Without the might of the U.S. Air Force, the battle would be lost
By ERIC MARGOLIS, Edmonton Sun, July 29, 2007
Washington is buzzing with talk about withdrawing U.S. military forces from Iraq, but nobody seems to have told the United States Air Force. Far from packing their duffel bags, America's air warriors appear to be planning a long stay in Iraq.
Why else would the USAF be expanding its air bases in Iraq, including lengthening a second 11,000-foot runway at Balad Airbase, its nerve centre for Iraq operations? Washington hopes to retain control of oil-rich Iraq by using American air power and native troops -- the same formula employed by the British Empire.
The U.S. Air Force recently moved new squadrons of advanced F-16Cs and A-10 ground attack aircraft to Iraq. Powerful B-1B heavy bombers have been repositioned from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean to the Gulf, an hour flying from central Iraq.
The $220 million B-1s, built to attack the Soviet Union, carry up to 41,000 lbs. of bombs. Their deadly accurate GPS-guided 500-lb and 1,000-lb bombs have inflicted heavy casualties on resistance fighters and, inevitably, civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Without U.S. fighters, B1 and B-52 heavy bombers, and AC-130 gunships flying top cover, over-stretched U.S. infantry in Iraq and U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan would face defeat. Western forces could not protect their long, vulnerable supply lines against local guerillas.
U.S. and NATO bases would become little Dienbienphus. Afghanistan's previous invaders, the British and Soviets, were defeated by their inability to protect their long lines of communications.
By contrast, the mighty USAF maintains 24-hour combat air patrols that can respond within minutes to calls from ground units, directing devastating cluster munitions, smart bombs, and cannon fire onto attackers.
Consequently, assaults on U.S. and NATO ground units are near suicidal affairs. So Iraqi and Afghan resistance forces have adopted as their weapon of choice roadside bombs command-detonated by a single fighter from a safe distance.
U.S. and NATO units, under mounting attack, are increasingly calling in close air support and bombing runs. This over-reliance on air support is causing civilian casualties to mount sharply in Afghanistan and Iraq. Guerilla forces can be suppressed and dispersed by air power, but not decisively defeated.
Whenever the U.S. and NATO claim "100 dead suspected Taliban" or "50 dead Iraqi insurgents," many are actually dead civilians. There is no way fighter and bomber pilots can distinguish between un-uniformed fighters and civilians.
Remarkably, U.S. satellites can read licence plates through clouds, smoke, rain or foliage, and track human infrared signatures. Drones, U-2 spy planes and a fleet of electronic warfare aircraft provide unblinking, 24/7 "eyes in the sky" over almost all of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The U.S. Air Force has become to the American Imperium what the Royal Navy was to the British Empire, the source of its might, and means of power projection.
While the Royal Navy ruled the waves, the USAF can today reach and strike any point on the globe with devastating accuracy, speed and force.
In fact, the USAF is now so technologically advanced it is perhaps two generations ahead of the rest of the world. Russia has advanced technology and anti-stealth systems on the drawing board, but cannot yet afford to deploy them. Russia, China, and India are unlikely to catch up with U.S. military technology for the next 25 years -- if ever.
The U.S. accounts for 50% of total global military spending, and is simply too far ahead. Only Europe could compete militarily, had it the will. In fact, America's air power has enjoyed total air superiority since 1943.
The USAF also has the U.S. military's smartest, best educated officers. The U.S. Army's thankless role has become pinning down enemy units so they can be destroyed by the USAF's smart bombs.
The only real challenge facing the USAF comes from its old enemy, the U.S. Navy, which is determined not to let the flyboys blitz its budgets and steal all the glory.