SAMS before he management and planning. The
joined the SAAS — feels certain faculty staff seemed less concerned
that Welch acted out of a deep and by conforming to official definitions
genuine conviction that the higher of strategy and the orthodox methods
educational system of his air force of conveying strategic concepts.
had not proven capable of developing Wanting students to feel free to
the cadre of strategists that it would experiment with ideas, yet within a
need to confront the challenges of discursive context that demanded
the future.1 It would be wrong to logic and evidential underpinning,
suggest, of course, that Welch was they introduced a comprehensive and
a lone visionary; a Christopher rigorous liberal educational program
Columbus of air power thinkers. that initially rested — perhaps not
His views were widely shared by surprisingly given that six of the ten
other educationally minded senior faculty members were historians —
officers, and key personnel within on a firm foundation of historical
Air University (AU) had already inquiry.4 As a consequence of this
begun to weigh the possibility of unusual approach, the curriculum
establishing a syllabus that would did not concentrate on the strategy
constitute a “second year” to follow of airpower per se but on the art of
on from the ASCS. Their aspiration utilising military power effectively as
was primarily to educate future AU a component of political discourse.
faculty members in military history This approach has led to some
and additional relevant disciplines, supporters of air power over the
yet after General Welch made his years to view the SAAS as a joint
professional military institution.5 excessively on historical case studies
and methodologies, he argued, and
Not everything taught rested
needed to be broadened. He later
so firmly upon history, with the
recalled that the curriculum was
main exceptions being courses on
“virtually a history masters program”
"Decision Making" and "Coercion
and admitted that his efforts to create
and Denial Theory" taught between
greater breadth caused irritation to
1991 and 1994 by Robert Pape,6
some of the historians.12
later famous as the author of a
groundbreaking and highly influential Eschewing many of Pape’s ideas
analysis of air power, Bombing to Win: (which he later described as
Air Power and Coercion in War.7 Pape “interesting, but not very cogent or
argues that air power has proven far reasoned” 13), and believing in the
more coercive, and thus strategically merits of industrial web theory (but
effective, when used against fielded not of morale targeting), Meilinger
forces and military objects than when recommended the inclusion of
used against civilians, civilian objects two new courses: economics and
or industrial targets. Not all air power technology. Air power, he believed,
advocates accept Pape’s ideas and his possessed an unequalled ability to
book even prompted a counterpoint achieve direct strategic effects by
in the form of explicit debate in the striking critically vulnerable elements
periodical Security Studies as well as within an enemy nation’s industrial
a collected volume of adversarial system. This was a vastly better way
papers edited by Cold War historian to use air power than to invest in close
and nuclear strategist Jonathan battle, which would inevitably place
Frankel.8 Few air power thinkers airmen unnecessarily in harm’s way
have ever attracted such attention and as they sought to fight Clausewitzian
aroused such passion. Despite Pape battle according to traditional, but
not being mentioned even once by now largely redundant, ideas on war,
Stephen Chiabotti is his own article combat and chivalry.
on the SAAS,9 the influence of this
Wanting SAAS students to understand
innovative thinker on the early years
economics (and economies) so that
(and early students) of the SAAS
they could better understand how to
should not be underestimated. As
conceive strategic concepts geared
former SAAS professor James S.
towards victory through air power,
Corum recalls, Pape “got a lot of
Meilinger not only introduced a
people excited”.10
course on technology, doctrine and
When former command pilot Colonel strategy, but actively recruited an
(Dr) Phillip S. Meilinger became economist onto the faculty.14 His
Dean of the institution in June 1992,11 search for the right person led him
after having worked in the Doctrine to hire Lieutenant Colonel Maris
Division at the Air Staff among "Buster" McCrab, a former F-16 pilot
other postings, he presented his new with a doctorate in economics, and
teaching team with his reflections to empower McCrab to design a new
on the strengths and weakness of course on economic warfare. The
the curriculum and the teaching and resulting course, which Meilinger
learning philosophies. They relied later lauded for its success and
influence, involved students choosing virtually had a free hand with
countries, analysing their economic course construction, the design of
systems and designing relevant air curricula and courseware, assessment
strategies to bring them to defeat. strategies and quality control.
McCrab gained promotion to full Going far further than Colonel
colonel while at SAAS and was Frasier Fortner, his predecessor
eventually posted out.15 Meilinger as head of the SAAS, Meilinger
also recruited Major Bruce DeBlois, enjoyed significant freedom in the
who held a PhD in physics from recruitment, development and career
the University of Oxford, in order management of faculty members. He
to design and teach a course on remembers also working hard to find
the relationship between warfare suitable and attractive placements
(and especially aerial warfare) and for the programme's graduates and
technology. As part of DeBlois’ writing the types of recommendations
course the students visited Air Force that would suitably strengthen their
laboratories, initially including those promotional prospects.20 Meilinger’s
at the Wright-Patterson airbase in logic is eminently reasonable:
Ohio and at the Kirtland airbase
If you could not guarantee top
in New Mexico.16 Meilinger also
assignments to graduates, it would
added and taught a course on the
be difficult to recruit new students. I
theory of air power which was
would go around to ACSC, as well as
in some ways comparable to the
the equivalent schools at Leavenworth,
course on military theory taught
Quantico and Newport, and give a
by Harold Winton. Recalling these
briefing on SAAS in the fall of each year
first years, Meilinger remembers
in order to drum up support and solicit
that Ken Feldman's course — which
applications. It was crucial during
highlighted the Allison models of
those talks that I emphasized the issue
organisational decision-making —
of follow-on assignments. As I say, how
“was also very popular, not only
else could I induce the fast burners to
because of its intrinsic worth, but
apply for another year of school — and
like Pape[’s courses], it offered a
a gruelling one to boot — if the end
relief from the relentless history
result would only be a normal, mediocre
courses.”17 Interestingly, Meilinger
assignment at its conclusion? I had to
later commented that, after his
make the SAAS experience worthwhile —
eventual departure, the historians’
practically as well as intellectually.21
dominance returned to the faculty
staff, curriculum and scholarly James Corum remembers that
methodology.18 James Corum sees it Meilinger’s efforts worked extremely
a little differently: he argues that the well and that his successes really
historians and others merely regained put the SAAS “on the map” and soon
a little ground back from the air made its graduates highly sought
power “true believers”.19 after by the highest echelons of the
air force.22
Few educational deans seem to
possess the autonomy enjoyed by the The prolific Meilinger encouraged his
SAAS’s first leaders. Trusted to lead team towards excellence not only in
by consensus, but largely accord to his teaching, but also in the publication of
own vision and judgment, Meilinger scholarship. Their articles and other
small pieces flowed at an impressive independent strategic air operations
rate into the pages of the USAF’s and incorporated several of the views
Airpower Journal and into the CADRE popularised by the equally influential
Papers published by the College of fellow American, John Warden III,
Aerospace Doctrine, Research and then hailed (with some exaggeration)
Education. As well as researching and as the architect of coalition air
writing on their own specialist areas, power successes against Iraq in 1991.
