Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on al Qaeda

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Predators is a riveting introduction to the murky world of Predator and Reaper drones, the CIA's and U.S. military's most effective and controversial killing tools. Brian Glyn Williams combines policy analysis with the human drama of the spies, terrorists, insurgents, and innocent tribal peoples who have been killed in the covert operation—the CIA's largest assassination campaign since the Vietnam War era—being waged in Pakistan's tribal regions via remote control aircraft known as drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles. Having traveled extensively in the Pashtun tribal areas while working for the U.S. military and the CIA, Williams explores in detail the new technology of airborne assassinations. From miniature Scorpion missiles designed to kill terrorists while avoiding civilian “collateral damage” to prathrais, the cigarette lighter–size homing beacons spies plant on their unsuspecting targets to direct drone missiles to them, the author describes the drone arsenal in full. Evaluating the ethics of targeted killings and drone technology, Williams covers more than a hundred drone strikes, analyzing the number of slain civilians versus the number of terrorists killed to address the claims of antidrone activists. In examining the future of drone warfare, he reveals that the U.S. military is already building more unmanned than manned aerial vehicles. Predators helps us weigh the pros and cons of the drone program so that we can decide whether it is a vital strategic asset, a “frenemy,” or a little of both.

The Air War: 1939-1945 (Potomac Books’ Cornerstones of Military History series)

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Originally published in 1980 and still the best one-volume aerial history of World War II, Richard Overy’s classic work remains profound and highly origi-nal. Far from just an account of the various air battles, Professor Overy treats the air war as a complex and fascinating historical web, woven out of grand strategy, economic mobilization, the recruitment of science, and the nature of leadership and training. Analyzing the achievements and failures of the aerial component of the war, he places it in perspective by explaining the role aviation played in the overall conflict. He points out that while the Axis powers tended to limit their use of air power to one major role, such as support of ground forces, the Allies exploited all aspects of aerial doctrine: air defense, strategic bombardment, air-naval cooperation, and ground support. He also demonstrates how aircraft ensured that the Second World War became a people’s war and how success in the air war was, in a very real sense, a test of a nation’s modernity. The air war was won and lost not only in the skies but also in the factories and the research institutes. Finally, the author dispels many popular myths and in particular reveals that although air power in the form of strategic bombing by itself did not deter-mine the war’s final outcome, its use dramatically illustrated the complexities of managing modern war. Richard Overy’s The Air War thus deepens our under-standing not only of World War II but of military history in general.

Tempered Steel: The Three Wars of Triple Air Force Cross Winner Jim Kasler

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Perry Luckett and Charles Byler have written the first biography of Col. James Kasler, who is the only three-time recipient of the Air Force Cross, the second highest medal for wartime valor. Kasler served as an eighteen-year-old B-29 tail gunner in World War II, became a legendary jet ace in Korea, and was so famous in Vietnam that he was known by name in the White House. Major General Hoyt Vandenberg put Kasler, along with Chuck Yeager and Robbie Risner, as “head and shoulders above the rest as stick-and-rudder pilots.”

Kasler planned and led the most effective bombing mission of the Vietnam War. He was shot down and had to endure six and a half years of torture in a POW camp. His courage under those brutal conditions earned him the respect of such men as John McCain and James Stockdale. This book captures the essence of a genuine American hero who fought in three wars and traces the history of the U.S. Air Force during its formative period.

Chained Eagle: The Heroic Story of the First American Shot Down over North Vietnam

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On August 5, 1964, while Lt. (jg) Everett Alvarez was flying a retaliatory air strike against naval targets in North Vietnam, antiaircraft fire crippled his A-4 fighter-bomber, forcing him to eject over water at low altitude. Alvarez relates the engrossing tale of his capture by fishermen, brutal treatment by the North Vietnamese, physical and mental endurance, and triumphant repatriation nearly nine years later in 1973. Alvarez spent more time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam than any other flier. As Senator John McCain, a fellow POW, has written, “During his captivity, Ev exhibited a courage, compassion, and indomitable will that was an inspiration to us all.” Indeed, the book, which was written with Anthony S. Pitch, is remarkable for its lack of rancor. Alvarez directs his strongest words against the small number of POWs who broke ranks and collaborated with the enemy. As one reviewer wrote, Alvarez “relates the misery of his condition with a detachment that robs it of its shock value.” Chained Eagle also tells the story of the Alvarez family’s ordeal during his years of imprisonment: His sister became an anitwar activist, his wife divorced him, and relatives died. Yet throughout his time as a prisoner of war, Alvarez remained duty-bound and held steadfast to his religious faith and the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

New Heavens: My Life as a Fighter Pilot and a Founder of the Israel Air Force (Potomac Books’ Aviation Classics series)

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Although Boris Senior may not be well known outside Israel, he played an important, even vital, part in the formation of the Israel Air Force (IAF) and in the 1948 War of Independence. Those who are familiar with his efforts and dedication have an abiding respect and appreciation for this transplanted South African who nearly died when shot down on a mission in 1945 for the Royal Air Force.

Leaving the RAF after World War II, Senior dedicated himself to the formation of the state of Israel by joining the Irgun to fight British control of Palestine. Originally undertaking surreptitious operations to undermine the governing authority in Palestine, the onset of the 1948 War of Independence had him back in combat, this time against Israel’s Arab neighbors. He flew combat sorties in such widely differing aircraft as the Spitfire and, of all things, a Beechcraft Bonanza, a general-aviation type. Senior used his own money to buy supplies and aircraft, personally under-taking multiple dangerous missions to fly new acquisitions to Israel. His tireless work to form an air defense system for the newly formed State of Israel laid the groundwork for the modern-day Israel Air Force.
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