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Can we Measure the Strategic Effect of Offensive Air Operations? (Ph.d.)


Over the last couple of decades airpower has often been called ‘the political choice’ when military might has been used to enforce political will. This is because airpower is often the preferred instrument of military power used to obtain political objectives. Fighter and bomber aircrafts are used in offensive air operations in order to obtain strategic effects and are in these instances the key instrument that connects military operations to political ambitions. We know from the footage recorded by our fighter and bomber aircrafts that the bombs hit their targets, buildings and equipment are destroyed, and combatants are killed or wounded – all effects directly linked to the opponent’s military capability. Common to all is that the effects are created by striking military targets, since these are the only legal targets according to international humanitarian law. But what about the decision-makers who decide to continue fighting or to give up? How are they affected by offensive air operations? Can we obtain strategic effects through military targets – meaning can we influence the behaviour of the opponent’s decision-makers by striking military targets? Can me measure it and say anything with relative certainty, or are our efforts based on assumptions that we cannot validate? Can we say whether we are winning or losing? Summed up in the main research question of my dissertation: Can we measure the strategic effect of offensive air operations?
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