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Book offers lessons on fighting terrorism with airpower

by Maj. Sam Highley
Airpower Research Institute

11/14/2007 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFPN) -- Airpower is a valuable weapon in the fight against terrorism but only if it is applied with discrimination and care, according to a new study of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War published by Air University officials.

Widespread criticism of Israel for relying on its air force to attack Hezbollah terrorists in neighboring Lebanon and free Israeli soldiers captured by the militant group is misguided, said William M. Arkin, the author of the study.

"The 'failure' of airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War was not that it promised too much or that it did not deliver," wrote Mr. Arkin, an independent journalist, author and longtime NBC News military analyst. "It was instead a grand strategic failure in the application of force against terrorism."

Israel took a far too conventional approach to combating a non-state terrorist organization hiding within a sovereign nation, applying traditional military methods at the expense of its strategic goals, he wrote.

By not explaining its military actions to the international community and focusing on destruction rather than effects, Mr. Arkin argued that Israel inadvertently bolstered support for Hezbollah and strengthened the terrorist group.

"Israeli leaders argue that they are fighting a 'new' and different kind of enemy ... yet when the time for action came in 2006, the (Israeli defense force) designed the most conventional of wars," Mr. Arkin wrote.

Instead of only aiming to deter future terrorism, Mr. Arkin argued that Israel should have made building support for its right to defend itself an equally important objective. It could have done so by using airpower's precision and flexibility to limit attacks to Hezbollah targets better, and by openly communicating about its operations to the world.

The book, "Divining Victory: Airpower in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War," is the latest product of Air University's effort to push out timely ideas on airpower and national security. The Airpower Research Institute at AU commissioned Mr. Arkin to write the study.

"We're trying to disseminate timely analysis and strong ideas that can help strategic thinking in the Air Force today," said Dr. Dan Mortensen, the institute's chief of research. "We think it's a great benefit to have someone outside our service look at something so relevant to our own Air Force operations fighting terrorism."

Dr. Mortensen said the new book is part of an effort to have outside scholars comment on strategic Air Force concerns and help develop strategic thinkers in the service, a priority noted by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley during congressional testimony in October.

General Moseley told the House Armed Services Committee that Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and he have charged Air University with ensuring its education, training and outreach programs are relevant to today's fight against terrorism and encourage Airmen to consider the future.

"I ... want to be able to stress on future officers the ability to see the horizon better," General Moseley said. "I want bigger thinkers. I want broader thinkers."

"Divining Victory" is available through the Air University Press Web site at www.au.af.mil/au/aul/aupress/, where it may be downloaded in electronic format or ordered in hard copy. 

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