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NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998-1999.

NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998-1999. By Dag Henriksen. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2007. Maps. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. xii, 200. $18.00 Paperback ISBN: 1-59114-358-1

NATO's Gamble focuses on Operation Allied Force (OAF) and how it was used in concert with diplomacy to stop the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) from committing atrocities within its own borders. Dr. Henriksen (a lecturer at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy) explains why the planned three-day show of force against Slobodan Miloseviae, then President of FRY, ultimately resulted in 78 days of bombing, primarily in Serbia. He postulates and proves that the surprising length of the campaign (Mar 24-June 11, 1999) was caused by lack of clear objectives, divergent views between Europe and the U.S. on the campaign's conduct, and Miloseviae's own belief that NATO did not have the willpower to continue. Henriksen's dissertation formed the basis of this well-researched and well-written book containing almost 350 citations ranging from official documents, speeches, and resolutions to interviews and articles in magazines and newspapers.

Henriksen's main goal is to offer OAF as a case study for lessons in the modern use of air power. One lesson is the necessity to set appropriate and clear strategic objectives at the outset. NATO's political leaders did not deliver and mistakenly treated the bombing operation as the strategy rather than the operation to achieve a strategy. Broader political and military objectives were not properly thought out. Henriksen specifically notes this lack of preparedness had been extensively explored in other publications, but the nature and level of unpreparedness had not been sufficiently evaluated.

The very short Part I describes the first week of OAF. NATO believed that Miloseviae would easily cave in to their demands, so detailed planning for a longer campaign had not been conducted. But Miloseviae also knew there was no real political objective or strategy, knew there were rifts in the countries opposing him, and anticipated his ability to wait out OAF until the coalition collapsed. Only when strategy and planning sufficiently matured, and a better mix of both tactical and strategic targets was selected, did Miloseviae ultimately succumb.

The remainder of the book describes how events preceding OAF influenced NATO and U.S. decisionmaking. Operational planning was hampered by intense debates between what types of force to use and, once air power was selected, how to apply it. Henriksen claims the battle between two schools of thought in air power application impacted NATO's ability to set a strategy and plan operations. The strategic school recommended striking at the will and industry of a country. The tactical school felt the best use was to support land and naval warfare. Tracing this battle back to World War II, Henriksen works his way through Vietnam, Gulf I, Bosnia, and eventually Kosovo while describing Col. John Warden's five-rings model (strategic school) and the countervailing postulations of Dr. Robert Pape, who claims strategic bombing doesn't work and is more costly. The tactical school relies on Dr. Pape's assertion that the best use of air power is an escalating tactical environment used to coerce an opponent to bend to one's will.

As Warden's strategies were dominant in the highly successful 1991 Gulf War, the strategic school played a major influence in USAF thinking going into Kosovo. These strategies were supported by the Weinberger and Powell doctrines that demanded the use of decisive force, thus shaping the Bush administration's views.

When the Clinton administration took over in 1993, Secretary of State Albright's influence and the Somalia debacle, which seemed to assert the Powell doctrine, conflicted. President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and others in the administration subscribed to the limited tactical air war school. Tactical air power became the primary instrument of military power application under OAF, as the strategic doctrine would have ultimately called for ground forces, an effort not politically tenable at that time. At the start of OAF, the U.S. position was best summed up by an American official: "Well bomb them a little bit, if that doesn't work, we'll bomb them a little bit more, and if that doesn't work, we'll bomb them a little more, and if that doesn't work ultimately we have to consider invading. I don't see anything that lacks clarity in that strategy."

NATO's Gamble also well illustrates the divergent proclivities between Europe and the U.S. in the application of power. Henriksen shows NATO had no real understanding of the use of air power, nor did it understand how to conduct operational planning. Much of this was rooted in different understandings on the balance between force and diplomacy. Complicating factors included the failure of the UN to authorize force, and the view strongly held by some to not interfere with the territorial integrity of nations. NATO's entry into this conflict pushed the boundaries of international law and added controversy to NATO decisionmaking.

Most interesting are Henriksen's subtle and revealing snapshots in time that illustrate the morphing of air power application from strategic bombing vs. ground support in World War II to the application of decisive overwhelming force vs. tactical selective escalation in Vietnam and Kosovo. While perhaps not perfect, his illustration is thought provoking. I highly recommend this book for professional military study.

Col. Stan L. VanderWerf, Commander, 542d Combat Sustainment Group, 2006 ICAF Distinguished Graduate
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Author:VanderWerf, Stan L.
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2010
Words:890
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