IN THE NEWS
First of all, EBO is a methodology, an approach and a way of thinking used for planning, executing and assessing operations and not a new "theory" of war or a particular strategy. It is not an "easy-win concept", but rather a cross-dimensional, cross-discipline way of thinking that seeks to integrate all the instruments of power to the maximum extent possible.
EBOs, the author argues, are not "miracle strategies," the way some critics have argued. World War II provides some fuel for this debate: was strategic bombing supposed to win the war single-handedly, or was it merely an adjunct to Allied theater strategy?
It would have probably been more costly, in terms of lives and aircraft, to send C-47's full or paratroopers and drop them directly on top of the engine factories and Romanian oil fields. The best way to attack those targets, at the time, was using long-range bombers. Today, we would use stealth bombers with precision weapons and cruise missiles, technologies not available during WWII.
I think it's a mistake to be too humble about what EBO theorists—Duohet and Doolittle before World War II; Herman Kahn, Thomas Schelling, and their brethren during the Cold War; the "military transformationists" behind the American "shock and awe" strategy in 2003—have thought or said. If effects-based operations are nothing more than an adjunct to traditional military strategy, why does they need their own term (and inevitable acronym)?
There's no doubt that strategic bombing played an important role in defeating Germany and Japan in World War II, as did other forms of strategic warfare. Submarines, an old instrument of strategic warfare, had crippled Japan's war economy long before the Enola Gay dropped the next generation's strategic weapon on Hiroshima.
But that's not what Duohet, Wolfowitz, and other members of the EBO school have been arguing. Instead, they've claimed that attacks on the strategic foundation of an enemy's warmaking ability can single-handedly win a war. Conventional and unconventional munitions dropped on population centers can terrorize civilians. Attacks on the engines of the war economy—factories, railroads, ports, etc.—can bleed the enemy dry. Destroying communications equipment and killing enemy leaders can erase the enemy's C3I. This ambitious vision of modern warfare fired EBO theorists, not some pedestrian acknowledgement the Allied bombing of Schweinfurt and Ploesti made the German economy less functional.
I'm not sure how comfortable some EBO enthusiasts might be in admitting it, but the most successful practitioner of EBO methods in recent history was President Bill Clinton. Air attacks, not a ground invasion, forced the Serbs to end the wars with their neighbors, eventually leading to the Nuremburg-like trial of Slobodan Milošević.
While you might give Clinton and EBO methods some credit for ending the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, there's a lot more to that particular story. Still, it's a case study with a more successful, less ambiguous ending than strategic bombing in World War II, "shock and awe" in Iraq, the terror bombing of populated areas in the Spanish Civil War, or Operation ROLLING THUNDER. In fact, a lot of the hard-nosed people who might be attracted to EBO often make an argument about the Vietnam War that runs contrary to EBO thinking. According to the Harry Summers-esque view, unless the United States had been willing to escalate ROLLING THUNDER to nuclear levels, the United States could not have defeated North Vietnam without a ground invasion. In other words, even some of the most die-hard defenders of a conventional military strategy in the Vietnam War would not embrace EBO as a surrogate.