Bombing to Win

drieux H. (
Tue, 18 Jun 1996 16:40:59 -0400

] Many thanks to drieux for this tactful clarification re my Tom Wolfe comment:

] >So the notion of any writer, such as Tom Wolfe, providing
] >a 'relevant criterion' for Target Selection, seems, alas
] >as reasonable as any that was done by the DOD/WhiteHouse
] >crowd during the time. And thus I hope everyone understands
] >that in the Wolfe illustration, the target of the Poking
] >is as much the Target Selection Committee, as what is actually
] >being overtly said.

I would like to recommend the book:

Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War
Robert A. Pape
c. 1996 Cornell University Press
ISBN: 0-8014-8311-5

Although this is NOT specifically a 'vietnam' or 'sixties'
era book, directly, it is important, I feel, in addressing
the lessons that have apparently slipped past a wide range
of people as they attempt to adjust the history of both
periods. The process I call, 'NotLearningTheSixties'.

Mr. Pape's book begins by noting why he feels that the study of
'Coercion' is of value to more than just military professionals,
and given as our society is alledged to be predicated upon the
Final Authority of a 'mandate of the People' it would appears
obligatory that the People be Aware of the State of the Art in
Strategic Analysis Models, from which 'target bombing selection
criterion' will be created.

Pape also notes that the term coercion may well be known to
others as 'compellance' - as is noted in the language of 'We Lost
the Cold War' and other political science texts that have become
'sensitized' to "harsh language" - and it bothers me somewhat that
there is this side stepping of the somewhat unpleasant realities
with linguistical equivocations. I had hoped that we would have lost
the process of Euphemising warfare and other social unpleasantries
as a part of the lessons learned about Honesty and openness from the sixties.
But I will try to avoid advocating Glasnost too loudly.

Randy Fertel recently SCARED me with the somewhat horrorfying thought
that the left and right may well come towards a 'concurrance' on what
went wrong with the vietnam war, using basically similar like language
that means completely two different sets of conclusions. So it is back
to 'the drawing board' to do the analysis of various of the Myths that
have been created about the notions of 'coercion in warfare' as well
as the place of airpower in that schema that I find compelling in
Mr. Pape's Book. If we are to get past the simplistic, "the war was
a 'mistake'" whitewashing we will need to be able to confront so many
of the continuing outstanding charges, ranging from the Belief that
the war was 'winnable' were it NOT for the AntiWarGroups, like the
John Birch Society, as well as the Myth System that ascribes that
the AntiWarCrowd 'won' the war.... { I must say that At Least I am
pleased to note that on this, both the Wacko's of the Left and the
Wacko's on the Right are in complete Agreement, albeit basically WRONG. }

Having grown up in SAC, the thought of Doubting the value of
Strategic Air Power, is, well, how does one say HereticalSpawnOfSatan
in a polite way. But it is This Specific MYTH, backed up by the
Hollywood Propoganda Machine including such specifics as the
Quinn Martin Production of "12 O'clock High" - merchandized complete
with colouring book for the Kiddies, which would take precendece in
the popular Mind, rather the Strategic Bombing Assessment Reports of WWII.
Mr. Pape's book gives us a chance to step back from the PopKultIcons and
actually look at the data as he seeks to develop a more reasoned approach
to a somewhat unpleasant prospect.

Clearly now that so much of this has become 'common knowledge' this
book should become mandatory READING for any decent PoliSci and
Cultural Anthropology course dealing with Myth Creation and Maintenance.
If for no other reason than to debunk the various misbegotten notions
of how deadly 'punishment' attacks against the civilian population really
are not, as well as how essentially Useless they have always been.

Much Hype has gone into phrases like 'carpet bombing' - by both ends of
the political spectrum, as well as whether or not 'collateral damage' is
the END or the side effect of the use of air power. Now that it has become
HIP to think of the USA as capable of 'bombing anyone' back into the
stone age with impunity, now that we are 'past' the "vietnam syndrom" it
is also clearly time for the voting population to pause long enough to
seperate the Myths From the Magik, from the Meanings to be Learned.


ps: granted the alternative is that we just get to build a bigger
battle fleet and relearn all these lessons again as the ground
troops are sent in to seek a political solution that was not available
to the more romantic images cast like shadows on the AgitPropWall.