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Chapter Forty-four. Air Defense

Edward B. Westermann

Subject History » Military History
Study of History » Historiography

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics war

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161497.2010.00046.x


In a recent essay, Robert Citino (2007) describes the “curious position” enjoyed by military history which remains “extremely popular with the American public at large” but “relatively marginalized within professional academic circles.” If military history remains the bastard child of the Academy, then certainly the subject of air defense constitutes one of the most arcane topics within a field known for eclecticism. As a field of research, official histories, government studies, and articles in military and technical journals dominated discussions of early US air defense efforts. Later, scholarly examinations of the subject appeared in the 1960s focusing on the topic of air defense as it related to the larger issue of deterrence theory. The issue of air defense gained renewed public and academic attention in the 1980s with President Ronald Reagan's announcement of the Strategic Defense Initiative; catalyzing a heated debate on the pros and cons of “Star Wars” defenses. The end of the Cold War, however, once again relegated the issue to tertiary importance until the Clinton administration introduced the concept of National Missile Defense to counter potential attacks by “rogue states.” The events of September 11, 2001 and the appearance of combat air patrols over major US cities briefly raised awareness of air defense within the public consciousness, but the subject has once again ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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