Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Note From AFA President -- LOST, Book Recommendation

Two weeks ago, I sent out a note with a couple of pieces about the Law of the Sea Treaty – see:
Since that time, I’ve heard from a number of senior active duty Admirals as well as many retired Navy leaders.  All universally support ratification of the treaty.  Most of you on the other hand were concerned about sharing a percentage of the profits from under-water oil and mineral exploration with a UN-like organization.  The retired Navy community discounted this and said they would work to change this from the inside.
However, one of you who called me was a “real expert” on the Treaty.  He made the following points:
  1. This treaty sets a dangerous precedent in sharing the wealth among nations.  The US treasury would have to distribute dollars to an international bureaucracy that would transfer the wealth to developing nations.  You could apply the same rules in this treaty to a number of other areas … such as space exploration profits or agriculture … in that many nations do not have a ready supply of arable land … and thus it would be fair for those who do to share their good fortune.
  1. The treaty was first drafted in 1982 … and we have been following it since then by executive order.  We do not need to ratify it in order to explore our continental shelf.
  1. The treat was modified in 1994.  But the original treaty did not permit any modifications.  Some nations signed and ratified the 1982 version; some the 1994 version.  It is not clear to most experts what would happen if the US ratified the 1994 version.
Secondly, I just finished a book by former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General (Ret) Merrill A. McPeak.  It is entitled Hangar Flying.  It details his early life and his first years in the Air Force (1957-1969).  There were several interesting things about the book.  Gen McPeak intersperses small paragraphs of world events as he describes what is happening to him.  Secondly, he reminds us of the dangers of aviation – especially in the late 50s and early 60s.  Third, his section on the Thunderbirds is one of the best I’ve seen.  He takes the time to describe the training process and the challenges of flying as one of the solo pilots.  Finally, he describes his participation in Viet Nam and in the Operation Commando Sabre – known as Misty.  The idea of the operation was to use F-100Fs as fast FACs (forward air controllers) to do the mission of visual reconnaissance and strike control in the higher threat, out-country environment. 
The book is not just about the general’s life and times.  He also provides some pithy commentary about Airpower.  For example – on Viet Nam air operations:
“ … the overall theater commander has ultimate responsibility for target selection, but if we are to win at reasonable cost the process must be “joint.”  That is, the senior airman and his staff should qualify and nominate air targets for the commander’s review and approval.  This did not happen in South Vietnam.  Bright, well-intentioned Army officers, who thought they knew something about air fighting (or thought they didn’t need to), picked all the targets.  The Air Force, with plenty of hands-on, hard-won experience, was excluded from participation.  We’d earned a place at the targeting table but were never given one, a sad failure to make effective joint use of armed forces.”  (p. 330)
“In application, an air campaign can have various phases or aspects, such as establishing control of the air, deep bombardment, or close support for surface forces, but the instruments of airpower – the pilots, aircraft, and munitions – have the inherent flexibility for rapid concentration and retasking.  Therefore, the highest and best use of airpower is achieved only when it comes under central direction.  Had we acted in accordance with this view, we would have considered all air operations in Southeast Asia part of a system and organized an integrated air campaign, led by a senior airman.
In fact, we fought several separate air wars.  MACV, under Westmoreland and later Abrams, ran the in-country air war, using the 1920s model in which the Air Force served as an Army auxiliary – a sort of winged artillery.  In practical terms, our presence meant the Army couldn’t be defeated militarily, a live possibility if we hadn’t been there.  As for the more purposeful uses of airpower, MACV was clueless.
The second air war, the on-and-off bombing of the North, was run by the White House, reaching through the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. Ulysses S. Grant Sharp, head of Pacific Command.  Because of inability or unwillingness to conduct coordinated air operations, the North Vietnamese landscape was subdivided by Admiral Sharp into “route packages,” each package assigned to either the Air Force or Navy.
Chopping up the real estate in this way was a classic mistake.  Air operations enjoy considerable freedom from the constraints of geography, including those synthetic lines people draw on maps, a fact accounting for much of the leverage airpower brings to the fight.  Sadly we gave away this edge, increasing our exposure and driving up losses.” (p. 337-338)
The book is readable and straight-forward.  It is the first part of a planned trilogy of three books.  Gen McPeak has agreed to speak at our Sep Air & Space Conference and will sign his book there.  Let me know what you think of it.
For your consideration.

Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association
"The only thing more expensive than a first-rate Air Force is … a second-rate Air Force."  --  Senate staff member

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