from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

You Might Have Missed: Airpower in Iraq, Sanctions Effectiveness, and Military Intervention

June 5, 2015

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Department of Defense, Lt. Gen. John W. Hesterman III, Combined Forces Air Component commander (CFACC) press briefing, June 5, 2015.

About the only thing airpower doesn’t do is take, hold, and govern territory. The Iraqis are going to have to do that. And this airpower campaign is going to give them the time and space to do that...

Let’s not give [IS] credit for strategic victory, that’s not what’s happening…I didn’t say that they haven’t made tactical advances, I said they haven’t made strategic victories.

(3PA: This press briefing, the Pentagon’s first one focused on the air campaign since December 14, is worth watching for Lt. Gen. Hesterman’s staunch defense of airpower. In addition, he consistently downplayed IS’ momentum because they are not able to achieve a strategic victory, which the United States did not achieve in Afghanistan or Iraq.)

White House, “On-the-Record Conference Call on the President’s Travel to Germany for the G7 Summit,” June 4, 2015.

Press Secretary Ben Rhodes: Sanctions are a tool that can have an immediate impact in deterring actions by governments like Russia.  But over the longer term, they need to be sustained to steadily inform the calculus of countries like Russia that are acting outside of international norms.

(3PA: There is a great deal of social science research that shows sanctions do not have an immediate effect. Moreover, it was notable that Rhodes did not mention the lack of long term impact that sanctions had on Cuba. Just two months ago, the White House began pursuing normal diplomatic relations with Cuba on the premise that over fifty years of sanctions and isolation had failed to change the calculus of the Castro regime.)

Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Force Breakfast Program, Air Force Association, June 1, 2015.

Gen. Hawk Carlisle: We’re taking a serious toll on their morale and their capability, the Daesh [self-declared Islamic State]. About 4,200 strikes so far and about 14,000 weapons have been dropped. We’ve taken about 13,000 enemy fighters off the battlefield since the September/October time frame. And despite what again is a lot of talk, we have regained territory, about 25 percent in Iraq—the territory that was lost initially has been gained back.

Thomas Szayna, Paul Dreyer, Derek Eaton, and Lisa Saum-Manning, “Army Global Basing Posture,” RAND Corporation, 2015, p. 57.

To assess responsiveness of existing and potential Army bases, we evaluated the ability of current and potential bases to support the deployment of Army forces on a variety of specific (scenario-based) short-warning missions, including deployment for deterrence purposes, response to state failure, humanitarian relief, and counterterrorism. Using the RAND Arroyo Center–developed GPM, we found that there are many good choices for basing Army forces in all regions of the world and that small adjustments to Army posture can improve response time for short-warning contingencies and provide for greater robustness within the overall global posture. The adjustments include greater presence at existing facilities and locations and additional contingency access and rotational bases in states currently not hosting U.S. Army forces. Comparing the improvements in responsiveness with current posture, we found that potential gains are small, usually measured in hours rather than days. Choices regarding new bases depend on assessment of trade-offs between the costs associated with upgrading the facilities at proposed locations and the marginal benefits in responsiveness. Given the limited gains in responsiveness, robustness and strengthening defense relationships provide a more valid justification for the infrastructure improvements that might be needed.

Several specific locations emerged consistently from our analysis as improving responsiveness. Minimal adjustments by upgrading these locations may have substantial impact for robustness and responsiveness. In Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia, Djibouti and Cyprus are the most promising for consideration of greater Army forward basing. Within the greater Middle East area, Oman and UAE emerge as good choices. In East Asia, Guam and Australia offer advantages over current arrangements; Thailand is another possibility. New Army basing arrangements appear to be unnecessary in the Americas, although there are many good choices.

Our analysis showed the importance of airlift and the capability to increase rapidly the MOG of austere airfields as APODs for short-warning missions. But surface lift is a good alternative to airlift for the bigger force packages associated with the more-demanding missions, especially for intraregional contingencies. In regions with highly developed road and rail transport infrastructures, surface lift has many advantages. For example, surface lift meets deterrence demands in Europe. Sealift offers advantages in East Asia and the western Pacific, particularly if we assume strategic warning and the ability to start the movement of sea-based prepositioned equipment prior to the actual crisis.

(3PA: This is an excellent report, especially the appendices, for learning about the nuts-and-bolts of military interventions.)

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