Gods in Flight

Think airpower is the military strategy cure-all? Martin van Creveld begs to differ. His latest offering argues that aerial armaments have failed to confer a decisive advantage, tricking aggressors into believing that victory will be easy.

Issue: July-Aug 2011

Martin van Creveld, The Age of Airpower (New York: PublicAffairs, 2011), 512 pp., $35.00.

[amazon 158648981X full]ALMOST EXACTLY a hundred years ago, a young Italian airman dropped a couple of grenades from a small biplane on Turkish soldiers in the war between Italy and the Ottoman Empire for control of the largely desert territory. The grenades were difficult to use, and the crew had to pull out the pins with their teeth. But according to most accounts of the history of aerial warfare, this launched the bombing age. Now, a century later, expensive high-tech fighter-bombers are patrolling over the same desert areas, this time destroying the ground units of Colonel Qaddafi’s discredited army (and occasionally civilians). The power of the weapons and how they are delivered has been transformed. The questions that first arose in 1912 about the effectiveness and morality of air attacks remain.

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