The Limits of Air Power: The American Bombing of North Vietnam

Overview


Tracing the use of air power in World War II and the Korean War, Mark Clodfelter explains how U. S. Air Force doctrine evolved through the American experience in these conventional wars only to be thwarted in the context of a limited guerrilla struggle in Vietnam. Although a faith in bombing's sheer destructive power led air commanders to believe that extensive air assaults could win the war at any time, the Vietnam experience instead showed how even intense aerial attacks may not achieve military or political ...
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Overview


Tracing the use of air power in World War II and the Korean War, Mark Clodfelter explains how U. S. Air Force doctrine evolved through the American experience in these conventional wars only to be thwarted in the context of a limited guerrilla struggle in Vietnam. Although a faith in bombing's sheer destructive power led air commanders to believe that extensive air assaults could win the war at any time, the Vietnam experience instead showed how even intense aerial attacks may not achieve military or political objectives in a limited war. Based on findings from previously classified documents in presidential libraries and air force archives as well as on interviews with civilian and military decision makers, The Limits of Air Power argues that reliance on air campaigns as a primary instrument of warfare could not have produced lasting victory in Vietnam. This Bison Books edition includes a new chapter that provides a framework for evaluating air power effectiveness in future conflicts.

Clodfelter analyzes the strategic bombing campaigns of the Vietnam era and reveals the serious pitfalls in the reliance on air power as a primary instrument in a limited war.

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Editorial Reviews

Airpower Journal

"[Clodfelter] has done us all a great favor with this book because he has stimulated thinking about our past and our opportunities for the future. He has graphically told the story of political indecision in the use of military force for limited objectives."—Airpower Journal
Royal Air Force/CAS Reading List

“[The book’s] usefulness for today’s military commanders is to remind them that an initial analysis about a military campaign does not always stand the test of time. The supreme test of a strategic bombing campaign’s efficiency should be measured against a nation’s war aims and this may take some time to emerge.”—Royal Air Force/CAS Reading List

New York Times

"Clodfelter's summary should be required reading for Air Force officers, politicians, and civilian theorists. Equally important, it will enlighten any citizen interested in knowing whether the Air Force is prepared to do its job."—New York Times
New York Times
"Clodfelter's summary should be required reading for Air Force officers, politicians, and civilian theorists. Equally important, it will enlighten any citizen interested in knowing whether the Air Force is prepared to do its job."
Airpower Journal
"[Clodfelter] has done us all a great favor with this book because he has stimulated thinking about our past and our opportunities for the future. He has graphically told the story of political indecision in the use of military force for limited objectives."
Royal Air Force/CAS Reading List
"[The book's] usefulness for today's military commanders is to remind them that an initial analysis about a military campaign does not always stand the test of time. The supreme test of a strategic bombing campaign's efficiency should be measured against a nation's war aims and this may take some time to emerge."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803264540
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 562,213
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Mark Clodfelter is a professor of military history at the National War College in Washington, DC.
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Read an Excerpt



The Limits of Air Power


The American Bombing of North Vietnam


By Mark Clodfelter


University of Nebraska Press


Copyright © 2006

University of Nebraska Press

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8032-6454-2




Introduction


In the 16 years since the initial publication of The Limits of Air Power,
I have continued to study the use of American air power as a political
instrument. The compilation of my thoughts from teaching air power
courses at the Air Force Academy, the School of Advanced Airpower
Studies (SAAS), the University of North Carolina, and the National War
College resulted in the framework for evaluating air power effectiveness
that now appears as this book's epilogue. In presenting that framework I
provide more detailed explanations of "positive" and "negative" political
objectives than I did in the original edition; plus, I examine key variables
that affect whether air power can succeed as a political tool. The reader
may find the additional chapter helpful in understanding my analysis of
the American air campaigns against North Vietnam.

The new chapter refers to several uses of American air power since the
Vietnam War. Indeed, the United States has relied on air power as a vital
instrument of military force in all of its post-Vietnam conflicts, particularly
those of the last decade and a half. Air power alone challenged the
Iraqis for the first 38 days of the 42-day 1991 Persian Gulf War, and America
contributed only air power as a military means to thwart aggression
in Bosnia and Kosovo. To wreck Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the United
States committed a handful of Special Forces troops and large doses of
air power, and an aerial display of "shock and awe" triggered the start
of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In many respects Presidents George H.W.
Bush, William Clinton, and George W. Bush have mirrored the emphasis
on air power shown by Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Both Johnson and Nixon believed that bombing would end a difficult war
in Vietnam without a significant commitment of American ground forces,
although the situation each man faced was certainly different-Johnson
hoped to preclude a ground build-up, while Nixon sought to remove
troops from a war the bulk of the American people no longer supported.
In both cases air power, with its promise of a cheap and speedy victory,
seemed to offer the solution to a thorny predicament.

(Continues...)





Excerpted from The Limits of Air Power
by Mark Clodfelter
Copyright © 2006 by University of Nebraska Press.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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