For too long, Western governments have believed they could earn a cheap victory by using air power alone. But experience shows this is not enough
By Patrick Cockburn
"Air strikes are becoming the main Western means of controlling the Middle East and South Asia without putting soldiers on the ground where they might suffer politically damaging casualties. Britain, France and the US have used only airpower to wage war in Libya over the last four months. The US is also stepping up its air offensive in Yemen, where the CIA is to start operating Predator drones alongside the US military, and is continuing its drone attacks in north-west Pakistan. Even in Iraq, where the US is supposedly ending its military commitment, it stunned people near the southern city of Amarah last week by unexpectedly launching bombing raids.
The use of air forces as colonial policemen in the region has a long and bloody history, but has often proved ineffective in the long term. A Nato pilot who bombed Ain Zara south of Tripoli earlier this month almost certainly did not know that his attack came almost exactly 100 years after the very same target had been hit by two small bombs dropped by an Italian plane in 1911....
From the moment, 100 years ago, when Sub-Lieutenant Gavotti threw his grenades over the side of his cockpit, Western governments have been attracted by the idea that they can win wars by air power alone. Victory will be cheap without committing ground troops. Only late in the day does it become clear, as we are now seeing in Libya, that air power by itself hardly ever wins wars."