Limited War Through Airpower and the Political Exploitation of POWs
AIR FORCE INST OF TECH WRIGHT-PATTERSONAFB OH
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This study examines the impact of US prisoners of war POWs upon the manner in which the United States conducts limited wars. POWs have long been dealt with as an afterthought in warfare. US failure to treat the POW issue with importance led to numerous occasions of shortsighted policy and unrealistic limited war goals. Some of these occasions include the Vietnam War, the 1983 retaliatory air strikes in Lebanon, and the 1995 Operation Deny Flight missions over Bosnia. The adverse impact of enemy exploitation of US POWs can compromise US limited war goals. Failure to anticipate POW exploitation and the political implications of POWs helped cause the failure of US policy during the Vietnam War and the Lebanon situation, and jeopardized US goals in Bosnia. The United States must always anticipate the possibility of US servicemen becoming POWs in limited war situations. Although such a possibility is one risk of the military profession, the nation owes its servicemen more than long years in squalid prisoner of war camps in exchange for their dedication to Americas goals and the defense of US interests. In political terms, the worth of a US POW in the hands of an enemy goes beyond the value of their life. A US prisoner of war represents significant political leverage for an enemy.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics