Document created: 6 December 01
Published Aerospace Power Journal - Winter  2001


Ricochets and Replies


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MYTHS? OR TRUTHS WITH ASTERISKS?

Lt Col Martin Wojtysiak is to be commended for taking the time to write his article “Another View of the Myths of the Gulf War” (Fall 2001), in which he rebuts my earlier article “Myths of the Gulf War: Some ‘Lessons’ Not to Learn” (Fall 1998). I set out to be purposely provocative and feared that I may have failed in provoking a response. Apparently, I did not.

Rather than rebut his views point by point, which seems overly academic, let me make some general comments about his remarks. First, the bulk of my article was a presentation given to the chief of staff of the Air Force’s Airpower Symposium, a gathering of general officers and major-command participants held at Maxwell Air Force Base in the fall of 1992, well before most of the works Colonel Wojtysiak cites as making some of the same arguments that I make. I just didn’t get around to publishing it outside the professional military education environment for some time. But these arguments have been made and reiterated within the Air Force, by me and others, for some time. The overselling of the capability of airpower is a problem for airmen too, not merely “Western politicians.” 

Second, if he prefers to call these statements of mine “truths with asterisks” instead of myths, that is fine. In doing so, he accepts the point of the exercise in saying that we ought not be overwhelmed with the military triumph without examining some of the questions about it. It is like making claims about the best team in baseball in 1994. That was the strike season—the division winners are listed as of August, when the strike occurred, but there were no play-offs, no pennant winners for the year, and no World Series. It is “truth with an asterisk.” That is, one needs some extra explanation to put the listing of accomplishments in proper perspective. 

Third, a “militarily intact Iraq” does not control Kuwait. While that is a truly good outcome of the Gulf War, it is not the whole story. Iraq is largely militarily intact, and Saddam is stronger in many ways—with less domestic opposition (from Kurds or Marsh Arabs), even after the destruction in the war and despite the sanctions, the no-fly zones, the inspections by the United Nations Special Commission, and so forth—than was the case before the war. Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction have not been destroyed, the Republican Guard has been largely reequipped, the sanctions leak like a sieve, and regularly scheduled Iraqi airliners fly routinely in the supposed “no-fly zones,” as do helicopters. And more than a decade after the Gulf War, Iraq represents a threat to the region and the US forces stationed there. I suspect that many people expected more from a “victory.” 

Fourth, Colonel Wojtysiak points to the Gulf War Air Power Survey (GWAPS) and the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Report on the Conduct of the Gulf War as sources of information on the Air Force’s performance in the Gulf War. The DOD report, a major public-relations effort, is at variance with several other analyses, including RAND studies and Government Accounting Office reports, also commissioned by the US government. The GWAPS report—designed as an equivalent to the United States Strategic Bombing Survey—has an interesting history. Originally, there were to be some 3,000 unclassified copies printed. But some senior Air Force officers and civilian officials wished to suppress it because it was more objective and critical than they wished. Ultimately, the print run was changed to only 500 copies on a carefully controlled distribution list. That does not promote truth and trust in the Air Force.

Fifth, and most importantly from my perspective, is the fact that Colonel Wojtysiak fails to answer the main question of the piece. Gen Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz made a set of summative assessments about the effectiveness of airpower in World War II that were largely “rediscovered” in the Gulf War. I asked, “Why did airmen not understand what we had achieved over 50 years ago? How did they let these insights disappear from their understanding of war and the application of airpower?” I think the late Carl Builder included a major part of the answer in his book The Icarus Syndrome. We should not presume airpower’s capabilities or success and should be mindful of its limitations. That’s a healthy attitude, not an unjust criticism. Promise only what we can deliver, and deliver all we can promise.

Last, I eagerly await Colonel Wojtysiak’s reply to my more recent article “Myths of the Air War over Serbia: Some ‘Lessons’ Not to Learn” (Winter 2000). It reviews the same myths—plus one—and suggests that we still have not placed things in perspective or realized the harm that may occur from being overly boastful. I do this not to demean the contributions of the Air Force or its airmen. They are exceptionally well trained, dedicated, and capable men and women who are achieving remarkable operational prowess in their service. And the Air Force’s accomplishments in the Gulf War and Kosovo were considerable—but not without fault. I don’t want us to lose sight of airpower’s limitations amid the euphoria of limited military triumphs. 

