The basic thrust of this study is to demonstrate the utility and limitations of land-based aircraft when used to attain political objectives in crises occurring in the third world. Crises, when used in the context of this study, are viewed primarily as a series of interactions between or within states for which there exists the perception of a high probability of war. Admittedly, determination of perception is a subjective process, one that does not lend itself to qualification; but when fear, apprehension, and tension reach a level that prompts some form of conflict behavior, then a perception of a high probability of war can be said to exist.
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Beyond any doubt, our case study of the 1973 Yom Kippur War will clearly indicate the existence of a major crisis*and one that escalated to dangerous levels. By contrast, our case studies of the Mayaguez in 1975, the Congo and the Bay of Pigs in the early sixties, and Zaire in the mid-seventies, indicate a lower level of intensity. Consequently, we examine these conflicts on a typological basis ranging from a simple to a complex crisis; and, since the essence of a crisis is its uncertainty and unpredictability, these latter case studies remain suitable for our analysis.
Collectively, these interactions appear to provide ample evidence of the utility of land-based aircraft to signal intentions, demonstrate support, modify behavior, and terminate conflict. By the same token, however, these interactions suggest some limitations of land-based aircraft when employed in remote areas distant from main operating bases. Our case studies span the globe to examine third world crises occurring as far away as Southeast Asia and as close to home as the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Thus, this discussion presents a geographical sample as well as a typological study of third world crises.