Home / Robert Farley / Airpower Diplomacy?

Airpower Diplomacy?


In contrast to Adam Lowther, I’m skeptical about the potential for airpower diplomacy:

Simply put, the United States Air Force is not a tool honed for “soft” or “smart” power. Its understanding of the commons is at odds with the idea of a positive sum game. This is not to say that airpower (whether manifested in the USAF or otherwise) does not have a critical role to play in the future of U.S. defense policy in the Asia-Pacific.  Rather, it is important to specify the contribution made by each instrument of foreign and defense policy.  The Navy has devoted substantial intellectual and material energy to developing “smart” and “soft” power tools for engaging with diplomatic partners, and has indeed made such engagement a critical element of its overall approach to maritime security. The Air Force has yet to develop a conception of “soft power” more complex than “friends make the exercise of hard power easier.”

Yet another predictable anti-airpower screed etc. etc.

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  • Scott P.

    It’s called gunboat diplomacy, not gunship diplomacy.

  • bph

    What is sad about this is that the Air Force has enormous capabilities in terms of logistics, just like the Navy. So, just like the Navy, the Air Force could do a lot of good during or after a natural or man-made disaster.

  • Tom M

    Given the United States’ current financial woes and the insatiable appetite of the American people for entitlement and welfare spending,

    Really? Well, who the fck are you? Given the insatiable appetite of defense contractors, general and admirals for taxpayer money, the US outspends the world to supply the material with which mr Lowther theorizes diplomacy.

    Man needs a job. A real one.

  • shah8

    I think the airpower elements in the Syrian conflict is fascinating, actually.

    Forget soft power, a new take on Grozny, The Revenge!

    • shah8

      Had not heard about the prepping for chem warfare when I wrote that, obviously…

      • shah8

        Aaaaand that looks like one of those propaganda efforts rather than any real news…Really pervasive.

        I do think, absent real intervention, that the Syrian regime will win in the end, by attrition. I think this is the estimation of Turkey, who has ask for (and will receive) Patriot complexes, and of the US intel regime. The longer those creepy crawleys go running around, shooting everyone in the name of “freedom” and generally fustrating the bowel movements of state activities (like food, hospital care, police, and all the other sundries), the less they will find food and shelter in the areas they “conquered”. There is no doctrine but force and weakwilled Muslim Brotherhood expat musings, and thus there will be no positive coalescing of sentiment, like the Chicoms after WWII.

        I also think that the Chinese have been very happy with how much attention the Syrian conflict has absorbed, and played their geopolitical game with the board in mind.

        Reading New Model Army right now, and I giggle on just how much Farley probably loathes some of the material within.

        • rea

          the Chinese have been very happy with how much attention the Syrian conflict has absorbed, and played their geopolitical game with the board in mind.

          Q. What is China doing to exploit our distraction with Syria?

          A. Well, nothing anyone has noticed–but that just proves the point!

          • Major Kong

            I knew it! Those Reds are sneaky!

            • Stag Party Palin

              Not just sneaky. Wily too, also.

              • RedSquareBear


  • Has everybody in the Air Force forgotten the Berlin Airlift? Or does that not count because it was the Army Air Corps?

  • How does space fit into this?

    Thre is a quite strong lobby (one solar system government!) for complete demilitarisation of space, on Antarctica lines, but the USA hasn´t SFIK signed up to it because of the crucial military importance of satellites for reconnaissance, communications and navigation.

    The USAF and USN struggled for control of the space mission, and the flyboys won: quite wrongly. Every reader of space operas can tell you that interstellar wars are fought by space navies. Also, you can leave your spaceship or ship, at some risk, but you can´t leave a plane except for an emergency escape.

    The opening of the GPS satellite system to civilian use can be seen as an exercise in win-win, global-commons soft power.

  • RedSquareBear

    I’m going to out myself as a defense moron on this, but…

    Can someone make the case for the Air Force as it currently is to me? I'm honestly curious.

    Look down, do you see land? Ok, that’s Army Air Corps territory. Do you see water? Ok, that’s Navy Air territory.

    At least that way you only have two sets of systems to make work together, as opposed to three like it is now.

    Especially in a post-strategic world (and one where SSBNs exist) it seems pointless to have an arm of service which is (from what I’ve read here) actively hostile to close air support, the one air power growth sector.

    I guess maybe logistics and airborne refueling don’t fit neatly into the ground/sea dichotomy but that’s no reason they need their own damn Academy.

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