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Two strains of debate over American air power have emerged since Desert Storm. Land warriors insist that the proper role of air power remains the support of surface operations and that only "boots on the ground" can assure military victory. Airmen counter that, thanks to stealth and precision attack capability, air power can do the bulk of work needed to determine war outcomes, enabling other force elements to achieve their goals with minimum loss of life. Insofar as that argument has merit, it suggests that the primary role of land power may now be increasingly to secure a win rather than to achieve it, at least in the most stressful situations of high-intensity conflict. It also suggests that the air assets of all services, in appropriate combination, now command a strong presumption of being the tool of choice as the supported rather than the supporting combat element.

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Originally published in: Strategic Review, v. 25, no. 4, pp. 42-55.

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