28 July 1999 - 2 May 2000

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Outlook 8/9/99
Levin Statement on Departure of General Wesley Clark
Perspective on the Military: Why Wesley Clark Got the Ax at NATO
U.S. Department of State, Daily Press Briefing Aug. 3, 1999
Warrior's Rewards
General Clark's Last Stand
The Unappreciated General
Clark's Exit Was Leaked Deliberately, Official Says
President Clinton's "Distress"
Washington's Long Knives
Army Faces Reduced Leadership Role

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U.S. News Online
Outlook 8/9/99

He may have won the war, but he lost his job. Gen. Wesley Clark, 54, who led the Kosovo military campaign, was asked to retire early from his post as NATO commander last week. The official line: that he stepped aside to make room for Gen. Joseph Ralston, whose term as the No. 2 officer at the Pentagon ends in February. But the real reason for Clark's ouster may be that the famously political general was impolitic. Pentagon insiders say Clark's frequent and public complaint that politicians had tied his hands during the Kosovo war irked his boss, Defense Secretary William Cohen. Cohen reportedly also was none too pleased that Clark's aides called him "Senator Cohen," a mocking reference to his past as an elected official. The bottom line, says one Pentagon official: "You don't piss off your boss and get away with it."

Georgie Anne Geyer
July 30, 1999


Washington -- If there is one thing that our supremely politicized and overbureacratized Pentagon just hates these days, it is the concept of victory.

The word "win" is never used in its wars anymore, having been replaced by such words as "neutralize," "negotiate out," "virtual war, "Cabinet war," "cease-fire" and not "unconditional surrender," and an "exercise in coercive diplomacy." In fact, the very word "war" is suspect, too seemingly harsh in the mind-set of conflict-therapy and instant reconcilation that has infected our military as well as the White House.

No wonder these generals and admirals in what once was called the War Department got rid of the one genuine military thinker and hero we have, Gen. Wesley K. Clark. What did he think he was doing, insisting upon winning?

Now, the Pentagon and the White House insist, vociferously but lamely, that Clark, the supreme commander of NATO, is being let go three months early, next April, because of scheduling problems. Sort of like, "We're not going to be home on Tuesday when the plumber comes, so make it Monday!"

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Those men are supposed to be defending our sea-lanes, and protecting our borders from tyrannical intrusion, and spreading justice and democracy throughout the world as well. Not one of them has yet explained believably why: l) if this was true, they didn't clue in Clark when he was here for major foreign policy meetings only days before the announcement; 2) the decision was deliberately leaked to The Washington Post, so that Clark first heard it from a reporter; 3) everybody who still has some vestige of honor left is saying privately that Clark was just too "hot" for the bureaucrats; and 4) they could possibly think that such moves on the Balkans chessboard will not seriously undermine the delicate ongoing work in Kosovo?

The problem with Gen. Clark was simple: It was that he was right. Although his public posture was meticulously unrevealing of his own feelings, it was known, and certainly appropriately so when many lives were at risk, that from the beginning he did warn both the Pentagon and the White House privately that, in order to win in Kosovo, more aggressive actions would need to be taken. He began planning for a ground invasion before anybody here would think of it. He warned them of the terrible consequences of failure, such as the destruction of a humiliated NATO.

As British writer Michael Ignatieff explains in the present New Yorker: "Clark had wanted a different approach from the outset. He and his air commanders ... had wanted to 'go downtown' on the first night, hitting power, telephone, command-and-control sites and Milosevic's bunkers."

The simple truth right now is that nobody says that Clark was wrong. In fact, the respected German Gen. Klaus Naumann, just-retired head of the NATO military committee, told a group of us here recently, in his review of the still-unresolved conflict, that "the reluctance to use overwhelming force allowed Slobodan Milosevic to calculate his risks. ... I would press harder for visible preparations and visible planning."

But it was the "go-slow" guys, the "they'll give in with a just little more punishment" chaps (in fact, the very same mentality that gave us Vietnam!), the ones who would rewrite all of the dictums of von Clausewitz and Sun Tzu about the need to strike hard, fast and unrelentingly, who were unquestionably and provably wrong -- and whose political caution cost tens of thousands of lives and came close to losing the war for NATO.

So who goes? Wesley Clark!

In fact, does anybody in this bunch of politicians and bureacrats at the Pentagon ever pay for being wrong? Did anybody pay for the disastrous decision to send American troops into the deadly trap in Somalia, where l9 Americans died? Nobody. Did anybody pay for eight years of dilly-dallying in Bosnia, while 250,000 died and all we had to do to stop it (which we finally did) was to take out the Serb artillery positions? Not a soul -- and, in fact, we're still pretending that Bosnia is a great victory, while our "peacekeeping" troops there are bogged down with no victory (oops, I used that word again) in sight.

