JFQ Book Review: Ben Lambeth’s “Airpower in the War Against ISIS”

Ben Lambeth’s provocative book Airpower in the War Against ISIS is one I’ve long recommended.  But now I’ll tell you why!  My review of it was just published by Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ) and you can find it here.

As a sneak preview, I’ll tell you Dr. Lambeth “uses an enormous amount of publicly available official documentation, academic scholarship, as well as media reports and commentary. What makes his writing particularly interesting, however, are the scores of personal interviews he conducted along with emails he exchanged with participants—especially U.S. Air Force officers—about the operation, a style that has become something of his trademark.”

Here’s another extract:

Lambeth makes clear that despite ultimately achieving success, “ill-advised leadership directives, in this case an inappropriate gradualist strategy at the campaign’s start that misunderstood the enemy and wrongly insisted on ROE intended for a different kind of war,” cost lives. He bluntly charges:

“[T]here were the incalculable but monumental human costs that were imposed by the war’s overly prolonged and pointless early incrementalism. Without seeking at this point to provide even a rough estimate of the number of innocent Iraqis and Syrians who were killed or wounded throughout the more than four-year-long campaign, the anemic start that President [Barack] Obama insisted on at the effort’s outset and sustained with no truly consequential escalation for two more years produced millions of displaced civilians and caused a profusion of noncombatant fatalities in both countries, most of them at the hands of [IS] marauders rather than as the result of any errant coalition bombs.”

Given the Department of Defense’s recent issuance of its Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response-Action Plan (and its implementing directive), I believe Airpower in the War Against ISIS is a must-read for military professionals and their lawyers wanting to avoid the kind of missteps Lambeth identifies as marring the early part of the campaign against the Islamic State. 

Take a look at the review for yourself, but better yet, read the book and make your own assessment!

Remember what we like to say on Lawfire®: gather the facts, examine the law, evaluate the arguments – and then decide for yourself!

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