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Applying Counterinsurgency Theory to Air Base Defense: A New Doctrinal Framework

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Master's thesis

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U.S. air bases in Iraq have been attacked over 1,000 times in just the first two years of the conflict. This prompted the U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations to declare in October 2004 that air base defense was one of the five critical problems without a solution currently facing the U.S. Air Force. Yet a solution exists, but not in current air base defense doctrine where the threat to air bases is presented as a conventional force or saboteur. Instead, the history of air base attacks reveals a different but consistent enemy over the last 50 years the insurgent. Unlike conventional forces which seek decisive military victory and the destruction of the adversarys military resources, the insurgent seeks primarily and ultimately a political victory. To do this, among other efforts the insurgent must wage an information war in order to expand the growth and power of the insurgent organization, often through acts of symbolic violence against targets of strategic value. As such, the air base is a leading target of choice for insurgents. Air bases are key operational and strategic terrain to the United States military arguably the most critical terrain in the current American way of war. With each air base attack, no matter which specific tactic used, the insurgent attempts to strengthen their hold over their own center of gravity the local population while attacking the U.S. center of gravity the political will of the American public. Only a base defense doctrine that targets the insurgents center of gravity in the physical, informational, and moral spectrum will succeed at disrupting insurgent operations and protect the air base, the local population, and the U.S. center of gravity. Counterinsurgency provides a foundation for this proposed doctrine.

Subject Categories:

  • Antiaircraft Defense Systems
  • Unconventional Warfare

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