War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age

By Czarnecki, Jon | Naval War College Review, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age


Czarnecki, Jon, Naval War College Review


Bacevich, Andrew J., and Eliot A. Cohen, eds. War over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2001. 223pp. $22.50

During the 1999 Nato-U.S. war against Serbia over Kosovo, an unprecedented number of strategic and defense thinkers published their opinions on what became known as Operation ALLIED FORCE. Most thought and comment at the time was extremely critical of the Clinton administration's efforts to formulate and execute the operation. Critics bemoaned a warfighting policy that appeared pointed in the direction of a new Vietnam, focusing on gradual escalation of air strikes without the threat of ground forces. In the end, the Nato coalition forces appeared victorious but weighted with the indefinite mission of peacekeeping in that troubled and violent province. The leader of the Serbian effort, Slobodan Milosevic, ended up on trial for war crimes at the Hague. The leader of the Nato-U.S. armed forces, General Wesley Clarke, left his post shortly after the victory under circumstances that looked at the time like a relief for cause. In late summer 2002, Nato soldiers continued their frustrating mission of keeping ethnically divided Kosovars from killing each other-welcome to "Victory," postCold War style. While such behavior and commentary seem unusual, the real issue is this: does the 1999 Kosovo 11 war" provide a signpost for future conflicts in the early twenty-first century, or is that conflict an aberration best relegated to discussions among armchair warriors comfortably fortified with vintage brandy?

In their book War over Kosovo, Bacevich, Cohen, and their contributors make compelling arguments that the Kosovo War is a signpost, a cautionary tale of the extent and limits of postCold War superpower politics. Besides the articles by the editors, the contributions are by William Arkin, James Kurth, Anatol Lieven, Alberto Coll, and Michael Vickers.

Readers should note well that this is a book with an attitude. Its articles, uniformly excellent and insightful, accept, even embrace, controversy. Given the nature of the war, such a position for the book should seem normal.

William Arkin's lead article, summarizing the history of the conflict, should become the standard for historians and strategists seeking to understand the war in some form less than book size. Arkin advises readers not to be deceived by appearances or Powerpoint briefings on just what decided victory for the Nato allies. …

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