Review in Political Studies Review

Air Power in UN Operations: Wings for Peace by A. Walter Dorn (ed.). Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. 350pp., £75.00 (h/b), ISBN 9781472435460

In this book, the editor Walter Dorn has collected an interesting mix of testimonies and expert views on various aspects of the UN’s aviation experience. The book introduces readers to the operational structure of ‘air power’ in UN missions and familiarises them with related military concepts. After discussing the first context in which UN ‘air force’ was used (the missions in Congo in the 1960s, chapters 1–3), the book takes on a thematic approach and focuses on three core capabilities that air power provides: transportation (discussed in the context of Kashmir, Haiti and the  UN  Humanitarian Air  Service,  chapters 4–6); observation (focusing on air surveillance in general and unmanned air vehicles in particular, chapters 7 and 9, together with a case  study  of  air  surveillance  in  Lebanon, chapter 8); and firepower (ranging from no-fly zones in Iraq and Bosnia, chapters 10 and 11, to the actual use of force in Somalia, Bosnia, Congo and Libya, chapters 12–15). The book concludes by discussing the current state and future perspectives of aviation in UN peacekeeping operations in chapters 16–17. Throughout  the  book,  the  achievements  of UN air power are critically evaluated and the shortcomings – such as problematic coordination with NATO – are highlighted. The book is mainly aimed at military practitioners, but it is also accessible to other readers, such as policy makers who seek guidance or academics who wish to gain an insight into operational challenges and advantages related to air power.
          The book definitely fills a gap in the literature on UN peacekeeping. It aims – successfully – to approach the UN aviation experience from various perspectives, which increases its attractiveness for a wider audience. However, this eclectic character also has its downside: some authors adopt a more critical approach than others (see, for example, William Dean III in chapter 12), while some authors focus in detail on domestic decision making related to UN missions, which is not always relevant for an international audience (e.g. Walter Dorn in chapter 2 and Kevin Spooner in chapter 3). Some issues, although very interesting, are repeated throughout the book, such as the arguments in favour of unmanned aerial vehicles (chapters 7 and 9). Finally, while the book offers an excellent operational insight into UN air power, it does not focus on the normative frameworks surrounding such operations, a topic that could have provided a complementary point of view. Nevertheless, the book offers a fluently written, easily accessible point of departure for anyone working on UN air power–related themes.

Nele Verlinden
(KU Leuven)


Source:   Verlinden, N. (2016). Book Review: A. Walter Dorn (ed.), Air Power in UN Operations: Wings for Peace. Political Studies Review, 14(2), 257–257. and

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