Tracing the use of air power in World War II and the Korean War, Mark Clodfelter explains how U. S. Air Force doctrine evolved through the American experience in these conventional wars only to be thwarted in the context of a limited guerrilla struggle in Vietnam. Although a faith in bombing's sheer destructive power led air commanders to believe that extensive air assaults could win the war at any time, the Vietnam experience instead showed how even intense aerial attacks may not achieve military or political objectives in a limited war. Based on findings from previously classified documents in presidential libraries and air force archives as well as on interviews with civilian and military decision makers, The Limits of Air Power argues that reliance on air campaigns as a primary instrument of warfare could not have produced lasting victory in Vietnam. This Bison Books edition includes a new chapter that provides a framework for evaluating air power effectiveness in future conflicts.
Mark Clodfelter is a professor of military history at the National War College in Washington, DC.
"[Clodfelter] has done us all a great favor with this book because he has stimulated thinking about our past and our opportunities for the future. He has graphically told the story of political indecision in the use of military force for limited objectives."—Airpower Journal
"Clodfelter's summary should be required reading for Air Force officers, politicians, and civilian theorists. Equally important, it will enlighten any citizen interested in knowing whether the Air Force is prepared to do its job."—New York Times
“[The book’s] usefulness for today’s military commanders is to remind them that an initial analysis about a military campaign does not always stand the test of time. The supreme test of a strategic bombing campaign’s efficiency should be measured against a nation’s war aims and this may take some time to emerge.”—RoyalAir Force/CAS Reading List
"Both as an important study of the Vietnam War and as a study of the nature of modern warfare, I would heartily recommend The Limits of Air Power. "—Real Clear History