My fear is that we will try to use airpower to cure all foreign ills and ask it—continually—to do things it may not be able to do because it is misunderstood, ill funded, or misapplied. No degree of operational prowess can substitute for a failed strategy. As I stated in the more recent article cited above, “Airpower is a precious asset. Merely because it can be used does not necessarily mean it should be used.” In our euphoria over the public demonstration of airpower’s considerable abilities and accomplishments, we should not oversell it or lose sight of its limitations. That said, I welcome the larger debate and the contributions of Colonel Wojtysiak.

Dr. Grant T. Hammond
Maxwell AFB, Alabama

LEADERSHIP BY WALKING AROUND

Your summer 2001 issue contained some excellent articles about leading airmen. However, I failed to find a single article on the human aspect of “leading” airmen. It seems to me that Air Force leaders, especially those in the midlevel noncommissioned officer (NCO) and officer ranks, have no concept of what I will call “Leading by Walking Around” (LBWA), an adaptation of a term borrowed from management experts—“Management by Walking Around.” By LBWA, I mean showing genuine concern for the lives and families of the people being led. More importantly, a leader needs to communicate genuine appreciation for the work airmen accomplish. Everyone has a need for feedback to varying degrees, but regardless of one’s generation—whether boomer or Generation Xer—a little positive reinforcement and the tried-and-true “pat on the back” go a long way toward recruiting and maintaining a quality force.

I am the father and father-in-law of two active-duty Air Force E-4s (Generation Xers). Guess what aspect of the Air Force displeases them most? (Hint: it isn’t the pay, the deployments, or the home-station operational-readiness exercises or 12-hour shifts.) It is very simply the lack of positive feedback from immediate and midlevel supervisors. To a lesser degree, senior NCOs and squadron and wing commanders who purport to lead airmen are also among the guilty. The focus of these so-called leaders is merely production, to the detriment of a motivated workforce that looks forward to reenlisting and providing service above self. To me, LBWA is the real “passion for the responsibility of command” and is the way leaders “inspire airmen to continue to move forward,” as stated by Gen Michael Ryan in his introduction to APJ’s summer issue.

In my 27-year Air Force career as a follower and a leader, I have seen the best and the worst. Now that I am more of a leader, colleagues often ask me how I recruit and retain hardworking NCOs and officers who always maintain a positive attitude and work ethic. LBWA is the answer.

Lt Col Gregory Miller, USAF
Texas Air National Guard
Lackland AFB, Texas

BOOK REVIEW REVIEWED

I commend Col Eric Ash for his insightful review of the long-awaited biography of John Boyd The Mind of War: John Boyd and American Security by Grant Tedrick Hammond in the Fall 2001 issue of APJ. I take issue with only one of Ash’s statements: “Counterfactual speculation is ahistorical and antischolarly.” Recent counterfactual scholarship by Niall Ferguson, Philip Tetlock, Richard N. Lebow, and others firmly refutes this proposition. Virtual History, a collection of essays edited by Ferguson, is particularly compelling. The forthcoming collection Unmaking the West: Counterfactual Thought Experiments in History, edited by Tetlock, Lebow, and Geoffrey Parker (with some chapters already available in draft form on the Internet), holds the same promise.

Lt Col Ralph Hitchens, USAFR, Retired
Washington, D.C.

LEADERSHIP ISSUE APPRECIATED

I was very impressed with the Summer 2001 issue of APJ, which featured articles on leader-ship. Every one of them contained information I can use. Although APJ’s principal audience is the officer corps, I feel that this journal should be in every office, back shop, and organization on base. Thank you for the inspiration that you provide.

TSgt Matthew W. Denslow
Biloxi, Mississippi


Disclaimer

The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.


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