Meilinger’s colleagues published, Warden served as Commandant of
with his support and urging and the Air Command and Staff College
sometimes under his direction, some for three years while Meilinger was
truly seminal collaborative works on Dean of the SAAS, and the latter
air power. Most important of these is clear that Warden — whom he
was the thorough and influential “virtually revered,” at least according
anthology, The Paths of Heaven: The to Jim Corum25 — had a “significant
Evolution of Airpower Theory, with its impact” on thinking across the two
essays written by former or serving institutes.26 Meilinger adds that
SAAS colleagues (and, impressively, SAAS students seemed more open
two essays by former SAAS students, to Warden’s ideas than some faculty
Fadok and Felker) with commendable members, who apparently disliked
conceptual consistency.23 The book his relative lack of formal education.27
— still a standard work — does seem Corum disputes Meilinger’s
to push a certain line of thinking; perception and says that the criticism
that independent air campaigns of Warden by him and a few other
have tended to bear greater fruit SAAS professors grew only from the
than integrated campaigns, but there perceived flaws in his famous but
can be no suggestion of Meilinger “formulaic” (to quote Corum) five-
demanding a consensus. During rings model.28 In any event, Warden’s
the first five or more years after prominence within SAAS and wider
Gulf War I, most air power thinkers debates on air power remained
felt tremendously positive about unchallenged throughout the 1990s,
independent air power’s contribution although it has diminished markedly
to coalition victory and optimistic since the commencement of the so-
about its likely future successes called Global War on Terror in 2001.
against other foes.
During the tenure of Colonel
During his time as Dean, Meilinger (Dr) Robert C. Owen, Meilinger's
also published (in 1995) Ten replacement as SAAS Dean from
Propositions regarding Airpower, a June 1996 to late in 1998, the focus
small and widely distributed (and of the curriculum shifted more from
very widely cited) book espousing strategic thought to operational
what he considered to be the air planning. According to Owen, who
power equivalent of principles was promoted to Dean from within
of war.24 He preferred the term the faculty, the school had not
“propositions” to “principles,” hoping devoted quite enough attention to
it would engender debate and joint warfare at theatre (operational)
discourage conformity and rigidity of level.29 He intended his revised
thinking. Also very much a product curriculum to expose students to a
of its time, Propositions extolled broader range of opinions, to furnish
them with historical examples that day of dreadful attacks in 1991, but it
would strengthen their understanding did change the SAAS. Its graduates
of waging warfare, and to cause them had always been in high demand for
to reflect on how to apply their new key staff and command positions. Yet
knowledge.30 Interestingly, Owen “the day after Sept. 11, my phone was
recalled that certain Air University ringing off the hook," Lieutenant Gen
Deans and members of faculty, Donald Lamontagne, Air University
especially in the Air Warfare College, Commander, said in 2003.35 "People
expressed loathing for the SAAS responsible for planning for this new
and even tried to undermine it on kind of war wanted to know where
occasions.31 Support from the highest the SAASS grads were. General
echelons of the Air Force, which both Jumper, (chief of staff of the Air
Meilinger and Owen recall with some Force), clearly understands the Air
gratitude, gave the SAAS a degree of Force need for SAASS graduates”.
top-cover and prevented excessive Actually, as Lamontagne added, the
mischief. Meilinger remembers that review leading to changes at the
he sometimes had more high-ranking school occurred a year earlier, and it
visitors than he could easily manage.32 not only ushered in greater focus on
counter-insurgency operations, but
Wargames proved an important also and perhaps especially on space
component in the curriculum. As power. The most telling sign that the
early as Meilinger's tenure as Dean, SAAS would be different after 2002
annual SAAS wargames occurred in was that — reflecting “the growing
collaboration with the Army’s and importance of space capabilities to
Marine Corps’ sister institutes: the the warfighter and the need for air
SAMS and the School of Advanced and space strategists” — it would
Warfighting (SAW). During no longer be the SAAS, but the
Meilinger’s tenure wargames took SAASS: the School of Advanced Air
place at Maxwell Air Force Base’s and Space Studies.36
modern wargames centre.33 This
tradition continued during Owens’ The Air Force’s desire for a reoriented
tenure with a theatre-level wargame curriculum with a strengthened
occurring each spring that included emphasis on equipping and
students from SAMS and SAW. encouraging airmen and women to
Within the latter the students received analyse ways of optimally integrating
the roles they were to play from air and space power came with
participants from the other services, tangible benefits for the re-titled
this being done with the intention of School: renovated library facilities
strengthening their joint ethos and (which provided greater space), an
increasing their understanding of the increase in students to forty per year,
other services’ limitations, strengths and four additional faculty members
and aspirations.34 with doctoral degrees to join the ten
already in the team.37
A time of change
In recent years the SAASS curriculum
9/11 may not have “changed has retained characteristics inherited
the world,” as many pundits from the SAAS: robust and weighty
unconvincingly commented for the inter-disciplinary demands upon
first few years following that grim the students and a high academic
standard. In 2008, for example, which answers a central question
the curriculum included courses approved by the faculty after
in organisational theory, quantum hearing it presented in the form of
mechanics, religion, political science, a research proposal. The evidential
history, psychology and information foundation of the thesis must be
studies. The students were required broad and strong, its argument must
to consume and debate a lot more be coherent and consistent and
written information than was usually its expression must be lucid and
demanded in professional military compelling. Students choose their
educational institutions. During the topics in consultation with mentors
year they read close to 35,000 pages and, although pressure exists within
(including the 150 books they received the air force for them to research and
from the institution).38 These books write on “sponsored topics” — that is,
stayed with the graduates after the topics chosen by air force institutions
latter had completed their studies and agencies in order to answer
and constituted a contribution to their outstanding questions relating to
personal military library. immediate service needs — the
faculty professors (each student gets
In many ways the SAAS / SAASS a direct supervisor) are most keen
course resembles most other Anglo- for students to embrace topics
American staff colleges, with students because of personal interest.
sitting through presentations by Students find their theses time-
faculty members and guest experts, consuming, frustratingly difficult
attending staff rides (ten days in and exhausting, and initially express
Europe or Asia) and visiting key a degree of negativity about the
units and participating in or activity that gradually dissipates
observing their activities (such as over time. Indeed, student surveys
the Air Operations Center exercise show that five or so years after their
at Hurlburt Field). Most of the courses most students had revised
interactive teaching and learning their initial assessments and come to
takes the form of syndicate room see their theses as the most effective
discussions, which involves groups and rewarding part of their time at
of up to ten students debating the SAASS.42
key issues in robust intellectual
exchanges.39 Although these are These theses have become a
not assessed in a traditional sense, wonderful resource for scholars,
students nonetheless have to who have not only utilised sources
and ideas from the best of them
prepare written papers and, at
while researching at the Fairchild
the end of the course, offer verbal
Research Information Center and the
presentations under exam conditions
USAF Historical Research Agency,
that resemble (and at two hours
but also while undertaking internet
long are more rigorous than most)
exploration via the Military Research
university viva voces.40
Library Network portal (MERLN,
Each student researches and writes accessible at
a substantial (50 to 80-page41 ) thesis and even via major internet search
which is based on original sources engines. For example, one of the
and a humanities methodology and authors of this article (Joel Hayward)
has been utilising the SAASS theses Association of Colleges and Schools.
