|THE NEXT STEP|
March 31, 1999
Four retired military leaders discuss the performance of NATO forces thus far and the possibility of deploying ground troops to stop Serbian attacks on ethnic Albanians.
MARGARET WARNER: We get four perspectives now on NATO's mission and options from four retired military leaders: General George Joulwan was the top NATO commander when NATO sent troops to Bosnia in 1995; General Merrill McPeak was Air Force Chief of Staff during the Persian Gulf War; Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll was an Assistant Deputy Chief of Naval Operations in the 1970's, and he is now Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information here in Washington; and Lieutenant General William Odom was Director of the National Security Agency in the mid-1980's, and he is now the director of National Security Studies at the Hudson Institute. Welcome gentlemen. General McPeak, first of all, your reaction to the day's news, which is that NATO has at least given authority to General Wesley Clark to expand the list of targets, included, it is reported, government buildings in downtown Belgrade. Is that the right move?
|Stepping up the attack.|
MERRILL McPEAK (RET.): Well, first of all, I'm not sure that move has
been made. Let me just say at a tactical level it appears to be me that
this campaign, we're a week or so into it now, is going very well. A whole
list of targets have been nominated and reduced by the air crews. Very
business-like, sort of school, textbook solution, and we have had no combat
casualties no US combat casualties in this week -- or so -- long campaign.
So I think it's been going pretty well. The NATO authorities may conclude
that they have to expand that target list in Belgrade. I don't know that
they've done that. If they do so, I hope they're careful, because we do
want to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties.
MARGARET WARNER: Admiral Carroll, would you say this is going well?
REAR ADM. EUGENE CARROLL (RET.):Tactically, certainly. We're doing tremendous damage, and Milosevic is paying a terrible price for his defiance. But in terms of objectives, we're not attaining the objective that we set for ourselves, which was to deter aggression against the Kosovars. He, Milosevic , is running wild there, and as we saw in the earlier scenes, the suffering is intense, the area is being cleared out, and from the air we can do absolutely nothing about it. We can bomb indefinitely, and we still will not affect the situation on the ground in terms of Milosevic control.
MARGARET WARNER: General Joulwan, would you agree that in terms of objectives it's not being met, and what would you add to what Senator Warner said about why so far the ethnic cleansing is continuing and there doesn't seem to be much deterrence in that at all?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.): Well, I think Senator Warner also talked about in hindsight perhaps we would have considered several different options to give to our political leadership. In hindsight, I think he was correct. What we have to realize now, and I don't want to second-guess commanders doing a superb job. NATO is deeply involved. But the political objective as announced by the Council, North Atlantic Counsel and our own President, was to deter, to stop the killing. Forty-thousand Serb troops in Kosovo, and they're carrying out this genocide. So from a strategic level, from a strategic-political level, it just doesn't seem to have met those objectives.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree with Admiral Carroll that really air power just can't do the job?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.): Well, that's what I keep emphasizing, that you have to have flexibility and alternatives -- so not just Plan A, but B, C, D, and E. I'm sure somewhere in the bowels of NATO, as well as in our own joint staff, people are looking at options. We do that. That is our profession; that's what we get paid to do. The political authorities may limit what you can do, but the planning that needs to go on I think should include many options. And I think by doing that, by even doing the planning for a ground option, you will restrict Milosevic 's ability to just have 40,000 troops go throughout Kosovo. He will have to put some on the Macedonian border, for example. So how do you take the initiative away from Milosevic? In my opinion, he has that initiative now.
|Changing Milosevic's mind.|
|MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree he has the initiative now?
LT. GENERAL WILLIAM ODOM (RET.): Of course he has the initiative. I mean, he's winning day by day. We heard Senator Warner say, in effect, as I understood it, if not explicitly, certainly implicitly, the main reason he wants to keep bombing is to make us feel good so we will have done something. But he hasn't made a case that would achieve those objectives. Clearly, you've got to consider a ground campaign. Now, I agree with him that we're already where we are. And second-guessing -
MARGARET WARNER: We have to start from here, in other words.
