Courtesy Reuters


Air power is an unusually seductive form of military strength, in part because, like modern courtship, it appears to offer gratification without commitment. Francis Bacon wrote of command of the sea that he who has it "is at great liberty, and may take as much and as little of the Warre as he will," and a similar belief accounts for air power's attractiveness to those who favor modest uses of force overseas. Statesmen may think that they can use air attacks to engage in hostilities by increments, something ground combat does not permit. Furthermore, it appears that the imminent arrival of so-called nonlethal or disabling technologies may offer an even more appealing prospect: war without casualties.

This rise in air power's stock comes from its success in the Persian Gulf War. In the view of some, that conflict represented the opening shot of a

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  • Eliot A. Cohen is Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, The Johns Hopkins University. From 1991 to 1993 he was Director of the Gulf War Air Power Survey, an independent study commissioned by the Secretary of the Air Force. This article represents the author's opinion solely, and not the views of the U.S. Air Force or any other government agency.
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