In This Review

Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War
Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War
By Robert A. Pape
Cornell University Press, 1995, 359 pp

This solidly constructed work concludes with some overly simple assertions: ‘Strategic bombing does not matter,’ ‘Punishment does not work,’ and the like. Exploring a large number of cases superficially and five cases in depth, the author builds a strenuous argument that strategic air power has never delivered on its promises and, for reasons intrinsic to strategy, cannot. An excessively narrow political science framework (and perhaps a desire to tweak the noses of true believers) has led the author further than the evidence can take him. To say that the air power used against government leaders is doomed to fail may be true, but it has never been tried with the same determination as other military means. Similarly, his hoary contention that ‘punishment generates more public anger against the attacker than against the target governments’ glosses over a complex of popular reactions. Unsustainable assertions notwithstanding, its rigorous argumentation and skillfully assembled evidence make this a book to be reckoned with.