LT. GENERAL WILLIAM ODOM (RET.): Second-guessing what has already happened, I think that's a useful exercise, but there's also the problem we have to go from where we are today. Where we are today, I think we have to put ground troops in there, I don't care if it takes two weeks, four weeks or six weeks. And I think we have to set the objective of occupying Belgrade and destroying Milosevic 's regime. And when he knows that and he's been told in advance that we're going to detach Kosovo, he's lost it by doing this, then we will begin to change the incentive structures. Another thing we've got to do is to put no time limit on how long we're going to stay there because we may need to stay there until a generation changes and until we have a set of leaders who are civilized. Today we don't have those. Until we're willing to kill them we're going to have to hit here and watch them kill people like we're seeing on this film tonight.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. General McPeak, I think you've just heard three of your colleagues all say they don't think that air power alone can do it. How would you answer that, in terms of the political objectives here?
GEN. MERRILL McPEAK (RET.): I feel like I must have missed something here, Margaret. No one ever said that air power would stop Milosevic from being a nasty personality to deal with. This whole bombing campaign has been about introducing ground troops in Kosovo. There are 10,000 such troops waiting in Macedonia now. The Kosovars have agreed to let them in. Our bombing is not because we like to watch bits and pieces of buildings go floating by us, but because we want to convince Milosevic that he should let those ground troops in. That's the whole point. That would mean that we would be inserting peacekeeping troops in a permissive environment. I'll say one thing -- if Milosevic continues to resist, we're going to make that environment permissive for the introduction of ground troops one way or another. As I said, we have achieved good results so far against a whole laundry list of targets, air defenses, logistics supporting military infrastructure, and now I would expect to see our air forces turn their attention or emphasize to a greater degree attacks on the Serbian ground forces in Kosovo. Look, it's only been going on a week or so. It's not time to throw in the towel here. I said seven or eight days ago on this program that the biggest risk was that we'd run out of stomach, and it sounds as though some are willing to throw in the towel after only seven days.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think, Admiral, that if NATO just keeps bombing that ultimately Milosevic can be forced to change his mind?
REAR ADM. EUGENE CARROLL (RET.): No, I don't believe so. He is impregnable, our bombing has actually solidified the support for his regime. He had opposition, and now it's all focused on NATO, resenting the application of our force. And in order to go to Belgrade to take him out physically -
MARGARET WARNER: As General Odom suggested.
REAR ADM. EUGENE CARROLL (RET.): -- as General Odom has suggested, you're talking about a military campaign involving more than 100,000 troops, perhaps 200,000, a matter of months, and of immense destruction that will mean no one is a winner. There will just be no victory in this. I think Senator Warner used the term "prevail;" that's the best you can say, is we would prevail militarily in the ultimate game, but there would be no victor.
|What should be done?|
|LT. GENERAL WILLIAM ODOM (RET.): Well, this figure of 200,000,
I don't think anybody knows how many troops are going to be there. And
I agree with General McPeak that the air campaign is having a degrading
effect. If it is, then it ought not to take 200,000 troops to do it. We
ought to be able come in there pretty easily. It's my understanding that
the tank forces are all T-55, 1950 --
MARGARET WARNER: The Serb tank forces.
LT. GENERAL WILLIAM ODOM (RET.): The Serb tank forces are 1950's vintage tanks. There's no hand-held weapon in that - in the Serb arsenal that would kill an M-1 tank today. Therefore, tank forces, say coming down out the Voyavadina of Hungary, they wouldn't be going through the mountains, and I think it would be a very interesting kind of campaign. The Nazis went through there in about 14 days the whole country and into the Greece. And I don't think that this force today is a great deal more competent than the ones that the Germans ran.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, let's ask General Joulwan, who has the most recent experience with this force and with that terrain. Tell us how, if combat ground force had to be introduced, how would it be done, do you think it could be done?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.): Well, first of all, our forces are trained to do this. We do combined arms, that's air, ground, sea. And you get a synergistic effect when you put those all together. In Bosnia we had tactical air control parties with the UN forces when we did the air campaign in August and September of '95. We had observed fire, and as General McPeak knows and others, that is your most effective fire.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm sorry, explain that kind of fire.
