Could you talk about how [the alliance] only planned a limited number of
targets. In fact, by the third night, General Short had to call back the
This is not exactly accurate. We had a vast array of targets from the very
beginning. We looked at the phased air campaign, going from within Kosovo
over into the former Republic of Yugoslavia all the way to Belgrade. We had
many targets laid out.There were the political constraints that precluded the
air force from carrying out and attacking those targets on a certain time
frame. The problem was the political restraints that were exercised by the
various members of the alliance.
Let me ask you about the constraints, as it relates to the campaign itself.
As you know, the US Air Force, with General Short and other theatre commanders,
had actually put together a different air plan--a sort of secret U.S. plan in
the sense that it was a much more extensive, a classic air campaign in the
sense of what they wanted to accomplish. What did you think of that and did
you talk to the President about that?
Well, first, I would say that's precisely the kind of air campaign that you'd
want to carry out. That you should hit fast and hard and cripple
Milosevic's forces as soon as possible. The difference here, of course, is
that we're acting as an alliance. This had never been done before really,
even under Desert Storm--it basically was a U.S. operation, even though you had
many countries who were participating. You had to have a consensus of all 19
countries and, therefore it was not possible to carry out the kind of classic
type of air campaign that the professionals would have liked to have carried
out, and I would have advocated as well. If I had to act unilaterally we
would have used that type of campaign.
But because you have to have the support of all of the allies, basing support,
bedding down of the aircraft, supplies and logistics flowing through their
countries, and given the fact that they had a different tie--either historical,
cultural, economic, or religious--to the former Republic of Yugoslavia, it made
it that much more difficult. ... You couldn't have forces flying out of Italy,
or supplies coming through Greece. You couldn't have had the support of the
Germans and others, because of the nature of their own relationship with
Milosevic and his people.
Did you and the President try and push the allies and say 'this is the way
we're going do it. These are our planes, our airmen, this is the way we've go
to do it. Either you're on board or you're not on board.'
Well,we talked about a much more aggressive campaign, but it's one thing to
say, 'this is what we want to do' and another to say you have to have a
coalition to hold it together. So we tried to be as aggressive as we could in
saying let's move as quickly as we can to get these various targets. But it
was hard to get that consensus until after the summit. We spent almost a
month going through this process whereby NATO has never done this before. And
so it was a real learning experience we had to go through in terms of getting
the consensus and running various targets by leadership. And, finally, when
the summit came about we said we have to get much more authority to our
military planners. We cannot have the kind of micro management and oversight
of a military campaign if we're going to be successful. And it was after the
summit that things really started to change, where we started a much more
aggressive air campaign coming from 360 degrees and really starting to pound
the strategic targets belonging to Milosevic.
Why weren't you asked to plan an intense war? A downtown Baghdad style air
Well, the aim was again and again to bring [Milosevic] back to the negotiation
table and the aim was not to enforce our will on him, and I think this is the
difference. Our politicians wanted to use the military instrument tomore or
less to convince him that it's better to continue to negotiate and to seek a
peaceful solution. They did not want to destroy Serbia and then bring it back
as a defeated country to the negotiation table,
All in all, if you look at what we did later on, we had more or less three
guiding principles. We had first of all to avoid if possible any of our own
casualties and fatalities. Secondly we were told avoid collateral damage to
the extent possible. And thirdly, bring it to a quick end. .And if you take
these three ingredients, you will presumably agree with me, it's very very
difficult to find a proper solution to make this equation fly
So I think we need to conclude from that, if we want to take care of the
opponent's people then such an air war will be a long protracted campaign, you
can't bring it to a short end.
Did anyone at the time say 'this is crazy?'
Well, we told them I think repeatedly, first of all--be cautious. An air war
alone will presumably not do the trick. You should consider ground forces as
well You should think of joint operations and an air war. And I think that I
said, really verbally, an air war will have the risk in it that the people of
Serbia will rally behind Milosovic, as we have seen it by the way in World War
II. And secondly I told them, General Clark told our politicians that an air
war is always a race between destruction and reconstruction, so an air war by
definition is time consuming.
I don't understand that, reconstruction and destruction?
You destroy something in your opponent's capabilities and he tries to repair
it, to reconfigure it, reconstruct it.
Tell me what you said to the NATO Council about ground troops.
I think I told the Council very clearly that I am full of doubts that one could
win such a thing without ground forces and that in military history it has
never happened before.
And what did they say?