I have interviewed Gen. Clark, both in Panama and at his office in Belgium soon after the war started, and I know how careful he has been in everything he has said. As we sat last April in his office in Mons, I kept trying to get him to say something even moderately revealing, but he wouldn't.

In fact, you need only to look at his brilliant testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July l to see how modulated his words always were -- and how he had been able to explain how difficult this new type of "coalition warfare" was -- but also to accept the reality that it is almost surely the warfare of the future. Most analysts I know are filled with unvarnished admiration for his political skills in keeping the l9-member NATO coalition together.

I wouldn't be surprised if there was jealousy of Clark at the Pentagon. He is too smart, too decent, and above all too clear about what is -- and what isn't. He surely will have a brilliant future. I'm far more worried about us.

Everything points to the fact that, far from getting rid of Gen. Clark, what we really need is to get rid of this jealous bureacratic mentality at the top of our military establishment. For if what they are really saying with these acts is that there is no place for a Wesley Clark in the U.S. armed forces, then we're in deep trouble.


Levin Statement on Departure of General Wesley Clark
July 28, 1999

WASHINGTON Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., issued the following statement today following the announcement that General Wesley Clark would step down as NATO supreme commander in April, 2000:

"I have known and worked with General Wes Clark for many years. He is an outstanding military officer. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his tremendous leadership of NATO's military forces during the recent Kosovo conflict. I look forward to working closely with General Clark through the end of his term as SACEUR."


Soldiers For The Truth

Perspective on the Military: Why Wesley Clark Got the Ax at NATO

The general exposed the gap between pretended "combat readiness" and refusal to accept war's risks

Published in the LA Times August 6, 1999

Edward N. Luttwak is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington

Defeated generals are sent home in disgrace, but it is most unusual to dismiss victorious ones. Whatever the future may hold for Kosovo--and it looks rather grim at present--there is no doubt that NATO's war against Serbia ended in victory. Nor is it in doubt that its military commander, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, was very much the victorious general of that war.

So why was Clark fired? The official answer is that he wasn't fired at all, but merely asked to accommodate his successor at NATO, Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, by stepping aside a bit early. That is all very plausible except that any four-star general can be parked in a special assignment while awaiting a new command. Because Ralston is especially well-liked, nobody would have objected to the exception.

So why was Clark fired? There were the usual tactical disagreements inevitable in any war, as well as a typical clash of perspectives between the commander in charge of a regional war who wanted all possible forces and the Pentagon chiefs who must also worry about all the other potential wars around the globe. That is all very normal and has happened many times before.

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A Bigger Issue

Yet the implication that Clark was fired because of normal disagreements between the center and the periphery, between the Pentagon and a regional commander, is utterly misleading. Something much bigger was at work: Clark was caught in the middle of an extremely muddled and controverted transition between two forms of warfare.

One is very familiar, because the entire structure of the U.S. armed forces is built on it: classic war, fought by Army infantry, Marines storming ashore, armored forces, artillery, attack helicopters, fighter-bombers that dive low to attack the enemy, as well as strike aircraft and bombers that operate more safely with stand-off weapons, and the entire panoply of naval forces of course. That is what the U.S. Defense budget purchases--both equipment that may last 30 years and the training and operating "readiness" that must be bought afresh every day, like cut flowers.

To fight classic war, both equipment and readiness are certainly needed, but so is a willingness to accept casualties. Without that, the Pentagon with its 13 Army and Marine divisions resembles a man with 13 luxurious cars and one gallon of gasoline. Blood has become the limiting factor on the conduct of war, not arms or ammunition.

Recent evidence not only from Somalia, which we evacuated after 20 servicemen were killed, but also from the 1991 Gulf War (when a full-scale U.S. Marine amphibious landing was canceled at the last minute because of a few sea mines), suggests that the United States does not differ from Russia or indeed any other advanced society with 2.2 children per family or less. When the entire emotional capital of families is invested in one or two children instead of the four or five or six of World War I and World War II families, there are no expendable children whose death in combat is ultimately acceptable. Once willing to accept hundreds of casualties per day as the normal cost of warfare, today's United States will accept very few, if any at all.

It is not just draft-dodging, weak-willed presidents who refuse to tolerate the casualties of a deliberately started war, but the entire political elite and society as a whole, including the military, much as they might deny it. To be sure, the high priests of the military will carefully explain that they only refuse to accept casualties in "operations other than war"--OOTW--as in insignificant, not-worth-dying-for Somalia, for example. The implication, of course, is that there is a magical condition called "war" in which important interests are at stake, for which all necessary casualties will be accepted.

