Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 146

GROUNDED: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force Robert M. Farley, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, 2014, 272 pages F or nearly two centuries, On War, by Carl von Clausewitz, has been considered the primer on the interface of war and politics and the nature of war itself. The basic argument of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force is that the U.S. Air Force has never been effective in dealing with the realities of war as described by Clausewitz. Rather, from its outset as a component of the U.S. Army, the Air Force has persisted in the delusion that it could lift the fog of war, that it could win wars without boots on the ground, and that technology would inevitably bring improvement, supremacy, and domination of a clearly understood battlefield from a vantage point high in the air and even over the horizon. However, rather than over the horizon, the Air Force was over the rainbow, according to this author. And, the lure of technology and victory—without mud or blood (on our side)—seduced politicians of most persuasions during the century of airpower. After laying out his argument that Clausewitz remains valid, Farley traces the development of airpower history from early in the twentieth century into the twenty-first. He deals with the wars and the interwar periods; with the creation of the United Kingdom’s independent Royal Air Force; with Billy Mitchell, Giulio Douhet, and other airpower-above-all advocates; and with the changes in aircraft technology over time. He finds that advocates inside and outside the service have consistently exaggerated the effectiveness of airpower, whether in the bombing campaigns of World War II or in the drone forays of the current era. Despite the myth, winning wars requires boots. In fact, the delusional Air Force and its backers have hampered, if not endangered, the efforts they were to have supported. The belief in strategic airpower minimizes close-air support and general assistance to ground forces. That is an immediate battlefield problem. More serious is the way that the promises of cheap and easy victories influence the civilian government, mostly nonveteran as it is, to venture into 140 risky escapades that inevitably lead to introduction of ground forces after the air effort prove inconclusive. Farley contends that the Air Force is not useless—it is merely an overpriced attractor for those who would throw around America’s weight with less risk than using ground troops. He lays out a plan for integrating air resources into the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy; cites instances where reintegration has occurred, primarily in Canada; and argues forcefully, if not convincingly, for the abolition of the free-standing air arm. There is probably no real chance that any of the author’s suggestions will come to fruition. The Air Force lobby is quite strong, and its contractors are spread throughout the myriad congressional districts. Still, Grounded does raise interesting questions and challenge the status quo, and it should give pause to those who might be inclined to assume that the Army of today is for now and always ideal and immutable. Unstated is the question: If the Air Force can lose independent status, why not the Army and Navy too? John H. Barnhill, PhD, Houston, Texas A LAND OF ACHING HEARTS: The Middle East in the Great War Leila Tarazi Fawaz, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2014, 416 pages L eila Tarazi Fawaz’s sweeping synthesis of the First World War in the Middle East explores the social and cultural transformations wrought by the war. Understanding the war’s influence, Fawaz argues, is essential to understanding the social and political turmoil of today’s Middle East. According to Fawaz—the Issam M. Fares professor of Lebanese and Eastern Mediterranean studies at Tufts University—World War I was the “foundational experience of the modern Middle East.” The war was a global conflict but generated very specific and lasting effects on local identities and politics. As a result, a central feature of Fawaz’s narrative is that the conflict resulted in tremendous political changes, such as the breakup of the multifaith, multiethnic =