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Understanding Airpower: Bonfire of the Fallacies

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This study rests upon two vital assumptions, both of them anathema to post-modern minds. First, it believes that historical truth can be found, or at least approached. Second, it believes in the utility of ambitious theory. The discussion here flatly rejects the proposition that history simply comprises competing fables told by historians with interests and attitudes. Similarly, it dismisses almost out-of-hand the belief that one theory is worth about as much as any other, which is not very much. This analysis seeks to find plausibly verifiable truth and, as a consequence, to identify error, the fallacies in the secondary title. To understand airpower, most especially American airpower, is a task imbued with high significance for national and international security. But, this task is harassed and frequently frustrated by both unsound history and incompetent theorizing. The problem is that those who debate airpower typically seek the history that they can use to advantage, not the history that strives honestly to be true. As for the theory of airpower, it never did take off safely it continues to fly in contested skies or to taxi indecisively on the runway. No single short study can aspire to correct for 90 years of poor history and shoddy theory, but it can at least make a start. This is a two-step inquiry. First, the varied character of the challenge posed by major fallacies is identified and outlined. Not all fallacies are stamped from the same mold. Some are sincerely held, others are merely expedient beliefs, but most either are, or become, both. The human ability to adhere to that which serves what we believe to be our interests is all but infinite. The second step is to find and expose major fallacies about airpower. Eight are selected for trial by critical analysis and empirical verification. Phillip S. Meilinger has already made a most useful contribution to the necessary mission, and this study is in his debt.

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  • Aircraft
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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