Limits to airpower
During the Gulf War the proponents for air power thought they could win the war by air strikes alone. Air strikes in Iraq and Kuwait started on 17 Jan 1991 and continued until 24 Feb 1991. Many of the air power advocates asked for more time because they were convinced that air power alone would force the Iraqis to leave Kuwait.
Early air power prophets in the U.S. thought that air power alone could win wars. Air power in the Gulf War was definitely a triumph for technology development programs. Stealth aircraft, “smart” bombs, Patriot missiles, the Global Positioning System, F/A-18 Hornets, and other new technologies, supplemented older technologies such as the B-52 Stratofortress and helicopters to destroy a war machine that was regarded as dangerous but in the end, was not advanced enough to stand up to coalition air and ground. forces.
In Libya, recent experiences have spotlighted airpower¹s two essential weaknesses. The first is that without the use of ground forces even total dominance of the air is insufficient to force a conflict to conclusion. Second, the rebel forces lack the means — numbers, training, firepower, heavy weapons, command & control system, ammunition, training, leadership and organization — to capitalize on the effects of airstrikes.
Success in Libya may not see U.S. forces on the ground but unless, as in Kosovo, there is a threat of a ground campaign there is no incentive for the Libyan forces to leave their bunkers and quit the fight.