Academic journal article Parameters

Editor's Shelf

Academic journal article Parameters

Editor's Shelf

Article excerpt

In a literary world filled with emotionalism and hyperbole, there are a few guiding stars. RAND Corporation is such a celestial body. RAND continues its excellent work in support of the defense establishment through the publication of a series of studies and reports on issues critical to national defense and the security of the nation.

NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment, by RAND researcher Benjamin S. Lambeth, provides one of the most comprehensive reviews to date of Operation Allied Force. As advertised, the study focuses on the air war's strategic and operational objectives. However, Lambeth goes beyond the traditional perspectives to provide the reader with an understanding that although Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosevic may have capitulated following 78 days of bombing, that result in no way should be interpreted as an unqualified endorsement of the use of air power to resolve regional conflicts. In fact, Lambeth characterizes the use of air power during the operation as "suboptimal."

The author asserts that the principal problems restricting the operation's ultimate success were uncooperative weather, an underestimated opponent, and a lack of will on the part of NATO planners and their supporting officials to strike "high-risk" targets (those with possible civilian casualties or the loss of crews). The fact that this report was prepared as part of RAND's continuing "Project Air Force," speaks volumes about the seriousness of the strategic and operational deficiencies inherent in the campaign. These deficiencies were then magnified by such inadvertent acts as the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

The greatest value of this work lies in Lambeth's examination of political and strategic perspectives that may be of use to policymakers conducting such operations in the future. In his concluding chapter, "NATO's Air War in Perspective," the author captures the opinions of a host of experts with the catch-all comment, "just because it came out reasonably well, at least in the eyes of the Administration [and nation], does not mean it was conducted properly." Lambeth leaves little doubt that one should not infer from Operation Allied Force that air power can now "win wars alone." Rather, the real lessons learned from the campaign are to be found at the strategic level, in the ability of the alliance to operate as a combatant command, and in how to avoid such post-conflict critiques as "a military success and a political failure."

A recent study from RAND's Arroyo Center for the Army's Deputy Chief for Intelligence, The Emergence of Peer Competitors: A Framework for Analysis by Thomas S. Szayna et al., is intended for intelligence analysts in the hope of providing a framework for thinking systematically about possible peer competitors. Although published for the intelligence community, the study will certainly tweak the interests of the academic and defense establishments, as well as anyone involved in long-range assessments of America's future.

The framework is based on the interaction between the strategies available to a "proto-peer" (a state that is not yet a peer but has the potential to be one) and those of the hegemon. Using exploratory modeling techniques, the possible interactions between the proto-peer and hegemon are depicted in a manner that highlights specific actions which may lead to rivalries between the parties. However, beyond all the matrixes and decision calculus, serious students of political science, international relations, national security, and military strategy will find this work of great value. …

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