Why do countries have air forces? Or, why do all air forces seem to wear light blue uniforms? My paper on this question has just been published by Defense and Security Analysis, under the very academic title “Mimetic and Normative Isomorphism in the Establishment and Maintenance of Independent Air Forces” (September 2016, vol. 32., no. 3). Here’s the abstract:
Organizational alternatives, such as maintaining separate air arms for the army and navy, have become quite rare. The conventional narrative advanced by advocates of independent air forces stress that the primacy of airpower in modern warfare mandates centralized control of most military aviation. In this view, political–military uncertainty has driven mimetic isomorphism – pressure on national governments to organize as others organize so as to fight or deter war just as effectively. However, working from a set of 56 countries that were politically independent within a few years of the establishment of the first ever independent air force (the Royal Air Force) in 1918, and continuing through nearly the present, there is no clear pattern of external military pressure prompting this particular reorganization. Rather, from anecdotal evidence, the cause has more likely been normative isomorphism – a professional craving to look as others look to foster political or personal legitimacy. For whatever reason, though, choices of structures tend to lead to specific choices of policies. Thus, the result suggests that defense ministries looking for more effective or less costly organizational schemas may reasonably consider alternatives to the tripartite army–navy–air force structure.
If your library doesn’t subscribe, a limited number of free copies are still available at this link. My analysis is preliminary, and limited to air forces, but the issue of questions-not-asked ought to be applied to a wide variety of other military organizational issues.