The Icarus Syndrome: The Role of Air Power Theory in the Evolution and Fate of the U.S. Air Force

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The Icarus Syndrome: The Role of Air Power Theory in the Evolution and Fate of the U.S. Air Force

By Carl H. Builder
Transaction Publishers, 1994
299 pp. $39.95
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There is a sense in this book, captured in the title, of underlying Air Force insecurity about its role and capabilities. This may come as a surprise to soldiers, sailors and marines who fear an Air Force monopoly of air warfare. (As historian Richard Kohn has observed, the Air Force subconsciously fears that it may be the product of a brief technological moment in which manned flight transformed warfare.) This book was born of a request from the Air Command and Staff College for an essay "that would remind incoming students of the obligations of the profession of arms, their heritage in history, and where those obligations might carry them with the future of the Air Force." The style is uneven: Builder has read widely but indulges in a lazy habit of extensive and unnecessary quotation of other writers, and relies overly on memoirs and a few secondary sources. The author might reply that he aimed not to take a purely academic look from the outside, but to make a contribution to an internal Air Force debate. That he has, but there is a danger here of confusing strategy with a kind of institutional psychotherapy.

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