NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment

By Benjamin S. Lambeth | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
NATO'S AIR WAR IN PERSPECTIVE

Operation Allied Force was the most intense and sustained military operation to have been conducted in Europe since the end of World War II. It represented the first extended use of military force by NATO, as well as the first major combat operation conducted for humanitarian objectives against a state committing atrocities within its own borders. It was the longest U.S. combat operation to have taken place since the war in Vietnam, which ended in 1975. At a price tag of more than $3 billion all told, it was also a notably expen/ sive one.1 Yet in part precisely because of that investment, it turned out to have been an unprecedented exercise in the discriminate use of force on a large scale. Although there were some unfortunate and highly publicized cases in which innocent civilians were tragically killed, Secretary of Defense William Cohen was on point when he characterized Allied Force afterward as “the most precise application of air power in history.”2 In all, out of some 28,000 high-explosive munitions expended altogether over the air war's 78-day course, no more than 500 noncombatants in Serbia and Kosovo died as a direct result of errant air attacks, a new low in American wartime experi/ ence when compared to both Vietnam and Desert Storm.3

____________________
1
Lisa Hoffman, “U.S. Taxpayers Faced with Mounting Kosovo War Costs,” Washington Times, June 10, 1999.
2
Bradley Graham, “Air Power ‘Effective, Successful,’ Cohen Says,” Washington Post, June 11, 1999.
3
That was the final assessment of an unofficial post–Allied Force bomb damage survey conducted in Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro by a team of inspectors representing Human Rights Watch. A U.S. Air Force analyst who was later briefed on the study commented that Human Rights Watch had “the best on-the-ground data of anyone in the West.” “A New Bomb Damage Report,” Newsweek, December 20, 1999, p. 4. A later report, however, indicated that Human Rights Watch had identified 90 separate collateral damage incidents, in contrast to the acknowledgment by NATO and the U.S. government of only 20 to 30. Bradley Graham, “Report Says NATO Bombing Killed 500 Civilians in Yugoslavia,” Washington Post, February 7, 2000.

-219-

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NATO's Air War for Kosovo: A Strategic and Operational Assessment
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Figures xi
  • Summary xiii
  • Acknowledgments xxv
  • Acronyms xxix
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Prelude to Combat 5
  • Chapter Three - The Air War Unfolds 17
  • Chapter Four - Why Milosevic Gave Up When He Did 67
  • Chapter Five - Accomplishments of the Air War 87
  • Chapter Six - Friction and Operational Problems 101
  • Chapter Seven - Lapses in Strategy and Implementation 179
  • Chapter Eight - Nato's Air War in Perspective 219
  • Bibliography 251
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