Well, let's say with hindsight, I, as the top military of the Alliance
presumably did not press hard enough for ground forces. I think I made the
point very clearly. But we all realised, General Clark as well as I did, that
the issue of ground forces was very divisive in the Alliance. Some nations,
without any necessity to do so, ruled it out long before we started the bombing
campaign and we knew that we would not get consensus on ground forces, so we
backed off in order to maintain consensus which was the most important thing in
this entire exercise. And again, looking at the entire result of the Kosovo
war, I think the cohesion of the Alliance and the ability of this Alliance to
stick together to maintain consensus for seventy eight days of an air campaign,
that was the real key to success and this was presumably Milosovic's biggest
mistake and miscalculation. He had hoped that this consensus would break and
the cohesion would wither away.
But was the price too much? If you plan a war, you plan overwhelming force
and surprise. All of this was lost.
Yes. We have to accept these compromises, otherwise we simply wouldn't have got
it. And think for a moment what it would have meant if we had not acted. I
still believe we were right in accepting this compromise, fraught as it may
have been, with hindsight. But it was much better to act and to stop at the
end of the day the atrocities in Kosovo than to quarrel and to debate endlessly
Way back in June, when that first planning was done, the planning was done
as a way of just threatening, getting Milosevic back to the table. No one
really thought that this would have to happen. And then, six- seven-nine
months later, suddenly you're fighting a war with those same plans. And they
weren't plans you wanted.
Yes, we made plans for an operation, not for a war. And perhaps we should
think through what the difference between these two is. And next time, start
to make plans for a war which would allow us to tailor the application of these
plans in accordance with the political situation at the time. Do you know what
I mean with that?.
No, explain it more.
If I prepare a plan for a war against Yugoslavia, I have the full range of
military options, fully prepared, fully fleshed out, and then I can pick out of
this quiver the arrow I like. In the situation in which we were in, we had
prepared for an operation to bring him back to the negotiation table, so it was
something like an enforcement operation, but it was not the plan to defeat a
country. And I think that is the difference. And for that reason I think we
should think this through. ...
What are the lessons about the way the air war was fought, the campaign was
I would say first, never start to threaten the use of military force if you are
not ready to execute it the next day. And secondly, if you do crisis
management, never again change horses mid-stream. So leave one in the lead, be
it NATO, be it someone else, but one should have the responsibility and see it
through. On the air operation, I would say we should really try to focus on
joint operations in the future, whether we use current forces or not--that's a
different issue, but at least we should have the capability deployed so that
we have the flexibility to use them, should the need arise. Secondly, if we go
for the military option, we have to be prepared to use it as efficiently as we
can, right from the outset and this doesn't mean to use all the power that
we/they want, that they would never get. But it means that we have to go after
those targets which really hit the opponent and force him to accept our
This wasn't done.
No, it was initially not done. We focused initially too much on the idea to
bring them back to the negotiation table and for that reason we started perhaps
off too moderately, taking too much care of collateral damage, taking too much
care of the opponents people.
Why were they so adamant about not sending combat troops?
Underlying the assumption of policy making within the White House, within the
Pentagon, and indeed within the State Department, is the assumption that if
this policy ends in sending American troops to Kosovo, Congress won't support
it. And therefore we have to reassure Congress and the American people that
while we are willing to use force, we are drawing a clear red line. There will
be no American combat troops in Kosovo under any circumstances, and the attempt
here is to reassure the Congress, to reassure them that we know where our
In fact, what happens is that the Congress says 'you guys don't know what
you're talking about.' You don't have a Plan B, you don't know what will
happen if you use force from the air. And if Milosevic doesn't stop, he
doesn't meet your demands, you don't have a Plan B. That in fact the message
that Cohen and Shelton and Berger and Albright bring to the Hill backfires.
Congress says you don't know what you're talking about, you haven't thought
this one through. If you want to go to war, go to war, but don't come to us
and say we'll do some air strikes, but have no answer to the question what if
it doesn't work. That's the question that Sandy Berger had been asking right
up to that point.
And Secretary Cohen is particularly adamant on this. What's driving him?
Secretary Cohen has two concerns. One is he never liked the Bosnia deployment.
He never wanted to be part of it. And in fact when he becomes Secretary of
Defence, having been against the deployment of American troops to Bosnia, the
first thing he says even in his confirmation hearings is--those troops, they're
out of there as soon as possible. And it's a policy position he has through
the first couple of months of 1997, until the President reminds him that he
works no longer for Bill Cohen or for the people of Maine, but he works for the
President of the United States, and these troops are going to stay.
