Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NATO Military Tactics Weighed against Political Fallout Generals Find Advice Plentiful from Diplomats

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NATO Military Tactics Weighed against Political Fallout Generals Find Advice Plentiful from Diplomats

Article excerpt

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia may be one of the most carefully supervised wars in history, with political authorities scrutinizing every major move made by the alliance's generals.

Diplomats insist the political side of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is not micromanaging the war. But the nonmilitary hand can be seen in such decisions as denying Gen. Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander in Europe, the right to blow Serbian television off the air. Or going easy on Montenegro, a politically sensitive Yugoslav republic.

Said a civilian NATO official who asked not to be identified, the military value of destroying a target must be balanced against the political fallout.

Official political control is exercised by the North Atlantic Council, NATO's top policymaking body made up of ambassadors from each of the alliance's 19 member nations. The council must authorize each step through the operations plan, each enlargement of target categories, each request for more men and aircraft.

Then there is the unofficial control -- the telephone calls to military headquarters asking why this bridge was hit and not that one. Or why this sort of target was being attacked and not another.

Clark clearly feels that Serb television, one of President Slobodan Milosevic's major propaganda tools, is a legitimate military target. Civilian authorities clearly feel otherwise.

The decision to spare Montenegro, the smaller of the two republics that make up the Yugoslav federation, is another example. Montenegro opposes Milosevic's actions in Kosovo and NATO wants to show its appreciation by not striking Yugoslav targets in the republic, despite the relative importance of some of them.

There were attacks early in the campaign on Yugoslav air defense sites located in Montenegro, but the only strikes in Montenegro recently have been defensive responses to threats by Yugoslav air defense. …

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