for many years and even incorporated Its successful application made
them into his PhD research during the the SAASS the first among the
mid-1990s. Released on the internet institutions of Air University to receive
for public utility according to the “fair permission to award a masterate.46
use” clauses of American copyright
The United States Air Force does
law, they turn up in the bibliographies
not designate specific roles for the
of many scholarly works on air
sought-after graduates of SAASS
power and have become increasingly
or give them any promotional
influential. A cursory trawl of the
assurances. Yet most of them find
internet will turn up many books
their way into central command
and monographs that either grew
out of these theses or used them in and control roles throughout the
significant ways. Noteworthy among Defense Department. In order to
them is Ellwood P. Hinman IV’s The receive a SAASS graduate, agencies
Politics of Coercion: Towards a Theory need to submit clearly explanatory
of Coercive Airpower for Post-Cold War requests since the demand is three
Conflict, which grew out of his SAASS times greater than the number of
thesis and first appeared as a CADRE available graduates. Requests go
Paper.43 Robert P. Givens’s Turning the to the Air Force Deputy Chief of
Vertical Flank: Airpower as a Manoeuvre Staff for Operations and Plans who
Force in the Theatre Campaign is another classifies and determines priorities
example of a SAASS-thesis-turned- and the School Commandant,
CADRE-Paper.44 Interestingly, following on from the tradition that
students on graduate courses within Meilinger established, makes his own
the sister services have also utilised recommendations as to where the
the SAASS theses. For example, one graduates should be placed. They
MA thesis undertaken by a major consider the students’ professional
attending the US Army Command background, performance and
and General Staff College in 2004 personal preferences. With these
explicitly acknowledged that he had recommendations providing
modelled the methodology within his guidance, the Air Force Personnel
own MA thesis on that found within a Center remains the body that actually
SAASS thesis.45 finalises the placements.47

For the SAASS the issue of credibility During the SAASS’ first years the
based on quality is vital. In pursuit of placement of its graduates apparently
appropriate academic accreditation it occurred in a slightly different way.
held a continuous, detailed self-study Owen reports that he received
for the Department of Education, requests for placements of graduates
which sent evaluation teams to the directly from three-star and four-star
School a number of times. After it commanders.48 The former were able
had successfully completed the to request placements for graduates
evaluation process and Congress only if they were in combat roles or
had authorised it to award a at Air Force Headquarters. Based
Master of Arts degree the SAASS on his thoughts on students, Owen
applied in 1993 to the regional compiled a list of priorities and a
body of authorisation: the Southern list of candidates with the aim of
filling as many positions as possible star), and, among those with enough
with suitable candidates. Generally seniority to reach the general-officer
he allotted two graduates to three- board, almost 25% reached OF7
star Joint Force Air Component (two-star) and higher. No fewer than
Commanders (JFACC) who had been eighteen graduates have reached flag
involved in real combat operations, rank by 2008.51
and not more than one graduate
in response to any other requests
(which he found himself unable With its faculty and students at the
completely to satisfy). After he had heart of air power scholarship, some
compiled what he considered ideal of their books serving as standard
placement lists, he passed them to texts, and with students going into
the Commander of Air University, a influential senior posts, the SAASS
lieutenant general, and to the Deputy has lived up to and possibly exceeded
Head of the Air Force General Staff, a the expectations of General Welch
full general. and its other founders. Indeed, it is
hard to identify a more influential
Owen believes he was the only one of
centre of excellence in air power
the School's Commanders to have the
education than the SAAS / SAASS,
mandate to place its graduates in this
or even to find a peer. The Australian
fashion and he gained this authority
Air Power Development Centre
from the Chief of Air Staff despite
probably comes closest, but it is
strong opposition from the Air Force
a think-tank and research centre
Personnel Center.49 In the opinion
rather than a school, and it is not
of Stephen Chiabotti, the Deputy
reasonable to compare its impressive
Commandant of SAASS in 2008, too
output — short courses, workshops,
much attention was probably devoted
conferences, papers and books — to
to the first placements of graduates
the transformational nature of the
at the expense of the development of
SAAS / SAASS curriculum. That
more holistic career paths, especially
would be like comparing apples
as the Air Force regards the education
and oranges. The Royal Air Force’s
given at the School to be an important
own Centre for Air Power Studies
contribution to the entire career of the
resembles the Australian institute
officer and not to be a post-specific
far more than it does the American
training and educational activity.50
school, and no-one else on earth
In any event, no-one can doubt that is providing a graduate-level
this world-class graduate school education in air power studies with
is at the forefront of professional the completeness, robustness and
military education and that its inherent criticality of the USAF’s
graduates, considered to be among school. King’s College London’s
the Air Force’s brightest officers, new modular MA, Air Power in the
ordinarily go on to posts or roles of Modern World, aspires to reach the
significant influence. Compiled data qualitative bar set by the SAASS, but
attests that, out of the graduates of it may be some years yet before it can
the first sixteen classes, every one of match the annual enrolment level and
the graduates gained promotion to strategic student placement success of
OF5 (colonel) and 95% to OF6 (one- the American school.
Notes 17
Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
For a review of professional Joel Hayward, 18 May 2010.
military educational programs in Ibid.
the USAF between 1945 and 1988, Telephone interview with James S.
please see Richard L. Davis and Corum, 29 May 2010.
Frank P. Donnini, Professional Military Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Education for Air Force Officers: Tamir Libel, 14 July 2008.
Comments and Criticisms (Montgomery, Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Alabama: Air University Press, 1991). Joel Hayward, 19 May 2010.
Harold R. Winton, "The Creation and Telephone interview with James S.
Sustainment of Advanced Warfighting Corum, 29 May 2010.
Institutions," in Russell Parkin, ed., Air University Press, 1997.
Warfighting and Ethics: Selected Papers Meilinger deliberately had a non-
from the 2003 and 2004 Rowell Seminars SAAS faculty member, Irving B
(Canberra: Land Warfare Studies “Bill” Holley, write the conclusion
Centre, 2005), pp. 7-51. Stephen D. precisely because he had no official
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of Blue: connection to SAAS and could thus
The School of Advanced Air and look objectively at the set of ideas.
Space Studies," Joint Force Quarterly, Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Issue 49 (2008), pp. 73-74. Also see the Joel Hayward, 19 May 2010.
SAASS website: Washington, DC: Air Force History
au/saass/history.asp and Museums Program, 1995.
Winton, p. 14. Telephone interview with James S.
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of Corum, 29 May 2010.
Blue,” p. 74. Air Force Catalog: Academic Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Year 1999-2000 (Maxwell Air Force Joel Hayward, 18 May 2010.
Base: Air University Press, June 2000), Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
pp. 87-88. Joel Hayward, 19 May 2010.
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of Telephone interview with James S.
Blue,” p. 76. Corum, 29 May 2010.
Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to Email from Robert C. Owen to Tamir
Tamir Libel, 14 July 2008. Libel, 28 August 2008.
Cornell University Press, 1996. Ibid.
Frank Cass, 2004. Ibid.
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of Blue”. Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Email from James S. Corum to Joel Tamir Libel, 28 August 2008.
Hayward, 20 May 2010. Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
The title of the head of school later Tamir Libel, 14 July 2008.
changed from Dean to Commandant. Email from Robert C. Owen to
12 Tamir Libel, 28 August 2008.
Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Joel Hayward, 18 May 2010. "Strategy School changes Name,
13 Expands", US Air Force Press Release,
Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Tamir Libel, 14 July 2008. 20 February 2003, available at:
Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to prfr/is_200302/ai_2639567258/pg_2/
Joel Hayward, 24 May 2010. Ibid.
16 37
Ibid. Ibid.
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of
Blue,” p. 75.
Ibid., p. 75.
Air University Catalog Academic Year
2007-2008 (Maxwell Air Force Base: Air
University Press, October 2007), p. 43
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of
Blue,” p. 75. Air University Catalog
Academic Year 1999-2000, p. 91.
University Press of the Pacific, 2005.
Air University Press, 2002.
Patrick N. Ahmann, Maj USAF,
“Bombing for Effect: The Best
Use of Airpower in War,” A thesis
presented to the Faculty of the US
Army Command and General Staff
College in partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the degree of Master
of Military Art and Science (General
Studies), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas,
2004, p. 36. Found at: http://www.dtic.
Email from Phillip S. Meilinger to
Tamir Libel, 14 July 2008.
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of
Blue,” p. 76.
Email from Robert C. Owen to
Tamir Libel, 28 August 2008.
Chiabotti, "A Deeper Shade of
Blue,” p. 76.

