I recently put in a proposal for a conference at the University of Reading on the Liberal Way in War. While the paper was not accepted for the main conference I was asked to deliver my paper at the Postgraduate Symposium being held the day before. The conference itself will see more than 40 papers delivered on this subject and includes keynote lectures by Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman and Professor Richard Overy. The conference is part of the university’s Levehulme funded project on the Liberal Way in War and it should be an interesting experience. Given Colin Gray future book on Airpower and Strategic Effect it will be interesting to see how my paper is received. I just need to sit down and write it now as there may be the possibility of publishing it. Here is the abstract:
Martin Van Creveld has recently suggested that due to the changing character of war in the twenty-first century independent air power has a less sure place in the pantheon of military assets and that it is integrated assets that will have the biggest impact in future war. However, as Joel Hayward has shown air power lies at the heart of the west’s attempt to remove battle from war. Indeed, as the west has become ever more sensitive to the impact of the so-called ‘body bag syndrome’, independent air power has become seen as a viable means of achieving victory in war. The recent conflict in Libya has illustrated the impact that air power can have on the character of a conflict. The apparent advantages of air power over land, and even naval, power has seen its application in various campaigns over the past one-hundred years.
This paper will, through a series of historical case studies, illustrate the enduring legacy and relevance of independently-controlled air power. It will show that the development of air power theory has had at its core the application of force to reduce or shorten war, and that for both political and moral reasons this has become the preferred form of warfare for liberal governments. However, it will illustrate that in its independent form air power has not always achieved the results the rhetoric has suggested it will, and that integrated but independently-controlled air power has been just as effective in removing battle from war.
In examining the development of independently-controlled air power this paper considers how both governments and air power theorists have justified the use of air power rather than deploying boots on the ground. It will argue that independently-controlled air power, with a mix of independent and integrated assets, remains the ideal method of projecting power for liberal democracies that are ideological opposed to large casualty lists and that, therefore, it must be maintained to support the ability of west to continue to trade-off between its key concerns of security and liberty.
Comments and thoughts always welcomed.