United States Air Force has a global reach. Afghanistan was bombed by B-1 bombers based in America. Air bombardment inflicts maximum damage at minimal cost. Air Force is the decisive weapon of war. And most powerful weapon for offence and defence. United States Air Force with nuclear and conventional attack capability, with global reach is considered a threat to world security by US detractors, and a guarantor of world peace by Americans and US allies.
In February 2008, senior United States Air Force commanders discussed air strategy to deal with “ascendant powers” seeking to challenge American military superiority. US leadership is cognisant that as America fights low intensity wars, some emerging powers are busy updating their war machines. General T. Michael Mosley Chief of Staff US Air Force did not name specific countries as potential threats, but did single out excessive military spending by Russia and China on advanced military hardware including nuclear missiles, military aircraft, warships and submarines. He also talked about Air Force involvement to fight terrorists worldwide. This was the first “white paper” discussed since 1990 at the Air University, the premier war college of United States Air Force.
General Mosley said, “Ascendant powers flush with new wealth and hungry for resources and status are posturing to contest US military superiority. These adaptive competitors are translating recent conflicts into a new war strategy and operational concepts and doctrines, specifically designed to counter US military power and vulnerabilities.” Having gained sole super power status after the collapse of Soviet Union, The United States of America is determined to maintain it. Russia is not a super power any more, but under Vladimir V Putin, Russian economic growth, military policies and posturing to regain major power status, makes the US uncomfortable.
China’s with 10 percent to 11 percent annual economic growth, 1.2 billion industrious population, large military, military sales to other countries, economic and political influence, industrial and export potential, over one hundred and fifty billion dollars favourable balance of payment position viz-a-viz. the United States, has the potential to be a super power in the near future. China is following a policy of peace. Beijing has no intention to be a world policeman. China’s policy of peace and friendship is paying her rich dividends.
While American role as world policeman, especially of Islamic and Arab countries earned distrust and contempt for the United States. China policy of peace and cooperation has earned her respect. But Washington is busy undermining China’s image of peace and economic development by vicious propaganda on human right issues and alleged unrest in Tibet. US plan to encircle China with American air bases and military presence. Western propaganda to boycott the August Olympic games in Beijing because of Tibet, is to embarrass and harass China.
Several senior officers including Defence Secretary Robert Gates have argued that the US is likely to fight local wars (Iraq and Afghanistan, Taliban and Al-Qaeda guerrilla’s) in the future, and should tailor its military organisations and funding towards irregular warfare and counter insurgency priorities. President Bush, Hillay Clinton and Barak Obama claim that Pakistan’s tribal areas are terrorist havens, which must be taken out. US Air Force will do the needful as and when Washington decides to eliminate the so-called “Al-Qaeda safe heavens” in Waziristan.
Senior officers of the American defence establishment concerned about the rise of China and the renewed militancy of Russia have warned against investing too heavily in low grade warfare capability to fight guerrilla terrorists. They are concerned that more traditional war capabilities are eroding as America gets trapped in fighting guerrilla militants. In his address General Mosley said that the Pentagon should continue focusing on counterinsurgency missions, but the Air Force cannot afford to ignore more conventional war contingencies.
“I believe the probability to fight nation state to nation state is low, but I think there is 100 percent probability we will have to fight their equipment. Many of the sophisticated air defence systems and fighter planes being produced by China and Russia are being bought by militaries through out the world.” The USAF strategic plan is more explicit about the over emphasis on wars like the current conflicts, which could expose the US military to an unwanted surprise. “We should not assume future conflicts will resemble the current fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not loose the ability to project global power and deter nation states from gaining ascendancy and influence,” General Mosley said.
The US Air Force debate missed out that the United States has expended vast resources in terms of men, money and reputation in the on-going conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military adventure in Iraq has already cost 600 billion dollars, and has earned America a bad name. The total cost of the Iraq war, including care of injured soldiers for the rest of their lives, could cost $2 trillion when all is said and done.
Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz and co-author Linda J Bilmes in their study of Iraq and Afghanistan wars, project an expenditure of 2.7 trillion dollars by the year 2017. After the Surge the Iraq war is already costing $12 billion a month, and has caused immense pressure on US economy. Billions are being borrowed to meet the war expenses. Interest on money borrowed to pay Iraq war costs could alone add $816 billion to that bottom line. Such wasteful expenditure could bring the US economy down into a spin, an uncontrolled nosedive, from which recovery will not be easy. In a January 30, 2008 report, the US Congressional Budget office observed that the United States will be committing “significant future resources to the wars, requiring decision-makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces an increasing long-range fiscal challenge.” These figures do not include war’s costs to rest of the world.”
March 2003 US led invasion of Iraq with devastating air bombardments, arson and looting destroyed electricity and water installations and all other utilities. Iraq’s oil refineries, oil industry, factories, hospitals, communication-road and rail, bridges, schools and colleges, and thousands of houses and shops were bombed by the USAF. Washington did not calculate the economic and human damage done to Iraq by American invasion and bombing. It was brushed aside as collateral damage. Charles J Hanley of the Associated Press in his thought provoking commentary writes, ” Flow of blood may be ebbing, but the flood of money into Iraq has risen. It could drown US economy.”
The war on terror is a key challenge. US Air Force destroyed Afghanistan by merciless bombing. Despite Tora Bora bombings using Daisy Cutters, and now use of Predator and Raeper drones destroying Afghan and Pakistani villages with Hellfire missiles, Taliban are far from being defeated. Now USAF generals are talking that the USAF has to be prepared “to offer the president sovereign options across a full spectrum of global or regional conflicts.” In the regional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, USAF had full command of the air, because Iraqi militants and Taliban in Afghanistan had no air power to challenge the USAF. Situation will be different in case of attack on Iran. It will be a challenge, when Russia and China are sucked into and confronted at some future date.
The new strategic plan released at the mid-point of General Mosley’s four year term as chief of staff comes as the entire US military engages in an increasingly intense internal debate over how the armed forces should be restructured when the war in Iraq ends. Hillary Clinton wants troops from Iraq to be deployed in Afghanistan. The US Air Force had asked for the incredibly expensive 381 F-22 Raptor fighters, with a price tag of dollars 140 each i.e. 5.334 trillion dollars.
In its 2009 budget submitted to the US Congress in February 2008, the White House approved the multi-year plans to buy 183 new F-22 Stealth Fighters costing dollars 2.562 trillion dollars. Unable to meet the cost of Iraq war, where on earth is America going to find such massive amounts for the USAF? But the war-industry mafia supports the USAF request for new Raptor fighters and Predator and Raeper drones, even if every American has to pay the debt for generations to come. Iraq war is being fought with borrowed money.
In preparation for the attack on Iran, hundreds F-15 fighter-bombers, B-52 bombers and dozens of deadly B-1 bombers have been deployed at air bases in Qatar, Kuwait, and Deago Garcia in the Indian Ocean. This force could also be used to bomb the Taliban-Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. USAF strategy and plans have implications for Russia, China and Pakistan. The air forces of all the affected countries need to cooperate, and work out joint air plans for the defence of their air space, and national security.
Courtesy: The Nation, 16/4/2008