Leadership: May 8, 2000

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Since the end of World War II, when the US Air Force was split off from the Army, the army and navy have considered this upstart service a junior partner in the American defense establishment. No longer. Of the fourteen senior military commands, Air Force generals now hold six of them. Army generals hold three and the Navy and Marines cover the rest. Five of these commands are in Joint Chiefs of Staff, the others the CINCs, the commanders of the various regions in the world where U.S. forces are deployed, or could be. The CINCs command all military forces in their regions. The Air Force elbowed the Army out of the way through astute Pentagon politicking, clever public relations and by taking advantage of changes in the way Americans think wars should be fought. Air Force generals positioned themselves as high-tech defense intellectuals. In peace time, you can get away with that and make the most of it. Air Force PR has always stressed air power as the next big thing and a more effective way to fight wars. Since Vietnam, Americans have been increasingly reluctant to risk American troops in combat and the Air Force pushed their strategy of long distance combat, using bombers and not ground forces. Even though the Air Forces claims of air power effectiveness have been consistently revealed as hype, the Air Force managed to make the most of their bombing before the negative reports came along months after the fighting stopped. The Army has not been able to counter this Air Force strategy. At least not yet. It's all a game, although If a major war comes along everyone will have to play by reality rules, not press releases and Pentagon politics. 


 


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