Yet, when the Kosovo war unexpectedly turned into NATO's fight for survival as a functioning military organization and key U.S. strategic asset and when the prolongation of the fighting caused by ultra-cautious tactics dangerously eroded U.S. relations with Russia and China, the U.S. Army still refused to risk a few symbolic Apaches; the U.S. Marines still refused to fly their Harriers as low as they were designed to fly; the U.S. Air Force still made no use of the A-10's powerful antitank gun, and all fighter-bombers involved only attacked targets when it could be done in almost perfect safety. And of course, the European allies of the United States were even more cautious, so that it was safer to fly a NATO aircraft over Serbia than to be a passenger on some Third World airlines.

In other words, the entire "national interests" argument is a mere rationalization: The Pentagon obdurately insisted that Kosovo remain a not-worth-dying-for OOTW just like Somalia, even when it became very clear that important U.S. interests were endangered by the way the war was fought.

The truth is that when countries are still willing to fight and accept casualties, they will do so with slight provocation; when they no longer tolerate combat and its casualties, they invent clever new reasons for avoiding them in virtually any circumstances except immediate self-defense. Thus any war that the U.S. is likely to fight--unless Mexico attacks across the Rio Grande--will be classified as an OOTW not worth dying for, raising the huge question of what use it is to keep the present array of forces replete with ground units, attack helicopters and fighter bombers that are not usable in combat without some risk of casualties. (Peacekeeping forces designed as such would be much cheaper.)

A Modern Alternative

Historically, when nations lost the capacity to fight and die, they hired mercenaries. But modern technology offers the alternative of the new kind of war now seen in action against Serbia: post-heroic war, fought without casualties by remote bombardment alone, with cruise missiles and with aircraft operating from very safe altitudes. To protect their traditional array of forces, the Pentagon staffs, like the military bureaucracies of other NATO countries, must pretend that they are all still usable in war, that the infantry, armor and the rest are ready for combat.

Clark, of course, knew better. He himself prepared for a much longer air campaign than many others expected by ordering minimum-risk air operations. Nevertheless, the pressures of the war forced Clark to call the Pentagon's bluff, in the case of Apaches, publicly exposing the gap between pretended "combat readiness" and the refusal to accept its real-life risks. He could hardly be forgiven for that.

Type of Material: Opinion Piece
Copyright (c) 1999 Times Mirror Company


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


QUESTION: According to The Washington Post, Secretary Albright was appalled at the removal of General Clark. That's a pretty strong word. Do you have any comment on that?


QUESTION: What would that arched eyebrow mean?

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 12:55 P.M.)

State Department Home Page



Wesley Clark

'A slap in the face'? General Wesley Clark
(David Hume Kennerly for Newsweek)

Warrior's Rewards

NATO's military commander won in Kosovo but not in Washington. Now he has paid with his job.

By John Barry and Christopher Dickey,
Aug. 9, 1999

Gen. Wesley Clark, supreme Allied Commander in Europe, waged and won NATO's campaign for Kosovo without losing a single soldier in action. For the U.S. military, the victory was uniquely—historically—bloodless. Last week Clark learned it was also thankless.

In a midnight call from Washington, Clark was told he'd be relieved of his command at NATO next April, a few months earlier than he'd anticipated. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Hugh Shelton, presented the decision as a simple matter of giving the post to another deserving officer. Clark, who got the call in the middle of a quick trip to the Baltic republics, was caught off balance. He'd seen Shelton in the United States just the week before. Not a word had been breathed of his replacement. According to one source privy to the conversation, Clark told Shelton the move would be read as a vote of no-confidence in his leadership.

Shelton, brisk and businesslike, said there was no way around it. His replacement—Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—would be forced by law to retire if he weren't given a new slot by April. Clark wasn't buying it. In two conversations that night and again the next day, sources say, he argued that his replacement would be a blow to U.S. efforts to reshape NATO. Shelton wasn't moved. Clark, the 54-year-old warrior, was going to have to step aside for Ralston, the 55-year-old Washington insider.

To salt the wound, news that Clark was leaving early was leaked to The Washington Post within an hour of Shelton's first call. The next day, the White House tried to make nice, heaping praise on Clark's record. Defense Secretary William Cohen suggested, vaguely, that there might be an ambassadorship in the offing. But the equivalent of a gold watch and a pat on the back did little to disguise the insult. "A slap in the face," said one senior European official at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Albanians and Kosovars felt they'd lost a national hero. The French daily Le Monde said Clark was treated "like a bum." Yet, for all that, official Washington had few regrets. "It was botched in the handling, but it's the right decision," a senior administration official told NEWSWEEK.

The irony is not only that Clark won the war and lost his job; he won the war without fighting it the way he wanted to. Overruled by the White House, he was not able to bomb as early, or as massively, as he thought necessary. He always believed ground troops had to be ready to move into action, but they never were. Clark had wanted the U.S. Army, of which he is a general, to be involved. But when Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic finally folded after 78 days of bombing—and bombing alone—that seemed to prove the wisdom of those who had opposed Clark's "hip-shooter" recommendations.

