Do The Freakin Math

Liberals and conservatives alike frequently rely on limited evidence, personal experience, religious beliefs or gut emotions to determine solutions for complex problems. From immigration to global warming - taxes to terrorism - or health care to free trade - analytical study is rare. Science based policy making isn’t the way of Washington. And the consequences are catastrophic. Change is urgently needed. Just do the freakin’ math.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

USAF Memorial vs The other ‘high Ground’.

The new US Air Force Memorial was dedicated today overlooking Arlington National Cemetery. There can be no doubt regarding the central role that US air power played in defeating the Nazi’s or Saddam’s Republican Guard, or, the saving of countless lives of US ground troops. But there can also be no doubt that in defeating terrorism superior air power is worse than useless.

Bomber crews targeting Hitler’s forces had a 100% fatality rate if they flew over 25 missions. Today’s fly boys enjoy a nearly 100% survival rate from enemy fire on nearly every mission they fly. This air ‘invincibility’ may be the single greatest contributor to the terror inspired tactics acts. It’s suicide for our enemies to fight us on the battle field. It’s no mystery why the dawn suicide vests and use razor blades and commercial airliners to fight back.

Laser guided smart bombs significantly reduce pilot risk and the need for mass bombings which would certainly increase collateral damage. But smart bombs still result in relatively large numbers of civilian deaths on the ground. Using President Bush’s own lowball estimate of some 50,000 Iraqi deaths since the 2003 invasion (other reports suggest as many as 900,000 Iraqi deaths) most agree that roughly 1/3 of those killed, died as a result of ‘coalition forces’, and many if not most of these from US air power.

John Carey (Monumental Tributes 10-14-06) sees the new Memorial/monument as “glowing shafts of arced and pointed metal” symbolizing “jet fighters or perhaps missiles arching toward the sky”. Others see these slivers representing the debris of civilization blown into the heavens by unprecedented destructive air power… or the ribs of victims --minus their flesh and organs -- compliments of a USAF ordinance.

UNICEF and other respectable entities estimate that as many as 500,000 Iraqi child died as a result of US sanctions in the decade after the first gulf war. These deaths were largely a result of US air power imposed sanctions and are on top of the innocent Iraqi lives lost from the deliberate US targeting of Iraqi water and Sanitation facilities prior to the first Iraq war. US war planners hoped Iraqi civilian death and misery from the anticipated disease burden would spark an overthrow of Saddam. The mass deaths of innocent Iraqi Muslims were and still are a multiplying force for Al Qaeda recruiting and general anti US sentiment world wide.

I haven’t done the math but I’m reasonably sure that while the USAF can claim credit for saving the lives of more innocent civilians than any other single military institution in world history it probably comes in second, only to Hitler’s SS, in killing innocent civilians.

The US Air Force and our space satellites do effectively control the high ground for any traditional field of battle. But, but they do not give us the moral high ground to win the war on terror.

Like a hammer, the USAF can be a tool for great good (stopping mass murder in Darfur or mass starvation in the Sudan) or great harm (like more preemptive shock and awe strikes that can only kill more innocent civilians and make others hate us even more). The problem with having such a powerful hammer is that everything looks like a nail (Iran? North Korea?).

US air superiority supposedly began with the invention of a couple of bicycle mechanics at Kitty Hawk. Given our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and oil links to both the war on terror and the war in Iraq one might wonder what the Wright brothers might have thought of the evolution of their invention. I’m guessing if they were alive today they’d be working on alternative energy sources to free us from our oil addition – or -- they would be actively lobbying against the use of technology to develop even more sophisticated nuclear weapons for future use.

Let one thing be clear. Our amazing USAF was powerless in protecting us on 9-11. In fact they may have been used to bring down civilian air craft. The most advanced stealth bombers or fighterplanes will be powerless in protecting us against suitcase nukes, the bird flu, global warming, or global economic recession. The USAF Monument should be in memory of the great skill, sacrifice and service that US air men and women displayed in the past. It offers nothing for the future. The future will be won by the moral high ground of human rights… not the tools of American might.


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