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Desert Storm: War, Time, and Substitution Revisited

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In my book The Air War in Southeast Asia Case Studies of Selected Campaigns, the final chapter, entitled On War, Time, and the Principle of Substitution, is devoted to a discussion of the powerful roles that time and substitution play in the art of warfare. Traditionally, nations under attack--given sufficient time--effect both product and factor substitution to a degree that in large measure attenuates the economic impact of military strikes against their industrial and logistics sectors. The chapter cites examples of this phenomenon from World War II, the Korean conflict, and the protracted war in Southeast Asia. The above analysis calls for a return to the concept of blitzkrieg. The greatest successes of both air and ground forces in modern times came in short, intense combined-arms campaigns the German blitzkriegs of World War II, the Normandy invasion, and the Six-Day War in the Mideast, to name a few. These successes suggest that military doctrine should be structured so that airpower is used in conjunction with other forces in fast and dramatic moves that give no opportunity for the principle of substitution to come into play. It certainly appears that the experience in Operation Desert Storm was consistent with that hypothesis. Without a doubt, the coalition succeeded in rapidly crushing Iraqs military forces in Kuwait and southern Iraq, and airpower was a decisive factor in this success. The entire campaign lasted only 43 days and required only 100 hours of ground warfare to rout Iraqi forces completely. The campaign thus stands as an embodiment of the philosophy advocated in my chapter On War, Time, and the Principle of Substitution. Although coalition air forces performed brilliantly, it later became apparent that we had not completely overcome the limitations of airpower revealed in past wars.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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