Well, okay, he's willing to let them stay in Bosnia, he has lost that fight
fair and square, and in fact he becomes a good proponent of the troops in
Bosnia. But it's not going to happen in Kosovo. One, he doesn't believe that
his former colleagues on the Hill will support it. And two, he believes that
this is a kind of commitment that is weakening American readiness and has a
major impact on our ability to do what is our fundamental mission, to fight and
win the nation's wars. So he is adamantly against it from a personal
perspective, he's adamantly against it from an institutional perspective, and
he's adamantly against it from a political perspective with regard to the
Were you unhappy that you weren't able to use more decisive force? General
Short was pressing for this more intensive air war...
Well, everything that happens in NATO at the political level funnels through
this headquarters, and everything that comes from the military level funnels
through this headquarters. And so we're constantly on receive and transmit in
And from the outset, we were trying to structure a military campaign that met
the political requirements and we were trying to structure political
requirements in the broadest possible fashions to meet the military needs of
No, it's the job of the command and the commander.
Just before the air war starts, I was talking to a Lieutenant Colonel who
worked with you on targeting, he was saying that you took the care and the
trouble to sit down with him all night and go through the target. Tell me
We had to go through every target. In fact, all the targets were approved
by people higher than me, in governments. They had to be, because the
significance of the campaign was such that the targets carried political weight
as well as military value, and so it wasn't just a matter of attacking a
military set of targets ...
It was a matter of transforming a military attack on targets into political
leverage sufficient to persuade Milosevic to stop.
Why was there only, initially, three days of targets ...?
There were many more days of targets than that. There was an agreement
initially that we would attack 51 targets over two days, maybe three days
depending on the weather. And this was quite an achievement from an alliance
that had earlier talked about maybe only attacking two or three targets. The
way we got to 51 numbers, I went down to the targeteers in the Air Force and
said, 'how many targets do you need to attack to be safe when you go after the
integrated air offence system? How many do you wanna attack?' And they came
back with the numbers and it turned out to be, you know--we live with 51
because basically that was about what we could handle and that's what they were
happy with attacking.
The political constraints existed throughout the conflict. There were
targets that individual nations would not let us hit. There were targets that
individual nations would not allow us to hit with airplanes launched from their
soil. Or, there were targets that individual nations would not hit themselves,
but it was okay for somebody else to hit. Apparently ... it was relayed to me
that every nation had a vote. An individual nation could say: 'no one can hit
that target.' Or a nation that was hosting U.S. airplanes could say: 'U.S.
airplanes taking off from our soil cannot strike this target.' Or an
individual nation would say: Our parliament won't let us hit that target, but
of course they're not gonna say you can't hit it.
That sounds reasonable enough.
The last part I think is reasonable. Certainly within a coalition I can
understand and work around an individual nation saying we won't let our forces
strike that target, our population can't stand that but the rest of you can go
ahead/ I think that's okay. And if a nation will give me enough notice I can
understand them saying: we can't allow you, your airplanes based on our soil to
hit that target. I can work around that as an air commander, because again, I
can shuffle my force and have those airplanes taking off from country ... go
after different targets, so I don't lose the striking capability.
What happened was in that particular instance, because the approval process
was lengthy and cumbersome and the word getting back to capitals took a long
time, there were numerous occasions where airplanes were airborne and the
senior national rep would run into me and say: "Our parliament won't allow us
to strike that target."
Or, "our authorities will not allow your airplanes which took off from our
soil to strike that target." So now you're faced with really telling the
strike leader your plan is now in shambles, we think we need to abort the whole
thing, or if you can, given the threat in where you're going, can you put it
back together again. And we were faced with those instances.
What I, what I believe is unacceptable is for one nation to veto a target
set that other nations believe to be important and then no-one can strike it.
I believe that is unacceptable. It allows in my mind, the interests of one
nation to outweigh the interests of the alliance and the interests of the other
18 nations and as it turned out, again in my evaluation, this placed the
aircrews at unacceptable risk and I believe prolonged the war by keeping key
target sets off the table. ...
What should have happened? What were you advising at the time?
I wanted the United States to exercise the leverage that I believed we had.
We bring to the table in the air war environment things that are absolutely
necessary for NATO to fight. I am not a ground soldier but my valuation is
that NATO can conduct war on the ground without US participation. There are
NATO nations in addition to my country with marvellous ground armies, great
leaderships, Sir Mike Jackson, Sir Mike Walker before him in Bosnia, great
leaderships, great staffs and ground forces as well equipped and as well
trained and in clearly sufficient numbers to fight a ground war.
