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Dunlap Makes the Case…

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…for abolishing the Air Force better than I ever could. In a rather incoherent op-ed in yesterday’s NYT, Major General Charles Dunlap makes the following series of claims:

  1. The military success of the Surge is due to an increase in “boots on the ground”; so much for those “boots on the ground zealots“.
  2. The counter-insurgency manual still sucks, but its proponents misunderstand its key tenets, which are much more forceful than commonly believed, even though it still sucks.
  3. The Air Force really won the Surge, through a substantial expansion in airstrikes.
  4. Actually, the Surge didn’t work, because the only success we’ve seen is due to segregation of neighborhoods and cozying up to Sunni tribal leaders, so consequently the counter-insurgency manual still sucks.
  5. And then there’s Russia, which proves we need more F-22s. Why won’t anyone think of the Russians?

If you don’t believe me, read it yourself. Building and burning strawmen is a time-honored strategy of the op-ed, but the author ought, at the very least, make sure that the flaming strawmen are consistent with one another. In any case, Dunlap seems to have a substantial misunderstanding of the connection between points 1, 2, and 3. The success of a counter-insurgency strategy depends on the production of good intelligence for the use of force. Every such strategy will have both protection and projection components; the key is that the protection component, if well done, is supposed to make the projection component more effective. The reason we saw a substantial increase in airstrikes during the spring and summer was not that the gloves were coming off, as Dunlap or Ralph Peters would have you believe, but rather because the intelligence provided through better protection (which was a function of both changes in tactics and an increase in troops) produced better targeting opportunities.

Point number four is true enough, but irrelevant to Dunlap’s argument. The decrepitude of the F-15 is actually lending some weight to the F-22 argument; thirty years old airframes are both prone to failure and expensive to maintain. But then, the big debates about the F-22 have always been more about the price and the pace (do we really need a lot of them now?) than whether or not the purchase should be made.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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