Historic Book Review

Bombing to Win : Air Power and Coercion in War
By Robert Pape

Reviewed by Air Commodore Neville Parton

his is the very last in the series become seized by John Dunn’s work
of Historic Book Reviews, which on the democratic (or otherwise)
started over 4 years ago with nature of Soviet society, Pape then
Maurice Baring’s RFC Headquarters. In moved to the University of Chicago
that time a broad range of books have to undertake doctoral work, with an
been considered which, in one way or initial PhD subject area aimed at the
another, hold a special place within theory underlying the ‘meaning of
the world of air power writing. It is democratic institutions’. As is often
therefore highly appropriate to finish the way with PhDs however, this
with Professor Robert Pape’s Bombing was to change significantly due to
to Win, which is the first publication the influence of a key individual – in
in this series to have been written by this case John Mearsheimer – who
an individual with no direct military introduced the young student to the
experience – and yet managed to world of security studies. Reading
fundamentally challenge conventional Schelling’s Arms and Influence and
thinking about the use of air power. Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars led to
Indeed the story is all the more a growing interest in both coercion
interesting as the path that Professor and the use of air power, which would
Pape followed was not that the one come together to form the basis of
he had planned - so let us start by his final dissertation topic, which was
examining the writer’s story. to consider why coercive air power
Robert Pape had never planned to did not work for the US in Vietnam.2
be an academic, and certainly not to Pape’s political science background
study air power – in fact his original meant that this was approached
desire from high school was to join in a very specific manner, with the
the US Government’s Foreign Service, development of a detailed data set
and it was this aim which initially led examining the use of air power in
to him becoming an undergraduate previous conflicts – which would
at the University of Pittsburgh. Here, underpin the development of all his
in his words, he ‘fell in love’ with theories in this area. Following the
the subject of political science, and award of his PhD in 1988, Pape moved
graduated summa cum laude 1 with to the University of Michigan on a
both a BA and an MA, having become post-doctoral fellowship aimed at
particularly interested in the areas of enabling him to publish his thesis as
international relations and political a series of articles and a book - as he
theory. Still aiming for a career had realised that expanding the data
in the Foreign Service, but having set would help in providing further
evidence for his theories. life – if not so certain about some of
the other elements. From a personal
1990 and the first Gulf War saw a
perspective his articles were getting
significant change in Pape’s status,
coverage in reputable publications
as the media looked for individuals
and the book was complete, when a
who could provide knowledgeable
fresh challenge arrived in the form of
comment on events, and especially
an offer from Dartmouth to go and
putting air power’s role in context.
teach in a very different environment
At this point, Pape also began to
– and one which would lead to a
consider that this subject area was
significant change in direction. After
likely to be of perennial interest, and
moving to Dartmouth in 1996, as
could sustain a career in academia,
he started teaching international
albeit some further work would be
relations theory, he became aware
needed in order to further develop
that much of the prevailing thought
the dissertation into a really sound
about the use of sanctions – and
publication. However, despite the
in particular the effectiveness of
clear importance of air power in
economic sanctions – appeared to
Gulf War I, in the academic world
be based on a poor understanding
there was still a lack of interest in
of what was actually providing the
the subject – and it was against this
coercive effect. Work in this area led
background that Pape received a
to further success, and in 1998 Pape
phone call from Mark Clodfelter
was considered for award of tenure.3
in 1991, making him aware of the
This required, amongst other parts,
opportunities for academics at the
sending a file of his work around ten
newly-formed School of Advanced
other respected academic institutions
Air and Space Studies (SAASS) at
to gather their thoughts on his
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama –
academic worth; however, in this
and suggesting that he should apply.
case it also led to a suggestion from
Following a visit and interview, at
Stephen Walt, an outgoing member
which it was clear that the USAF
of the Political Science department
‘thinking’ community was already
at the University of Chicago, that
taking Pape’s views seriously, and
Pape should be considered as his
consequently that this would be a
replacement. Following a highly
good location to complete work on
successful – and emotional – trial
the book. In fact, from the author’s
lecture, Pape was offered the post and
viewpoint Bombing to Win was
took up tenureship as a Professor of
immeasurably strengthened by
Political Science in 1999. At this stage
the interaction that took place with
he had begun to take an interest in
the staff and students at Maxwell,
the linkage between technology and
including the commandant – one
great power politics, which might
Colonel John Warden.
have led to his next book had it not
At this point Pape was faced with been for the events of 9/11. This led
a dilemma: still thinking about the to a rapid re-engagement with the
possibility of a career in the Foreign media, and subsequent research into
Service - even if this was becoming the phenomenon of suicide attacks,
steadily more remote, but enjoying where his interest was particularly
the intellectual aspects of academic fired by the Tamil Tigers, whose
widespread use of such tactics clearly approximating to those in physics or
indicated that this was not, as many chemistry, which apply to the way in
had suggested, a largely Islamic- which people behave. 5 In the field
fundamentalist issue. Furthermore, of international relations perhaps
the way in which attacks were the best-known example is that of
clustered gave many indications of the Correlates of War (C of W) study,
being directed as part of campaign which set out to examine a number of
plans in which they were being used conflicts, over a 2,000 year timeline,
for coercive effect, with the linking and from this study to determine
factor being their use largely against causal laws related to warfare.6 Of
occupying powers or forces. Again course, there are some issues with
Pape’s political science background this approach that could be seen as
came to the fore, and a detailed problematic, such as how a war is
database was rapidly built to allow defined: for the C of W project one of
worthwhile analysis and deductions the definitions was that there had to
to be produced. Professor Pape is be a minimum total death-count of
now the Director of the Chicago 1,000 people to qualify for inclusion,
Project on Security and Terrorism, and which in turn meant that events such
his most recent publication is firmly as the Falklands War were excluded
based within this subject area.4 from the study. However, the general
approach is to study a number of
Running clearly throughout all of
previous events, having first codified
Professor Pape’s work is a fascination
them to allow deductions to be made
with, and deep understanding of,
following the study, and from the
the subject of coercion, allied to a
analysis to deduce the relationships/
rigorously analytical approach to
laws between the factors.7 In
research. This combination has
conventional science, proof would
enabled deep insight into a range
then be provided by using the
of issues, and that understanding
deduced laws to make predictions
provides a perfect jumping-off point
regarding particular behaviour, which
for our consideration of his first, and
could subsequently be tested and
perhaps best-known, book.
verified. In the social science area,
Bombing to Win is, as has already and particularly that of international
been noted, a different book from relations and security studies, such
the others in this series in a number an approach is clearly difficult, and
of ways, and one of the most obvious instead the general approach is to
is that it is written from a social apply the laws to previous examples
science perspective, which looks upon and see if they correctly predicted the
historical events as being conducive actual result. The difficulty in many
to a form of analysis that is more cases is that the same data set used to
commonly found in science and verify a particular ‘law’ is that which
engineering. As this approach may was used to derive the law in the first
not be generally familiar to readers of place. Nevertheless, it does represent
APR, a small digression at this point a serious attempt to bring a credible
seems appropriate. Fundamentally, form of analysis to an area where it
the origins of social science lie is particularly difficult to identify the
in a belief that there are laws, importance and interaction of the
manifold factors involved. preparation of this book, I found … no
document, at any level of government,
So – onto the specific example. Pape
of more than a page to explain how
lays out his stall early on and is
destroying the target was supposed to
not backwards in identifying what
activate mechanisms … which would lead
the book sets out to do, which is to
to the desired political change. 8
examine how coercion has, or more
to the point has not, worked in the He then suggests that a far more
past, and from this to draw lessons complex model is required to
for the future. Four broad existing satisfactorily explain the way in which
coercive theories are identified: coercion operates; so complex in
the first suggesting that coercion is fact that he begins by presenting his
a matter of national resolve, with theory in symbolic form.