That is not the case in the air. The NATO air forces are extraordinarily
well led, great courage, great people, small numbers and not all
technologically capable of fighting the way you'd like them to fight. They
can't all fight at night, they cannot all drop precision munitions, they are
not all able to identify an enemy aircraft beyond visual range, they have to
come in and make a visual ID which is very very dangerous.
... So I'm going to sound a bit arrogant, but it's my evaluation that NATO
cannot go to war in the air against a competent enemy without the United States
of America. If that's the case, and we're gonna provide 70% of the effort,
we're gonna provide the leadership and the command and control and the enabling
force, then we need to have more than one of 19 votes.
I believe before the first bomb was dropped that the door should have been
closed with all those who wished to go to war. And the United States should
have said very clearly: it appears NATO wants to go to war in the air, and in
the air only. If that is the case and that is the sentiment of the nations
here, we will lead you to war. We the United States will provide the
leadership, the enabling force, the majority of the striking power, the
technology required, we will take the alliance to war, and we will win this
thing for you. But the price to be paid is we call the tune. We are not just
one of 19.
... And what that means ladies and gentlemen from the other 18 nations
--we are goning to conduct from the very first night a classic air campaign.
The lights are going out, the bridges are coming down, the military
headquarters are going to be blown up. And we're gonna stay after that target
set until it's destroyed. We think that'll bring Milosevic to the table, but
if it doesn't, that's the best we can do. We believe that's the best we can do.
That's the problem with air war and air war only--you're not gonna invade from
the ground, you can't occupy the adversary country.
What are you guys thinking when you realize--'wait a minute, we're out of
Great concern, great concern and then it became even greater as the call for
more air came in. You know, as we moved on down, I mean you had difficulty
finding the targets and yet we were asking for more airplanes.
... the discussion was--whether it was Chief of Staff of the Airforce or CNO
or myself-- look, if we're having trouble finding the targets right now for the
aircraft that we have already over there to service the targets, what are the
additional aircraft going to bring to the ballgame? And the answer was
basically twenty four hours a day seven days a week coverage for targets that
might pop up as priority.
And we also had, as you are well aware, difficulties getting targets
approved. You're running a war by committee basically. And so, in defence of
Wes and the Airforce gent that's sitting in the operations center, they are
trying to get targets on a list and one, people aren't giving them responsive
answers and two, sometimes the answers are no.
So all of this is going on and again regarding the role of NATO in an
offensive combat action--you have to come to grips with decision-making with a
body that large. Somehow one of the lessons that has to come out of this
is--look, when we go to war and we go to war as a coalition, there's got to be
an ability of the commander to make the call and not have to go through a
committee in order to get his decisions either blessed or not.
But regarding the central dynamics--again, I use General Short because we
just spoke about his frustration. ... General Short says, 'listen we are the
big dog in this fight, we have maximum leverage to decide how the war is
prosecuted if we want to exert it.' The question I have is--was Wesley Clark
asking for maximum leverage from his political masters in Washington?
Well, I think he was using the leverage that he thought was necessary. Let
me take on Short just for a minute. That's easy for General Short to make
those kind of comments that we're the big dog in a fight. I just go back to,
'what do you want NATO to look like in ten years?' Do you want them to have in
their memory bank the fact that when we went to war for the first time as a
NATO, one guy dictated the fight, one guy carried the stick, one guy was the
Let me tell you something. It might work this time. It might have been
great for Kosovo. But NATO has a long memory and you start swinging your
weight around in a little country, a little conflict called Kosovo, the first
time NATO ever got involved in anything like this, and all of a sudden you've
got the big dog telling everybody else what to do. You may have won the battle
but you would have lost the war in the long run. There is a man with all due
respect who, who needs to rethink the strategic implications of acting like the
bully on the block when you have a coalition.
But the result is limited warfare...
That is absolutely not the fault of the CINC, necessarily, the fault lies in
the overall strategy that said we are going to get there to begin with. You go
back to the Powell Doctrine. If all of the steps have been taken and you get
there then you are the big dog and you hammer them. None of that took
And secondly, the coalition that Powell and President Bush formed for the
Gulf War was not the same kind of coalition that was formed for Kosovo because
not only was the American people and the Congress not totally understanding of
the strategic aims and goals, but they are nineteen countries that I bet if you
went to them, there would be varying degrees of what was and what was not the
national interest of that country, what was and what was not the goal, what was
and what was not the amount of force to use.
So to bring to a conflict that has nineteen nations involved, that has far
more strategic implications, such as the help of NATO ten years from now, and
to have us swaggering in there and saying 'OK here is what we are going to do'
--you need to be careful about that.
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