In his landmark 1921 book “The Command of the Air,” the Italian military theorist Giulio Douhet argued that the advent of airpower would dramatically alter the nature of war. Until that point in history, the spatial limitations of ground and sea combat meant that “it was impossible to invade the enemy’s territory without first breaking through his defensive lines.” But Douhet perceived that this fundamental constraint no longer applied. “[F]or now it is possible to go far behind the fortified lines of defense without first breaking through them,” Douhet explained. “It is air power which makes this possible.”
The upshot of Douhet’s analysis—that the distinction between the battlefront and the home front had disintegrated—was terrifying. Yet Douhet saw in it reason for hope. If a country could attain unchallenged command of the air, it could launch a rapid assault against the industrial plant and infrastructure of its adversary, destroying the people’s will to resist. Gone would be lengthy, mass-casualty wars of attrition like World War I. With command of the air, a country could achieve decisive victory quickly and at limited cost.
Read the full article in Lawfare.
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