victory going to the side which is
His hypothesis is laid out in this
more committed, whilst the second
fashion as R = B p(B) – C p(C), where:
emphasizes balance of interests,
with whichever side has most to R = the value of resistance
lose likely to prevail. The third B = the potential benefits of resistance
considers that it is the vulnerability
p(B) = the probability of attaining
of a state’s civil population to air
benefits by continued resistance
attack that is the decisive factor, with
leverage coming from ‘punishing’ a C = the potential costs of resistance
large portion of the population; and p(C) = the probability of suffering costs
the fourth relates to the balance of
Coercion is predicted to occur when R < 0
forces, with destruction of military
targets the key to success. However, Expressed in words, the theory
Pape argues that these theories are suggests that the problem in coercion
inadequate for a number of reasons, is convincing the target state that
with the major factor being their giving in to the coercer’s demands
over-simplicity. He also identifies will be better than resisting. Success
that it is important to differentiate or failure will be determined by
between deterrence and coercion, the target state’s decision-making
as whilst related, the coercive case is with regard to costs and benefits,
by far the more difficult to achieve. with coercion occurring if it is
Another particularly valid criticism believed that the possible cost of
identified is the general lack of any resistance, taking into account
explanation in the extant theories the probability of suffering those
of the actual coercive mechanism, costs, is greater than the likely
or in other words the way in which benefits from resistance, this time
high explosive and incendiary effect taking into account the probability
is turned into a political or military of resistance being successful.
advantage. Pape puts it thus: Therefore, the coercer must seek to
alter the components in his favour –
… In particular, the mechanisms by
although not all the elements may be
which military effects are supposed
susceptible to manipulation.
to translate into political results are
hardly ever studied. Reviewing literally Of course one of the inherent
thousands of planning documents for the assumptions within this model is that
the individuals making the decisions go into the analysis in depth, but it
are ‘rational’, and will effectively should be noted that the investigative
perform a similar (although probably approach is consistent between each
unconscious) calculation before case, and that both the examination
committing to such a strategy. and supporting narrative are based
However, a number of the cases, it upon considerable amounts of research.
could be argued, do not relate to
So what are the conclusions drawn
leaders who were necessarily rational,
from this work? The fundamental
with Hitler and Saddam Hussein
deduction arising from Pape’s
immediately springing to mind. A
research is that those strategies which
further, related, question prompted
target the civilian population do not
by the equation is who exactly is it
work, whilst those that target military
that is carrying out this calculation:
forces do. The former are identified
is it a country’s leadership, or the
as ‘punishment’ strategies, where the
mass of the population, or some
coercive mechanism involves causing
particular part of the country’s
suffering to a mass of the general
system of government? 9 A further
population, whilst the latter are
potential aspect of the analysis that
identified as ‘denial’, where the causal
perhaps should be noted is that it
link is provided by denying the use
could be questioned as to whether the
of military force to the ruling power.
campaigns chosen are all comparable.
Even here though, conventional
For instance, the Japan-Chinese
thoughts on air power are rejected,
conflict 1937-45 is treated the same
and Pape is particularly critical
as the Germany-Holland campaign
of Warden’s thoughts regarding
of 1940, despite one being eight years
decapitation as expressed in The Air
in length and involving continental
Campaign. He argues that even in
scope, whilst the other lasted for four
the Gulf War campaign of 1990-91,
days and ranged over a few hundreds
this aspect did not work well, and
of square kilometres. Of course the
that the Allied effort did not in fact
purpose of the coding exercise is
significantly hinder communication
to allow such vastly different cases
between the deployed Iraqi forces
to be compared, but given that the
and their headquarters. A more
time factor is identified as being
fundamental point is that coercion
particularly important in coercion, it
even where successful is difficult to
does give an indication as to just how
achieve, and generally takes far more
complex the comparison process is.
time than first thought. However, it
In terms of the overall study, thirty- is the corollaries drawn from these
three cases that involved the use of factors that are of more concern to
air power in a strategic environment airmen, as Pape contends passionately
were identified and used, with five that strategic bombing fundamentally
being subject to particular in-depth does not work – in any of its generally
scrutiny. The latter comprised the postulated approaches. His analysis
campaigns against Japan in 1945, leads to a proposal that air power
Germany in 1945, Korea in 1953, is best used in support of ground
Vietnam between 1965-68 and Iraq forces, and should therefore
in 1991. Of course in a review of this concentrate on how best to destroy
nature it is simply not possible to an enemy’s fielded forces – which
neatly brings us back to some of the and particularly suicide bombing, as
very earliest debates on what air a question that is left hanging is what
power’s fundamental role should be – relevance this understanding of air
something that has been at the heart power might have for dealing with
of many of the books reviewed in terrorist groups and other sub-state
this series. actors. Although as already noted,
Pape is generally dismissive of the
Whilst some elements of the analysis
decapitation model, this might have
may be hard to accept, given some
more utility in this area – certainly
of the limitations and/or potential
the Israeli approach over recent years
flaws identified, the overall deduction
has focused on using air power in
has a ring of truth about it, as any
this manner against both Hamas
form of government that rules by and Hizbollah, albeit with widely
the use of coercive force will clearly varying results. A similar campaign
be sensitive to any action that might is of course being waged against
result in the loss or weakening of that Al Quaeda by the US along the
force. Indeed, one perspective that Afghanistan/Pakistan border, but it
might have provided some additional is perhaps too early to tell whether
useful material would have been this is being effective, or whether Al
to consider the type of government Quaeda is too much a hydra for this
against which coercive air power approach to work.
was most successfully used. This
element is definitely missing, as all What is most surprising is that in
of the ‘coerced’ states considered the fourteen years since the arrival
were subject to varying degrees of Bombing to Win, there has been
of totalitarian rule, thus allowing no major response. A publication
control of the population’s behaviour was due to appear in 2004 entitled
in a way that would be difficult Precision and Purpose: Debating Robert
in a democracy. Conversely, air A. Pape's Bombing to Win, edited by
power’s coercive effect is particularly Jonathan Frankel and under the
attractive to democracies, as it offers Frank Cass label, but this has sadly
the possibility, albeit frequently never seen the light of day. Whether
chimerical if Pape is to be believed, you agree with the methodology or
of achieving a desired end-state at conclusions of Robert Pape’s book
the lowest cost in terms of its own is to a degree immaterial; it has
fundamentally changed the debate
citizen’s lives. Here it is worthy of
on the way in which ‘strategic’ air
note that most coercive air campaigns
power works, and therefore has to
have been used by democracies
be taken seriously – especially as the
against totalitarian regimes. So a
lack of any formal response to the
useful follow-on question might be
publication has left it as, de facto, the
to consider how effective coercive air
last major public pronouncement
campaigns against democracies could
on the subject. 10 Furthermore,
be, particularly if conducted by a
the thoughtfulness and depth of
repressive regime?
the analysis, even if not concurred
It is interesting to note that Professor with, means that this is a book that
Pape’s subsequent work has should be read by anyone with a
concentrated on the area of terrorism, genuine interest in broadening their
understanding of air power – and it is their understanding a little more in
still readily available. However, the this area are strongly recommended
fact that there has been no successor to read Philip Ball, critical mass
publication should be of some concern, : how one thing leads to another
or, to echo the headline of an article (London: Arrow Books, 2005). For
title in APR a few years ago, where science fiction/fantasy aficionados an
are the air power thinkers now?11 exposition of the logical end-state of
this approach can be found in Isaac
The current security situation facing
Asimov’s original Foundation trilogy.
the UK, in which the apparent belief 6
A causal law is one of the form that
is that Afghanistan and Iraq-type
if a plus b happens then c results.
situations represent the likely future, 7
In this sense codification refers to
calls out for analysis of the ways in
a means of identifying similarities
which air power can best contribute
and differences: for instance a simple
to this new reality – or to demonstrate
codification would be to identify
that the future scenarios are wrong.
whether wars only involved single
Ninety years ago, the RAF proved
or multiple protagonists. Here a
adept at working out how to use air
codification could be 1 = single
power in a very different security
aggressor versus single responder,
environment that in which it had
2 = single aggressor versus coalition
been developed – as we stand at the
responder, 3 = coalition aggressor
beginning of the 21st century, the
versus single responder, 4 = coalition
question has to be asked – are we still
aggressor versus coalition responder.
up to that challenge today?
