Air Power as a Coercive Instrument

Air Power as a Coercive Instrument

Daniel L. Byman
Matthew C. Waxman
Eric Larson
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mr1061af
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  • Book Info
    Air Power as a Coercive Instrument
    Book Description:

    Coercion--the use of threatened force to induce an adversary to change its behavior--is a critical function of the U.S. military. U.S. forces have recently fought in the Balkans, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa to compel recalcitrant regimes and warlords to stop repression, abandon weapons programs, permit humanitarian relief, and otherwise modify their actions. Yet despite its overwhelming military might, the United States often fails to coerce successfully. This report examines the phenomenon of coercion and how air power can contribute to its success. Three factors increase the likelihood of successful coercion: (1) the coercer's ability to raise the costs it imposes while denying the adversary the chance to respond (escalation dominance); (2) an ability to block an adversary's military strategy for victory; and (3) an ability to magnify third-party threats, such as internal instability or the danger posed by another enemy. Domestic political concerns (such as casualty sensitivity) and coalition dynamics often constrain coercive operations and impair the achievement of these conditions. Air power can deliver potent and credible threats that foster the above factors while neutralizing adversary countercoercive moves. When the favorable factors are absent, however, air power--or any other military instrument--will probably fail to coerce. Policymakers' use of coercive air power under inauspicious conditions diminishes the chances of using it elsewhere when the prospects of success would be greater.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4828-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. FIGURES
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. TABLES
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. SUMMARY
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  8. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    Coercion—the use of threatened force to induce an adversary to behave differently than it otherwise would—offers considerable promise to mitigate, or even to solve, many security challenges facing the United States in the coming decades.¹ Yet coercion through military force rarely works as planned. Although U.S. military forces are without equal today, recent setbacks in Iraq, Bosnia, and elsewhere suggest that using this overwhelming force to shape even a relatively weak adversary’s behavior is difficult.

    Coercion is simple in concept but complex in practice. This study, which seeks to improve the practice of coercion, is organized around several...

  9. PART 1. DEFINITIONS AND THEORY

    • Chapter Two HOW TO THINK ABOUT COERCION
      (pp. 9-26)

      Coercion is a commonly used term with no agreed-upon meaning. This chapter is theoretical, with the intention of providing a foundation for the rest of the study that includes the perspective of the warfighter.

      We begin by defining coercion and noting the relationships among the term’s many permutations. We then describe how to think better about this complex phenomenon, noting the value of a simple cost-benefit model and its many limitations. We then explore the limits in relevance and methodological problems common to previous studies of coercion.

      Past studies of coercion that were based on unique geopolitical conditions are of...

  10. PART 2. SUCCESSFUL COERCIVE DIPLOMACY:: LESSONS FROM THE PAST

    • Chapter Three EXPLAINING SUCCESS OR FAILURE: THE HISTORICAL RECORD
      (pp. 29-56)

      Understanding the coercive use of air power demands insight into coercive diplomacy in general and the strengths and weaknesses of air power in particular. The successful coercive use of air power requires favorable conditions and often depends more on the strategy chosen by the adversary than on the overall might of the coercer. This chapter attempts to identify the conditions conducive to successful coercive diplomacy, paying particular attention to the potential contributions of air power. It also notes common challenges that may lead to failure.

      The analysis reveals that the success of coercive operations is often a product of one...

  11. PART 3. COERCIVE DIPLOMACY TODAY

    • Chapter Four DOMESTIC CONSTRAINTS ON COERCION
      (pp. 59-86)

      Part Two examined factors that promote or inhibit successful coercive diplomacy. Occasional references were made in some of the historical vignettes to various domestic influences that complicated coercion or the coercive use of air power. Domestic factors can severely undermine coercive diplomacy by causing decisionmakers to restrict the scope and scale of a military campaign, place limits on escalation, and encourage adversaries to resist U.S. pressure.

      This chapter looks at domestic constraints on coercion. It begins by exploring how, and under what conditions, domestic politics can complicate coercive diplomacy by restricting military operations. It then addresses how an adversary might...

    • Chapter Five COERCION AND COALITIONS
      (pp. 87-106)

      The United States will frequently conduct coercive operations as part of a multinational coalition.¹ Crises in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, and Iraq are only the latest instances where coalition unity (or the lack thereof) proved a key factor in the success or failure of coercion. Coalition partners may bring military, diplomatic, or other forms of support, but coalition-building and maintenance can also undermine coercive threats and offer adversaries counter-coercive options.

      With a few exceptions, all coercive military operations carried out by U.S. forces since the end of the Second World War have been prosecuted under the auspices of international organizations or...

    • Chapter Six COERCING NONSTATE ACTORS: A CHALLENGE FOR THE FUTURE
      (pp. 107-126)

      Humanitarian operations and crises involving confrontations with nonstate actors—communal militias, violent political movements, and other organized political actors that are not nation-states—are increasingly common in the post-Cold War world. In 1991, the United States intervened in post-Operation Desert Storm fighting in Iraq, providing aid and assistance to the country’s Kurdish and Shi’a populations. In 1992 and 1993, it sent combat troops to help stave off a humanitarian disaster in Somalia. And in 1995, it deployed forces to the former Yugoslavia to solidify a peace agreement between rival ethnic groups.

      Coercion will be a critical foreign policy tool in...

  12. PART 4. COERCION AND THE U.S. AIR FORCE

    • Chapter Seven IMPLICATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE USAF
      (pp. 129-140)

      Air power can play a vital role in successful coercion. Air power’s ability to destroy a range of targets, and its growing capabilities in intelligence and precision strike offer new options to military and political decisionmaking. These capabilities, however, do not always lead to more favorable outcomes for the United States. Even if a particular target is destroyed successfully, the change in behavior sought—the true object of coercion—often fails to occur. Understanding this relationship between a target’s destruction and the desired outcome is difficult and requires insights into culture, psychology, and organizational behavior.

      Air power’s unique attributes allow...

  13. Appendix A CASES EXAMINED IN THIS STUDY
    (pp. 141-148)
  14. Appendix B CASES AND CONDITIONS FOR SUCCESS
    (pp. 149-154)
  15. Appendix C COERCIVE ATTEMPTS AND COMMON CHALLENGES
    (pp. 155-160)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 161-174)