"Billy Mitchell's Dream" (was: sleep and extropian dreams)

Sat, 6 Nov 1999 19:22:10 EST

In a message dated 99-11-03 01:46:21 EST, spike66@ibm.net (Spike Jones) wrote:

> > Planes cannot capture terrain, they can
> > only weaken an enemies ability to resist. Open terrain can be taken by
> > armored forces...that means infantry remain essential even in a modern
> army.
> This *assumes* terrain must be taken and held. Of course this is the
> way it has *always* been done, but I urge you to ask yourself why
> exactly this is necessary. I can imagine many scenarios in which a
> technologically advanced society could get its way, while allowing
> the adversary to keep all their terrain, even allow it to imagine itself as
> having won the war, yet stop whatever behaviour that we found
> objectionable to start with.

In a conversation with friends the other night I was blowing hurricane-force hot air to the effect (i.e. putting forward the proposition) that the military doctrine of the 20th century can be aptly contained between the two polar ideal types of the "surgical air war" and the guerrilla "people's war" (with the added proviso that the Wehrmacht's blitzkrieg in WWII was actually the embodiment of an ideal of 19th century military doctrine). The former, which I called "Billy Mitchell's Dream", was finally achieved - sort of - in the Gulf War. The goal of Billy Mitchell's Dream was to use air power to break an enemy's will to fight, first with carpet bombing of civilian targets and then, as technology developed, with precision guided munitions aimed at key elements of an opponent's C3I and other warfighting capacity itself. Inherent in this doctrine was the notion that the actor wielding such air power would not have to actually control territory, so much as deter international aggression by projecting force beyond its own "home turf." The application of the purest form of this doctrine has actually turned out to be rather limited in military and political terms: The Gulf War was about as close to the scenario originally envisioned by the early proponents of air power as one can get.

The doctrine of "people's war" - Mao's type of war -- was premised on the notion of an ideologically motivated people waging a "war of resistance" against an occupying force. The steady draining of blood throughout the century in the Third World has been due to a large extent to some form or other of "people's war" - although traditional Western political theory would characterize most of these conflicts as civil war.

To a great extent these two paradigms of warfare are skew to each other. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the US involvement in Vietnam, where each side was pursuing a different ideal type of warfare, and at the same time each was being forced into a third, older type of warfare (positional warfare of maneuver) from time to time.

If technology develops to the point where reliable, effective robotic ground-based units are possible (before such things are made irrelevant by even more advanced forms of weaponry and warfare), one can see a projection of Billy Mitchell's Dream backward in time in a sense, into the doctrine of positional warfare of maneuver. In such a situation, the kinds of political and military goals achievable by overwhelming technological superiority might well cause a real shift in the global balance of power - and possibly not a good one. As it has turned out, the old paradigm of air power is primarily a defensive and reactive one. "Robot armies" would be a much more effective tool of aggression... not a pleasant thought.

      Greg Burch     <GBurch1@aol.com>----<gburch@lockeliddell.com>
      Attorney  :::  Vice President, Extropy Institute  :::  Wilderness Guide
      http://users.aol.com/gburch1   -or-   http://members.aol.com/gburch1
                         "Civilization is protest against nature; 
                  progress requires us to take control of evolution."
                                           Thomas Huxley