All conflicts would then be codified
Bibliography into one of these groupings, which in
conjunction with a number of other
Ball, Philip. Critical mass : how one
factors or indicators would be used to
thing leads to another. London: Arrow
conduct the analysis.
Books, 2005. 8
Robert A. Pape, Bombing to Win : Air
Pape, Robert A. Bombing to Win : Air Power and Coercion in War (Ithaca:
Power and Coercion in War. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), p. 328.
Cornell University Press, 1996. In fact this question is dealt with
by the way in which codification was
carried out, which is beyond the scope
‘With highest honour’. of this article.
2 10
Pape, “Coercive Air Power in the And therefore a worthy candidate
Vietnam War”, International Security, for some aspiring air power academic
Vol 15, No 2 (Autumn 1990). or strategic thinker to challenge!
3 11
The award of a permanent post GpCapt Ian Shields, “Where are the
within a university department. Air Power Strategists”, APR Vol 11, No
The Project on Security and 1, Spring 2008.
Terrorism is funded by the Pentagon’s
Defence Threat Reduction Agency,
the Carnegie Corporation, the
Argonne National Laboratory and the
University of Chicago.
Readers who would like to increase

Book Reviews
Going To War : British Debates From Wilberforce to Blair
By Philip Towle

Reviewed by Air Commodore Neville Parton

t is a great pleasure to be able to from this into the contrast between
review this book by Philip Towle, Britain’s oft-stated peaceful intent
who in addition to being a founder and the frequency with which it has
member of the RAF Centre for Air been willing to use its military forces
Power Studies (RAFCAPS) Academic to intervene in other countries’ affairs.
Advisory Panel, has also been a
The subject is clearly an enormous
long-term supporter of the RAF’s
one, and a logical and well-structured
involvement in the international
approach is used. After considering
relations programme at Cambridge
the part that national culture and
University, where for many years
he was Director of the Centre of circumstance plays, the going to war
International Studies. In addition to a process is examined from a number of
myriad of other publications, he wrote different perspectives; moral elements
one of the earliest books to examine as represented both by the Anglican
the broader issues surrounding the Church and civil society, the impact
use of air power in irregular warfare, of the media and literature, the role
Pilots and Rebels, which can still be of the non-military commentators
heartily recommended for anyone as well as their professional military
seeking to gain a balanced, historical counterparts, and finally the part
perspective of this area.1 that Parliament and public debate
have to play. Specific attention is
However, Going to War is a very then paid to the decisions relating to
different sort of book, and one which Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003,
taps directly into matters of the before considering the thorny issue of
moment, as it provides a perfect lead- whether these various debates on war
in to the ongoing Inquiry by Sir John have had any relevance to the policy
Chilcot into the Iraq War of 2003. decisions that lead to the commitment
The aim is quite straightforward: of British forces.
to examine the way in which Great
Britain has reached the point of So what conclusions does the writer
committing its forces to military reach? One interesting element is
action over the course of the last two the apparent predisposition in the
hundred years. This is introduced in British character which considers
a wonderful manner via a German that intervening in other people’s
newspaper headline from 1939 which problems is their responsibility,
read (translated) ‘Forty-Two Wars which has been demonstrated not
in Eighty Years: A Balance Sheet of only in the military sphere but also
British “Peacefulness”’, and leading in the considerable number of non-
governmental organisations (NGOs) two areas that mar the books
with international presence that have attraction. The first is that the chapter
originated in the UK. Another keen which examines ‘The Professional
observation is the way in which the Military’ could have perhaps spent
ruling classes and then politicians a little more time considering some
have considered that the ‘public’ of the post-Falklands conflicts that
cannot be trusted to make sensible the UK has been involved in, where
judgements in the area of foreign the interaction between military,
policy because they are too jingoistic/ media, society and politicians has
simplistic/uneducated/ill-informed been at time highly fraught – with
- choose your favourite platitude. In the Bosnia and Kosovo crises being
fact, using evidence from opinion perfect examples. The second is
polls and other sampling mechanisms aimed more at the publishers, and
Dr Towle shows that the public have is a general complaint regarding the
been shown by and large to have had price of academic publications in the
a generally balanced and reasonable UK. A recommended retail price of
understanding of the facts, and in £50 is going to put off most casual
these days of constant and immediate readers – and probably a few more
media reporting are also very aware professional types – with an interest
of the impact of military action on in this subject. Given the advent
both civilians and soldiers. And yet, of on-demand publication, and the
as the Iraq conflict in 2003 shows, it general lack of significant investment
is still possible for a small group of in the production and advertising
politicians to commit the country elements of the process, it is difficult
to war despite widespread public to see how prices at this level can
opposition – based on the fact that be justified. These are, however,
the public will generally rally to the minor quibbles with a book which
flag once British forces have been covers a vitally important subject
committed. To sum up such a wide- in considerable detail, poses some
ranging book as this is difficult, and extremely interesting questions,
it perhaps best in this area to let the and yet manages to remain highly
author have the last word: readable. Although it may be out
The public debate [on going to war] has of the price range of a number of
widened over the last 200 years as the APR readers, I would still heartily
public have gained in confidence, but the recommend it – beg, borrow, or even
governmental decision-making process just persuade your unit library to get
has not improved to the same extent. a copy – you will not be disappointed!
The Committee of Imperial Defence
was established by the government at
the beginning of the 20 th century to Towle, Philip Anthony. Pilots
coordinate expertise on Britain’s far-flung and Rebels : The use of aircraft in
responsibilities, what is needed [now] unconventional warfare 1918 - 1988.
is an effort to utilise even more wide- London: Brassey's, 1989.
ranging and varied expertise when crisis
Towle, Philip. Going to War : British
threaten in the future.2
Debates from Wilberforce to Blair.
In this reviewer’s eyes there are only Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Philip Anthony Towle, Pilots
and Rebels : The use of aircraft in
unconventional warfare 1918 - 1988
(London: Brassey's, 1989).
Philip Towle, Going to War : British
Debates from Wilberforce to Blair
(Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan,
2009), p. 165.

Book Reviews
The Evolution of International Security Studies
By Barry Buzan and Lene Hansen

Reviewed by Group Captain Ian Shields

t first sight it might be particular resonance as we enter
tempting to dismiss this a Strategic Defence Review that is
book as being another purist, likely to pay as much attention to the
International Relations textbook that former as it does to the latter. This
has little wider appeal to those not book, commendably, does not try to
directly involved in academic pursuit argue in favour of any one approach
within that particular discipline. to studying International Security
But to do so would not only do Studies, despite the (sometimes a
this remarkably readable book a little too discernable) authors’ own
disservice, but fail to encourage a biases; rather it lays out the path, with
wider audience to read it, and hence a minimum of fuss, that the discipline
start to appreciate the critical role that has followed.
