Rhetoric and Reality in Air Warfare: The Evolution of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914-1945 (Princeton Studies in International History and Politics) Kindle Edition
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It is, in fact, an extremely thoughtful and perceptive analysis and one which any modern warrior struggling with buzz-words such as "transformational warfare", "network centric", or "Revolution in Military Affairs", could and should read with profit. All these jargon-laden phrases come down in the end to how the military marries new technologies and the opportunites they present, with the conceptual framework necessary to utilise them properly. This book is concerned with how US and British airmen addressed these conceptual difficulties following the inception of military air power in the First World War.
The author shows very clearly how rhetoric too often exceeded reality, and how doctrine was too often allowed to degenerate into dogma. The causes are many and varied, and in the British case at least had nothing to do with Army control, since the RAF had been independent since 1 April 1918. The book makes clear the unwisdom of simply debating original and revolutionary concepts, whilst ignoring the need to develop essential training programmes and the equipment to support them. The RAF in the inter-war years could "talk the talk", but in 1939 it could not "walk the walk". Specifically it had neglected the primary art of navigation. The USAAF fared little better when its rhetoric was exposed to the fires of war. Both Air Forces eventually modified both their rhetoric and, as the author makes clear, once the neglected fundamentals were addressed, air power proved of decisive importance in winning the war.Read more ›
As an academic work, it does not really involve what I would call empirical research. Sure, she scrutinized tons of documents and R&R contains 1000 references. Stunning to me, book has notes but no bibliography.
What is really proven by this book? OK. the early advocates of air power oversold their promises. No one, especially during 1920s or 1930s could really predict what air power could, or could not, accomplish. Although TBD states in the intro that she will show how "psychology" can explain the weird behavior of air power advocates, no evidence is shown. No psychological explanations are used. A better explanation for the overselling of early Air zealots is institutional. The air power people found themselves under the oppressive thumb of armies, who initially had little sympathy for wild airpower theories (as Mitchell). The air power people needed an institutional framework of their own, they needed resources, they did not need the army. They wanted to do their own thing. Naturally and logically they chafed under the army so they oversold their promises in a blatant attempt to obtain the independence they wanted, needed, dreamed of. None of this is really newsworthy.
To sum up, Ms Biddle's book does not really explain anything that is not already known. Therefore, it does not make solid research. As popular writing, it makes for a dry, fact-filled read. If you want to read the history of strategic bombing, it is already there in the Journal Air Power History, the Strategic Bombing Survey, Neillands, many more. search Amazon, etc.