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.): Observed fire. In other words, you have people on the ground that can pinpoint what you need to shoot at, or bomb from the air. That is to me the best sort of eyes you can have on target. We had those when we did the air campaign in Bosnia. So the synergistic effect, I think, is important here. You have 12,000 NATO troops in Macedonia now. Perhaps we should plan for, I don't say commit, but at least plan for a limited objective, something to take the initiative away from Milosevic . There's a damned good commander in Mike Jackson of the Ace Rapid Reaction Corps in Macedonia now. It's, to me, troublesome that we could have that many NATO forces two to three few miles from where atrocities are being committed and not at least come up with some planning.
MARGARET WARNER: Are you talking about, for instance, going at least into Kosovo a little bit and suggesting an enclave -- something?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.): A limited objective. And, with all the air power we have there, you combine that with some sort of limited objective, I think we could take some of the initiative away. But the wrestling of the pros and cons of that, that's up to the military planners at NATO. Let them do the pros and cons of what it would take, the risk involved, but at least do the planning of what you can do with the force there, and you may have to generate more forces. But I believe you must take the initiative away. We fully support the air operation now, but I think we could do more than that operationally to try to at least get inside the decision cycle of Slobodan Milosevic.
|Return to diplomatic negotiations?|
MARGARET WARNER: Do you agree, Admiral, that the NATO forces ought to do something to change this equation a little bit?
REAR ADM. EUGENE CARROLL (RET.): I think we ought to resort to diplomatic negotiating tactics. I know that's not a popular thing to say when you're talking about a man like Milosevic, but some place between his arbitrary cruel, inhumane position and NATO's demand that we put 28,000 troops onto Kosovo and take control away from him is room for some sort of a working agreement. There's also the problem of conducting military operations through Macedonia. There's a question of the Greek willingness to support combat operations against Serb forces.
MARGARET WARNER: Which you'd have to go through Greece into Macedonia. General McPeak, how do you react to General Joulwan's suggestion?
GEN. MERRILL McPEAK (RET.): Well, I like it better than Bill's idea that we ought to occupy Belgrade, or Gene's idea that we can negotiate some more with Milosevic. Neither one of those options seem to make a lot of sense to me. What George has suggested is we ought to at least do the contingency planning to run a ground force in there or to make some sort of a demonstration on the ground, and I think that might stand Farmer Jones' logic test a little bit better. But, look, we're in our eighth day of air operations here. Even in Desert Storm we bombed -- we had an air campaign that lasted 39 days. We've had no US combat losses. We've inflicted heavy damage on the competition. What is the argument that we must abandon the course that we're on here? It's unclear to me.
MARGARET WARNER: General Odom is dying to jump in here.
LT. GENERAL WILLIAM ODOM (RET.): Nobody is suggesting we abandon the air campaign, and I don't hear anybody condemning the air campaign, or even criticizing it. What I hear is the absence of anything in addition to that. And if -- General Joulwan's limited offensive out of Macedonia, I would sign up for that straight away. But what disturbs me is that we have an operation where we don't have contingencies if at the end of the air campaign we don't have what we consider as an acceptable objective. Now, that seems to me would bother you, General McPeak. Do you want to go to war with no aces in your hand when you're getting down and you're losing all your money? You spent all your money on an air campaign, and Milosevic is now in charge, he's killed so many thousands of people, and you look funny. I'm all for the bombing, but I want to go in with a combined arms force. I suggested a bigger campaign, because I don't care if it takes three or four, five months to plan it. If you start it, that clearly is going to affect his mind as much or more than what we're doing right now in the bombing.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me ask General Joulwan a very quick question before we go. Do you agree with General Odom that the Serb military may not be as formidable as we think it is, if we ever got there on the ground?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.): I think we have to caution there. If you do, the order of battle, you will see that there are disparities. They're willing to fight, we have should have no illusions about that. The Serb military will fight. We have to go in there with that in mind. I think we do have an advantage if we put our forces together. But history will have to record whether we chose the right action or not. I'm worried about we may meet our objectives from the air campaign, but lose tens of thousands of Kosovars who have been ethnically cleansed, or the Serbs committed genocide, and I'm not sure we will have gained much from the operation.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, thank you, General, thank you all four very much.