International Security Studies plays
The first three chapters set out the
in the employment of military force to
defining features of International
resolve political disputes. Since we,
Security Studies as we presently
as professional air and space power
understand the term. Concepts
exponents, are at the sharp end of
such as the wider meaning of
such employment, it behoves us to
Security, the dangers of Western
have a wider understanding of our
bias in studying the subject, and five
profession: this book will contribute
key drivers (of which Great Power
most positively to that widening.
Politics, Technology and Events/
International Security Studies has its History will resonate in particular)
origins in the immediate aftermath are explored and detailed in an
of the Second World War and has accessible and sensible style. The
variously been considered a sub-set following five chapters trace not only
of, or entirely different discipline to, the development of International
International Relations. This in-the- Security Studies but in many ways
camp, out-of-the-camp, adjunct to the changing nature of Defence and
International Relations is a constant Security in the Western World. Early
theme throughout this book, which thinking was, inevitably, dominated
is the first serious attempt at tracing by the Cold War, deterrence and the
this academic tradition through its threat of nuclear Armageddon; the
various twists and turns, its rival discipline – as the authors highlight
camps and factions, from its inception – being dominated by America and
to the present day. Above all, it traces American Game Theorists. But even
the rise of the notion of “Security” before the end of the Cold War some
over that of “Defence”, a theme of thinkers were looking at new security
paradigms, a path that broadened
rapidly with the fall of the Berlin
Wall. This led, in the views of this
book’s writers, to two broad churches
of traditionalists (associated, broadly,
with the US and the UK) and wider
approaches to Security, driven in
the main European thinking on
topics such as post-colonialism,
new meanings of “human security”
(including the impacts of climate
change) and feminism. There follows
a topical and thought-provoking
chapter on the impact of 9/11, and
whether that has changed our
understanding of Security at every
level, from the individual to the
State, before the book concludes
by considering the future and (of
particular note) whether we will see
a return to Great Power Politics, and
the possible impacts of the continuing
advances in technology.
In sum, this book, while aimed at an
academic audience, deserves to be
not only read but carefully considered
by air and space power thinkers. It
considers a period that represents
over half the history of air power and
all of that of space power, and in its
consideration of the future and the
impact of technology, offers some
new insights that can help us in our
present debates. While at first sight
this may not seem like an obvious
book to recommend, as part of a
wider education and to offer new
ways of examining security from
an air and space perspective this
book has much to offer and deserves
serious consideration.

W(h)ither Air Power Education?

By Group Captain Al Byford and Group Captain Ian Shields

t the formal launch of opportunities available internally,
AP3000 – British Air and Space as part of service staff courses, and
Doctrine - at the Royal United externally, in the form of service-
Services Institution on 1 December sponsored non-military post-graduate
2009, Sir Brian Burridge delivered a education delivered at academic
critical appraisal of the RAF’s newest institutions. Additionally, both of us
statement of doctrine. While he currently fill appointments where a
strongly supported the conceptual broad education has clear and direct
direction of travel outlined in AP3000, relevance to our day-to-day activities.
a central tenet of his presentation was However, we understand that the real
the necessity for the RAF to continue value of military education may not
to invest – both intellectually and be as immediately apparent across
financially – in military education. If the RAF more generally: the benefits
we fail to do so, he contended, the tend to be felt in the long-term rather
consequences would be serious, and than the short-term, and by their very
he emphasised the point by quoting nature, are difficult to measure or
from the 2009 edition of the Future quantify directly. This is a potential
Air and Space Operational Concept: problem at a time of financial
‘Strategic and operational air power stringency, when we will have to
thinking is not institutionalised, justify all of our expenditure and
which has an adverse impact on the activities. Therefore, our aim in this
rapid development and exploitation ‘viewpoint’ is to act as advocates for
of both capability and strategy.’1 military education, arguing that the
Clearly then, institutionalising modest sums of money and resources
military education has the potential allocated it to represent an essential,
to be a significant factor in the strategic investment in the future of
RAF’s future development as a our service; it is a force multiplier that
fighting Service. But what is military adds real value.
education, why is it important to air
To begin, it is useful to define
power practitioners, what is the RAF
exactly what is meant by education,
doing about it now – and what else
rather than the training that
should it do in the future? As the
we traditionally deliver so well.
RAF’s Director of Defence Studies
Lieutenant General John Kiszely
and the Assistant Head, Air and
makes the distinction clear:
Space at the Development, Concepts
and Doctrine Centre, the authors have Training is preparing people, individually
a vested interest in this topic; we have or collectively, for given tasks in given
both benefited from the education circumstances; education is developing
their mental powers and understanding. and early twenties. But however it
Training is thus appropriate preparation is acquired - as an outcome of staff
for the predictable; but for the training, as a formal academic course,
unpredictable and for conceptual or through self-help - education
challenges, education is required...Likely will help to develop the flexibility
future operations, particularly those such of mind and understanding of the
as counter-insurgency, are characterized wider context that is necessary to
by complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty counter post-modern threats and
and volatility – all of which add up to challenges. Training can never
unpredictability – and by challenges equip an individual to withstand
that are not so much formulaic and the shock of warfare, or to fully lift
mechanistic as conceptual and ‘wicked’.2 Clausewitz’s ‘fog of war’, and this is
also true of education; it can never
The commandant of the Joint Services
provide a ‘silver bullet’. But as the
Command and Staff College made
bi-polar certainty of the Cold War has
exactly the same point in 2001, but
been subsumed into the ambiguity
used an illuminating analogy. In
of contemporary operations, it has
the Cold War, he said, training was
proved to be increasingly difficult
sufficient, because military officers
to anticipate, plan and train for
were like classical musicians; skilful
every eventuality. Instead, our
virtuosos on their own instruments,
resilience needs to be underpinned
but playing as part of a NATO
by intellectual and conceptual agility;
orchestra to a pre-scripted score,
and this requires people who can
written some time ago, that they could
understand and adapt to operational
rehearse again and again until they
circumstances that are likely to be
got it exactly right. In contrast, the
very different on each occasion that
contemporary operating environment
force is used. This agility, open-
demands military professionals who
mindedness and imagination – as
can act as jazz musicians; they still
General Kiszely and Air Marshal
have to be just as good at playing
Burridge contended – is more likely
their own instruments, but now, there
to be the product of education, rather
is no score and they have to play by
than training.
ear, improvising around a seemingly
random and ever-changing theme: Broad-minded thinking, developed
through education, arguably becomes
We have to produce people who can look
even more important as an individual
at chaos with the intellectual confidence
progresses through the rank structure,
it takes to explore it from unexplored
because a wider appreciation of
angles and discover patterns. This
strategy, and an understanding of
applies regardless of whether they end
the links between the campaign plan
up devising policy, briefing ministers or
and its execution, and the interaction
coming up with campaign plans.3
between the political and the military
Education need not be formally spheres, cannot be simply taught;
taught. Reading broadly is itself a this is a realm of nuance, subtlety
good form of self-education, and and interest, and is better grasped
Churchill attributed much of his later by a challenging and educated mind.
