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

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691089096
ISBN-10: 0691089094
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Anyone interested in understanding the United States Air Force's bombing operations in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan over the past decade should begin by reading this book. Today's aircraft and weapons differ dramatically from those used over the western front in World War I, but--as Tami Davis Biddle points out--ideas about strategic bombing from that era have remained remarkably resilient. . . . Biddle's work should be read by anyone interested in understanding the shaping of ideas behind the use of military force and how these ideas ultimately affect political decisions.

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One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2002

Product Details

  • File Size: 4143 KB
  • Print Length: 417 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0691089094
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 10, 2009)
  • Publication Date: January 10, 2009
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002WJM4L0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,379,648 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The title explains the book. It is intended as a detailed investigation of the evolution of both British and American ideas on strategic bombing in the first half of the twentieth century. It succeeds admirably.

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Biddle argues that British and American airpower pioneers vastly oversold the potential of strategic bombing, culminating in the disastrous initial experience of the Combined Bomber Offensive in World War II. Cognitive and organizational biases contributed to this gap between rhetoric and reality. These biases were so strong that strategic bombing advocates ignored or downplayed clear evidence, and clung to their theories long past the point of rationality. This is a good book, meticulously researched, but is determined to prove its central hypothesis. It should be read in conjunction with other books before making up one's mind about the efficacy of strategic bombing in World War II. Tooze's "Wages of Destruction", for example, suggests that even the cruder forms of area bombing may have taken a larger toll on the German war economy than many historians acknowledge.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This appears to be a meticulously researched book that has been carefully compiled. Yet is this enough to produce a really good history? Perhaps it is not. This book is virtually devoid of any real analysis. It could have, for example, compared, not just identified, the similarities and differences between the U.S. Army Air Corps and the Royal Air Force (RAF) that in the end produced remarkably similar ideas about the use of air power. In reading the chronology presented in this book one would think each service operated in a vacuum, never influencing the other. A little more thought on the author's part would have also revealed that although official doctrine emphasized the role of air power in the tactical support of infantry, the Air Corps was a pretty independent institution. Its budget through the fiscally lean inter-war years usually took a disproportionate amount of the funds appropriated for the army as a whole. In point of fact the Air Corps very much was able to pursue the development of heavy bombers for strategic bombardment in the face of official doctrine. The author hints at this, but appears reluctant to really investigate why this was so. The author could have also investigated more insightfully, in the face of the general failure of strategic bombing to crush civilian morale in the UK, Germany or Japan, why the doctrine of strategic bombing persists to this day. Finally the book is filled with missed opportunities to connect the dots so to speak. For example after WWI, the RAF with the encouragement of Winston Churchill, in the colonel office, undertook to police both Iraq and Trans-Jordan using what was called `air control'. In practice it was really air-armored control since in addition to aircraft the RAF used armored cars extensively to supplement its aircraft.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Author wisely included the history leading up the offensive. She identified key players that I heretofore had not know of their involvement in strategy development. She also expanded my knowledge of the effort by American and British air power war leaders to be independent of the other services in terms of attack & destroy.
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Format: Hardcover
.... RHETORIC AND REALITY does not really deliver on the promise in the title, as academic work or as popular writing.
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.
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