Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Air superiority

What is the elephant in the room in the Gaza conflict?  Air superiority.  It is so accepted without thinking about it, that no-one realizes that this is the cause of the great destruction in Gaza and the concomitant loss of life.  When the Allies had air superiority during WWII what did they do, they carpet bombed parts of Germany, they destroyed Hamburg and Tokyo in fire-storms, they flattened the city of Dresden, full of German civilian refugees, they dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing ca. 100,000 civilians in each.  Now Israel with complete air superioirty is following the strategic path set by the US and UK, namely that in any conflict one must have air superiority, not only to pummel the enemy, but also to protect one's own ground forces.  But with the advancement of technology the IAF can now use mainly targeted munitions, so that civilian casualties are reduced.  But, nevertheless, in war there will always be casualties and always mistakes and always "collateral damage."
There is a similar factor at play in the US intervention in northern Iraq against the fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS).  They may be fierce suicidal warriors, but even they cannot make progress when attacked from the air in an open desert plain by targeted missiles.  The fact that the US has total air superiority enables Pres. Obama to choose not to put "boots on the ground," but to use a purely aerial strategy, while the Kurdish Pesh Merga and Iraqi Army forces (now beefed up) counter attack the ISIS fighters on the ground.  That is how they recaptured the significant strategic target of the Mosul dam.  This combination of US air power and local ground troops can go a long way to push back the forces of ISIS, although it cannot defeat them totally, since they control many cities, including Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
It is a primary Israeli strategy to always fight any battle on the enemy's territory, since Israel is so small and densely populated.  Air superiority enabled Israel to win all its wars, the Six Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and so on.  But, the new terrorist strategy of missiles and tunnels to a large extent defeat air superiority.  Tunnels have to be destroyed by troops on the ground and as we have seen, even the IDF cannot stop missiles being launched from hidden sites in populated areas.  So even though Israel must have air superiority to prevent a large scale military attack, it needs other skills to ensure that the new terrorist strategy cannot succeed. 


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