success to a rigorous period of self- There is high-level concern within
imposed reading in his late teens the Ministry of Defence, and indeed
across government, that the United more comprehensive officer education
Kingdom has collectively lost the on the US national security institutions,
habit of strategic thinking. This starting with their own and the other
lacuna was repeatedly identified three Services.6
by Lieutenant General Sir Frederick
General Patreus, holder of a PhD
Viggers in the evidence that he
himself, and the most celebrated
recently submitted to the Chilcot
of the cohort of American ‘soldier-
Inquiry into the Iraq War,4 and
scholars’ attributed with turning
was addressed as a specific issue
around the conflict in Iraq, endorses
by the Chief of the Defence Staff
this recommendation. In a recent
in his Christmas Speech to RUSI
address at West Point, he identified
in December.5
post-graduate education at a non-
As a forward-looking and military, ‘top twenty-five’ graduate
technologically-based service, the school as one of the five most
RAF is potentially better placed important pre-requisites for success
than the other two services, as it has in military leadership. The non-
always been fortunate in attracting military emphasis is deliberate:
highly capable and educated Patreus was making the point that
personnel at all ranks. The recently however laudable the training – and
implemented Review of Office and sometimes education – offered by
Aircrew Development (‘ROAD’) study military staff courses, only non-
into through-career development military education provides the
has capitalised on this intellectual stimulus of exposure to the fresh and
resource by enhancing the RAF’s provocative ideas – and people - that
ability to educate as well as train; can challenge and reinvigorate the
the links that have been established military establishment.
between Kings College London and
The RAF has already taken some
Halton, Cranwell and Shrivenham
steps along this path. The Chief of the
are already bearing fruit in providing
Air Staff’s Fellowship scheme offers
an external, academic input to
selected individuals the opportunity
challenge received wisdom and take
to study externally at post-graduate
personnel out of their institutional
level, and even to undertake
‘comfort zone’. And we are not alone
sponsored doctorates, while those
in acknowledging this requirement.
officers selected for the Advanced
A recent report on the United States
Command and Staff Course have
Air Force (USAF) attributes many of
the opportunity to take a Master’s
its well-publicised recent problems to
degree in Defence Studies. The recent
a lack of intellectual self-confidence,
initiatives by Birmingham University
borne of too much introspection.
and Kings College London to
It recommends institutionalising
establish part-time Masters’ degrees
post-graduate military education as
in Air Power Studies, the first of their
an antidote:
kind in the United Kingdom, provide
Advanced education at first-rate further evidence that academia also
institutions of higher learning must appreciates that a market exists for
become a priority for senior Air Force professional military education. But
officers. The service should also provide are these steps sufficient?
The RAF sends some 10% of its professional? To quote General
senior squadron leaders and wing Kiszely again:
commanders to advanced staff college
Some …. challenges have been or
annually, and only a small handful
are being overcome, there are others,
of individuals, typically six a year,
particularly those associated with
into academia, as Chief of the Air
military education and culture, which
Staff’s fellows. This does not compare
have yet to be fully recognized, let alone
favourably with the US forces, where
met, if modern warriors are to be a match
a minimum of a Master’s degree is
for tomorrow’s warfare.7
expected for those aspiring to rise
above the rank of major, and more Obviously, the individual services
than 15% of all USAF officers above have differences in outlook and
one-star rank hold a doctorate. There attitude here. The Royal Navy,
is a different institutional expectation drawing on its long tradition of
with regards to education; available practical seamanship, has always
resources clearly matter, but there tended to be sceptical about the value
are cultural differences too, and full- of theoretical education and has never
time academic education is seen as been particularly rigorous about the
part of the career mainstream in the criteria or premium it puts on either
US armed forces in a way that is still staff training or education more
not shared by the RAF. Despite the broadly. However, it is indicative
clearest possible direction from the that in recent years it has recognised
highest level – witness the Chief of that its strategic decision-making
the Air Staff’s personal endorsement has been questionable, and it has
and interest in the fellowship scheme reinstated an academic element at
– there is a perception that a year Dartmouth, and its own higher level
at a top university, undertaking a academic programme, in response.
demanding course to gain a sought In terms of the RAF, the Chief of the
after post-graduate qualification - is Air Staff’s Fellowship Scheme and the
a ‘year out’ and represents a career senior support it implies is the envy
foul; and this acts as a disincentive of the other services, but the technical
to those individuals aspiring to fast- nature of the service is both a strength
track advancement who might be and a weakness; we attract the most
contemplating a period of academic highly educated recruits of the three
study. The career stream for those services, but there is a sense that we
destined for highest ranks remains put technology above ideas, and too
wedded to the cockpit and outer much emphasis on equipment, rather
office appointments and, other than how we to use it most effectively.
staff course training, offers limited Arguably, the single biggest challenge
opportunities for broad, academic facing us remains our continuing
institutional suspicion of education,
development of the intellect. Perhaps
and intellectualism.
then, our biggest challenge remains a
cultural one: are we ready to accept, Encouragingly, there are signs that
and even embrace, intellectualism, this problem is generational and that
or are we still in thrall to the cult of a cultural change is taking place.
the gifted amateur – or the narrowly- Anecdotally, evidence suggests that
focused, technically adept military the outlook on education of the cadre
that has been exposed to a significant These words neatly capture the
academic element throughout their ‘why’ of military education for the
early careers is far more positive than RAF: it is hoped that this article has
their more senior peers in ‘middle- addressed some of the ‘hows’. If
management’ and beyond. Initiatives we had to pick just three strands to
such as ROAD and the links to provide the best prospect of achieving
King’s College London have already the Chief of the Air Staff’s aim, they
been mentioned. Additionally, the would be: first, to formalise a viable
Chief of the Air Staff’s Reading List career path for ‘thinkers’ as well as
provides a first step for self-helpers; war-fighters, linked to the Chief of
this is refreshed annually and is Defence Staff’s initiative to develop a
a good guide to a broad range of pool of strategic thinkers; second, to
books on air power, space power, develop an aspiration and expectation
contemporary conflicts and the that all those destined for two-star
nature of warfare. Air Power Review rank and above will have spent a year
is widely respected and is influential in full-time study at a major United
as a peer-reviewed academic journal, Kingdom university; and finally, to
and it has effectively been replicated maintain and develop the emphasis
by the USAF with its Strategic on through-career education
Studies Quarterly Journal. But other embodied in the ROAD study.
ideas might be initiated that would The motto for the Royal Air Force’s
broaden the RAF’s intellectual base. Centre for Air Power Studies is
These include a return to a formal concordia res parvae crescent - work
promotion examination from Flight together to accomplish more.
Lieutenant to Squadron Leader Military education is the key to
(in line with the ‘C’ Exam of old), a achieving this aim.
service-wide annual essay prize for
junior officers (on the model of RAF Notes
Regiment’s current competition), 1
Future Air and Space Operational
and an annual air power debate or Concept 2009, p 1-9.
conference limited to squadron leader 2
The Shrivenham Papers No 5, Post-
rank and below. Modern Challenges for Post-Modern
In a recent edition of Air Power Review, Warriors, John Kiszely; Shrivenham,
the Chief of the Air Staff offered a December 2007, p. 14.
personal perspective on the future of
British air and space power. He said: 2001/nov/27/
In terms of people, the requirement for 39532/091209viggers-figgures.pdf
agility is clear, and this will increasingly 5
demand strategic and operational AboutDefence/People/Speeches/
thinking, in addition to the tactical ChiefStaff/20091203RusiChristmas
proficiency that we have excelled at Lecture.htm
in the past. We need to institutionalise 6
Center for Strategic and Budgetary
air power education, and nurture Assessments; An Air Force Strategy for
leaders who can deal with the complexity the Long Haul by Thomas P Ehrhard,
and ambiguity of the contemporary 2009, p.xii.
operating environment.8 7
John Kiszely, Op Cit, p.5.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen
Dalton, ‘British Air and Space Power:
A Personal Perspective’, Air Power
Review Vol. 12, No.2, p. 11.