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The Applicant Series #17: Airpower

The Applicant Series showcases works done by hopeful writers who have applied with inkmypapers over the years. The results and comments will be provided first, followed by the actual essay/report written by the applicant

Applicant’s Results: Passed

Title: Airpower can win small wars. Discuss.

Comments: Excellent piece through and through. This essay is one of our training pieces for applicants going through the training program. Not only is the essay well done in terms of academic language, its flow and content is great as well.

This is the standard of essay that we will be producing for our customers. Do note that the applicant is given an extremely tight deadline to complete this (2 days). If given more days, the applicant will be able to produce a piece that has more in-depth research into the topic for sure.

This essay is broken to into two parts, with the first part being shown here. The second part will be uploaded in the next post!

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Airpower is considered a key, determining factor that shapes the end-results of conventional warfare. Unlike bombing attacks which may not inflict as great damage as necessary on one’s opponents, having superior airpower capabilities are essential to emerging victorious in battle (Dayan, 1999). Yet, as defense forces shift their attention to focus on small wars, the application of classic airpower theories are put to test. This can be seen in the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2008 Gaza War where the enforcement of airpower by the highly-regarded Israel Air Force (IAF) against the guerrilla tactics of the Hezbollah terrorist group was criticized for causing heavy collateral damage (Peng & Lim, 2011). This essay will discuss the role of airpower in winning wars of a smaller-scale, citing the 2006 Lebanon War and the 2008 Gaza War as references. It will also show whether or not airpower is sufficient or even necessary in determining who emerges victorious in irregular wars where ‘hearts and minds’ also matter.

Perspectives on Airpower and Its Applications

Airpower theories created an opening for new perspectives on conventional warfare. Theorists like Douhet articulated the potential brought about by gaining command of the air when in battle. He even went as far as to bring people to envision how it can be possible to bring defeat on an enemy by simply targeting aerial attacks at its civilian populations, inciting its own citizens to protest against their government and demand its surrender. Mitchell furthered this notion by pointing out how it is important to do away with the capacity of one’s opponents to continue with the war, attacking important infrastructure that are critical to the survival of its people (O’Neill, 2011). More than the destruction, the inconveniences that war could cause on people appear to be a significant factor in airpower theory.

One country that has heavily invested on and utilized airpower is Israel. Built around the understanding that war is completely undesirable, the IAF is the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) way of making sure that all threats to security are resolved quickly and decisively. Their strategy is to achieve air supremacy—excellence in the quality of their people, technology, and operations—and air superiority—stronger control and influence in the outcomes of war (Dayan, 1999). For over 50 years, since the War of Independence, the IAF has guarded the air space of Israel. With the acquisition of an immense variety of aerial assets and the expertise of its human resources, the IAF has played a key role in keeping Israel’s opponents at bay (Anonymous, 1999).

True to airpower theories, commanding a strong air fleet presents a great threat to civilian welfare. Thus, when IAF fought the 2006 Lebanon War, international press reports were filled with details of attacks made on common areas such as hospitals, schools, places of worship, and community centers. Humanitarian organizations accused Israel of gross negligence as investigations concluded that there was no sufficient evidence that Hezbollah was actually present in targeted areas (Arkin 2007). Wielding such immense power, it can be observed how the use of airpower in smaller operations, often for counter-insurgency, could be more a force of destruction than a force of victory. At some point, criticisms label such bias for aerial dominance as a misapplication of doctrine that resulted from the ‘aerial arrogance’ of airmen (Parton, 2007).

Why Airpower Cannot Win Small Wars

Airpower may be an effective asset in conventional warfare but it is insufficient in winning battles of an irregular nature. In no way should it be regarded as some ‘miracle solution’ that would resolve all forms of armed conflict (Lambeth, 2011). The 2006 Lebanon War saw a heavy dependence on IAF being used against enemies who employed unconventional tactics and strategies. Hezbollah was a capable opponent who worked well in small organized groups (Johnson, 2010). They had access to armaments that were light and portable, even undetectable, which allowed them to launch attacks in a quick and stealthy manner (Cordesman & Burke, 2008).   It can be said that, to some extent, Israel failed to acknowledge correctly the capabilities of the enemy they are faced with. Overly confident in methods applied in past wars, it failed to seriously acknowledge the implications of being up against a ‘new’ guerrilla force that made use of civilian populations as its protection (Arkin, 2007).

Given how small wars present a new breed of adversaries, it is only timely to review exactly what airpower is capable of. Civilian governments seem to have the wrong impression of what airpower could actually achieve on its own. They expect airpower to always exact a decisive conclusion to conflict, not questioning the strategic implications posed by a new kind of opposition (Arkin, 2007). Reviews of the 2006 war showed that an overconfidence in airpower resulted to starting an offensive move without giving regard to the inadequacies in the preparation of ground operations (Johnson, 2010). A perceived bias to rely heavily on airpower, though supported by ground artillery and rockets, prevented a timely shift to resort to deployment of ground forces. IDF could be described as being too late in implementing a new strategy, preventing them from asserting their victory over Hezbollah and causing people to label the incident as a ‘failure of airpower’ (Lambeth, 2011).

Apart from understanding airpower, however, defense forces also need to consider the importance of creating a narrative surrounding the numbers of war. Public sentiment has done much in shaping ‘hearts and minds’ towards who wins in a conflict especially in the context of small wars. These irregular wars are rarely about asserting political dominance than they are about influencing views and philosophies (Cordesman & Burke, 2008). While attacks are being exacted out on the field, there is a different battle to be fought in the context of mass communication. This was a critical aspect in the assessment of IAF’s performance against Hezbollah because their failure on this end impacted public opinion on airpower, with individuals questioning its relevance to modern warfare (Arkin, 2007).


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