Wednesday, November 30, 2016

the myth of precision bombing

I have long been troubled by the expectation, especially among civilian officials, that "precision bombing" can achieve decisive military and political effects without the political and human costs of ground warfare. In the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy naively hoped to eliminate the Soviet missile threat in Cuba with a low number of airstrikes. He dropped that option when told that an operation would require dozens ifnot hundreds of airstrikes, to destroy enemy defenses as well as the key targets.

Over recent decades, senior officials kept looking for low cost airstrikes as the silver bullet in crises, but it wasn't to be. Two Air Force pilots now offer a different critique of the myth of precision bombing. In the ever-valuable War on the Rocks site, they detail the history of precision weapons improvements then note that senior officials insist on perfection, with no civilian casualties or unintended damage. They also claim that target review processes undermine military effectiveness.

These are important additional considerations in assessing the limits and benefits of precision strikes.

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