Bombs without Boots

The Limits of Airpower

Anthony M. Schinella
Release Date: February 19, 2019

This book by a long-time U.S. intelligence analyst assesses the military operations and post-conflict outcomes in five cases since the mid-1990s in which the United States and/or its allies used...

Airpower can achieve military objectives—sometimes, in some circumstances

It sounds simple: using airpower to intervene militarily in conflicts, thus minimizing the deaths of soldiers and civilians while achieving both tactical and strategic objectives. In reality, airpower alone sometimes does win battles, but the costs can be high and the long-term consequences may fall short of what decision-makers had in mind.

This book by a long-time U.S. intelligence analyst assesses the military operations and post-conflict outcomes in five cases since the mid-1990s in which the United States and/or its allies used airpower to “solve” military problems: Bosnia in 1995, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Lebanon in 2006, and Libya in 2011. In each of these cases, airpower helped achieve the immediate objective, but the long-term outcomes often diverged significantly from the original intent of policymakers. The author concludes that airpower sometimes can be effective when used to support indigenous ground forces, but decision-makers should carefully consider all the circumstances before sending planes, drones, or missiles aloft.

Praise for Bombs without Boots

Bombs Without Boots is an insightful and useful read for anyone interested in the use of military force abroad. It would be especially useful in professional military education courses where officers from different services-air, ground, and sea-could discuss and debate Schinella’s conclusions.”
—Nathan K. Finney, Parameters

“A mix of history and strategy that significantly adds to the debate of airpower capabilities and limitations. . . operational and strategic air planners should pick up a copy of Bombs without Boots.”
—Maj. Ian S. Bertram, USAF, Air & Space Power Journal

“As a study of airpower, and the nature of modern warfare, Bombs Without Boots is to be read. Nuanced, using both primary and secondary sources, it presents valuable lessons as well as recommendatons, especially at a time when Western aversion to casualties still dictates its enduring dependence on airpower to achieve military objectives.”
—Dr. Guillaume Lasconjarias, Defence Studies

“A new and thoughtful discussion of the limitations and utility of airpower when used without commitment of ground forces. Carefully constructed and exquisitely sourced, Bombs without Boots is an exemplar of what analysis of a thorny and fundamental military issue should look like.”
—Dale C. Rielage, Naval War College Review

“Tony Schinella is one the country’s finest military analysts and with Bombs without Boots
he has contributed an absolute gem to America’s current security debate. Over the past
twenty years, the United States has tried ever more frequently to win wars by employing
air power in support of indigenous ground forces. Until now, no one has ever assessed the
utility of this approach—when it has worked, when it has failed, and why. Schinella’s masterful analysis makes clear both the advantages and disadvantages. It should be a critical component of any debate when Americans contemplate employing this same strategy all over again, as we inevitably will.”
—Kenneth M Pollack, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; author of Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

“An outstanding work by one of America’s premier military analysts on the uses and limitations of airpower in modern conflict. It will be read and re-read by intelligence officers and military strategists for years to come.”
—Michael Vickers, former U.S. undersecretary of defense for intelligence


Anthony M. Schinella is the National Intelligence Officer for Military Issues on the National Intelligence Council. He has spent more than 25 years serving in the U.S. government assessing foreign military forces and operations.