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Airpower, Chaos, and Infrastructure

Lords of the Rings

Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Felker, USAF
1998, 45 pages
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Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-14

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This interesting study by Lt Col Edward J. Felker, US Air Force, describes a methodology to exploit airpower’s capacities at the operational and strategic levels of war. It focuses on the third ring (infrastructure) of John A. Warden III’s theory of five strategic rings, which the author argues is often neglected in the debate over the importance of leadership (first ring) versus fielded forces (fifth ring). The author emphasizes that lines of communications transmit all of society’s military, economic, and political goods, services, and information. Infrastructure provides the framework that links the various elements of a nation’s power. This infrastructure contains critical nodes that are vulnerable to airpower. By understanding this infrastructure, we better understand an adversary as a complex, adaptive, and open system. Colonel Felker’s paper espouses a practical theory of air -power based on the synergistic relationship among societal structure and lines of communications that comprise infrastructure. Rather than isolating different elements of a society and their concomitant targets, the theory views targets in a more holistic way. Of note, the theory articulates a culturally based paradigm with airpower applied against the linkages within a society’s system processes, rather than a "one-size-fits-all" target list that attacks form. The theory describes a way to think about airpower, not a way to execute its missions.

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