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Effects Based Operations?


Kingdaddy has some useful commentary on “Effects Based Operations“, a term which apparently refers to operations directed against enemy strategic targets rather than military forces. Such targets include morale, industry, infrastructure, and communications (although the last two certainly have operational military elements). Kingdaddy points out that while advocates of EBO operations have made grand claims about their ability to win wars, these claims have never been reflected in reality.

For example, on the question of what Giulio Douhet, founding theorist of strategic bombing, believed, let’s ask Lt. Colonel Richard Estes, USAF:

Douhet believed that, with the advent of technology, the army and navy had become “organs of indirect attrition of national resistance.” The air arm, on the other hand, could act directly to break national resistance at the very source. But not just any air force would do. Douhet rejected the idea of an auxiliary air arm of the army or navy or a collection of “knights-errant” flying fighters. Rather, he called for a fleet of massive, self-defending bombers that would dominate not only the enemy, but also the military budget of Italy–or any other country that would listen to his ideas. He wanted an air force that could win not just air battles but total command of the air. This command of the air would have a debilitating effect on the capability of land and sea forces, which would be relegated to a secondary role in future conflicts. The army and navy would remain part of an “indivisible whole” of the three armed services but would no longer be a significant factor in successfully resolving a war. With the ascendance of the air force, “the history of the war … presents no more interest.”

It can be fairly said that this prediction failed to manifest in World War II. The strategic bombing campaign against Germany did damage German industry and did use German resources. This result was deeply disappointing to many on the Allied side of the war. Arthur Harris, for example believed that the destruction of German morale would be the key to Allied victory. He resented any shifting of resources to attacks on German industry, German communications infrastructure, and German tactical assets. To their credit, American commanders were more skeptical of these kinds of arguments, and attempted to focus their bombing on the destruction of specific industrial assets. Americans Army Air Force officers were, it should be noted, willing to push Harris’ arguments in an effort to win independence for their service.

The author of the initial post is reduced to defending EBO as part of a tapestry of military operations. This defense is reasonable, were it not for the grandiose claims made by the proponents of EBO. Unfortunately, the author falls into a similar claim with this:

9/11 was an EBO; we are still feeling the effects long after the smoke cleared, the rubble was collected and the bodies were buried. The damage extended far beyond thephysical targets.

Regarding “Shock and Awe”: Is Saddam in power right now? Shock and awe was succesful in meeting its intended effect: depose the Saddam regime. “Shock and awe” was never meant to address the reconstruction and insurgency.

The term “Shock and Awe” is generally used to describe the effect of the precision bombing raids in the opening days of the war, an operation launched in the hope of compelling Saddam’s regime into submission without a fight. I have never heard it used otherwise before now. Saddam is out of power because Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities were conquered and occupied by the US Army and the US Marine Corps, a very traditional method of fighting war. It should also be noted that the effect of 9/11 on the United States is hardly a recommendation for EBO…

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