Airpower versus Terrorism: Three Case Studies   [open pdf - 690KB]

"This study analyzes the effectiveness of airpower versus terrorism using three case studies. The first case study is Operation El Dorado Canyon, America's response to Libyan state-sponsored terrorism. The second case study is Operation Infinite Reach, America's cruise missile response to the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The third case study is the Israeli use of airpower versus the second Palestinian intifada of September 2000. The case studies address multiple common questions: What was the context?; Why was airpower selected?; How was airpower employed?; What were the objectives and were they achieved?; and, finally, What were the lessons learned? Additionally, each case study looks at the impact of military action on domestic opinion and third-party opinions. Overall, these three case studies reveal a spectrum of responses with which states can respond to terrorism. Operation Infinite Reach shows that when a nation is unwilling to commit itself seriously against an enemy, the message it sends is one of timidity and inertia. Operation El Dorado Canyon showed Muammar Gadhafi that his support of terrorism would not come without cost. Further, Libya offered multiple high-value targets that could be destroyed -- thus revealing a major weakness of states that sponsor terrorism. The Israeli use of air and ground power to combat terrorism has been effective, but this case also shows that military power alone cannot stop terrorism; at some point diplomacy must prevail."

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