Ralston will be only the second Air Force officer to hold NATO's top command. That fact was noted in the alliance's Brussels headquarters, where it fueled a sense that the United States has lost its will to fight on the ground. "What does this say about the U.S. military's commitment?" asked one senior NATO staffer. "Commitment to what? To keeping the Army healthy and out of combat?"

Yet the core problem was at least as much one of personality as of doctrine. Since his days at West Point, Clark has been something of a loner. (His favorite sport was long-distance swimming. He still tries to work out in the pool every day: lap after arduous lap, oblivious to the outside world.) Clark gloried in being the lone warrior, the take-no-prisoners intellectual. "It's very difficult to stop this ambitious man," said one of his European peers during the war. His colleagues might admire and envy Clark, but few actually liked him.

Ralston has been a more conventional officer and gentleman, so well regarded that back in 1997 he was expected to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs. But an adulterous affair Ralston had a decade before, while separated from his wife, came to light. That was just as the Air Force was agonizing over the way Lt. Kelly Flynn, the first woman B-52 pilot, had played around, got caught, lied about it and got fired. Ralston decided it was prudent to step aside. But he soldiered on as vice chairman, and was such an effective insider that during the Kosovo crisis Ralston had, in many ways, more day-to-day influence on the administration's handling of the war than Shelton. "A choice between losing Ralston to retirement or asking Clark to give up his post two months early?'' said a White House source. "That's a no-brainer."

Should Clark have been surprised to be shown the door? He rubbed even his admirers the wrong way. Subordinates wearied of his high-pressure attention to minute detail. A European NATO officer who worked closely with Clark remembered him during the air war "with his little laptop being able to see all the aircraft maneuvering in the air war." As another NATO veteran put it, "He does get in people's knickers to some extent." When Clark was assigned to work with an old West Point classmate, he suggested that since they might compete for promotions they should put their friendship on hold.

Clark's fights with other NATO commanders were legendary. Early in the conflict, he ordered up a task force of Apache tank-busting helicopter gunships, after going to the White House over the protests of the U.S. Army chief of staff, Gen. Dennis Reimer. The Army dragged its feet and took nearly a month just to reach the theater—and never did fire a missile in anger. At the end of the war, Clark was so anxious to stop the Russians from stealing a march to Pristina airport that he ordered an airborne assault to take the field before them. But Gen. Mike Jackson, the British commander on the ground in Kosovo, wouldn't carry out Clark's orders. Subsequently, a frustrated Clark asked Adm. James Ellis Jr., the American officer in charge of NATO's Southern Command, to order helicopters to land on the runways so big Russian Ilyushin transports couldn't use them. Ellis balked, saying Jackson wouldn't like it. "I'm not going to start World War III for you," Jackson later told Clark. Both Jackson and Clark appealed to their political leadership back home for support. Jackson got all the help he needed; Clark didn't. Effectively, his orders as Supreme Commander were overruled.

Clark still has his fans at NATO headquarters. It was Clark who balanced the demands and misgivings of 19 nations and armies through 78 long days. That showed a great political touch; indeed, Wesley Clark may be too much of a politician for some soldiers—even if he is too much of a soldier for the politicians. During the Kosovo war, that made him "the perfect man for the job," said a top NATO official. When the war was over, it also made him the perfect man to dump.

Wesley Clark

On the warpath? Outcoming NATO supreme commander Wesley Clark (Franco Debernardi — AP)

April 17, 2000

General Clark's Last Stand

What was behind the sudden arrest last week of Momcilo Krajisnik, the ex-Bosnian Serb leader, only a little more than a month after he was indicted as a war criminal? A senior Clinton administration official says it has a lot to do with Gen. Wesley Clark's eagerness to tie up loose ends before he departs as NATO supreme commander next month. One of Clark's main priorities is the arrest of alleged Serb war criminals who have been at large for years—especially former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic.

The arrest of Krajisnik by French troops came after Clark's office intimated that the Americans might move against him if the French, who control that sector of Bosnia, did not. Paris had also grown tired of international criticism that it was letting killers run free. Karadzic is said to be on the run within the Bosnian Serb republic. NATO officials fear his arrest won't be easy. Says one NATO source, "It's likely that people are going to have to get killed to get Karadzic, and he'll probably be killed, too."


The Washington Post

The Unappreciated General
International Herald Tribune The General Who Did Too Good a Job

By Patrick B. Pexton
Tuesday, May 2, 2000; Page A23

Nine years ago, Washington put on a lavish victory parade for the conquering troops of Desert Storm. The nation cheered the men and women who, in a six-week air campaign and 100-hour ground war, with only 148 combat deaths, defeated a ruthless dictator who had seized and pillaged a neighboring land. The generals who led an unwieldy multinational coalition to triumph were feted, toasted and mentioned as presidential material.

Not so for the general who won Kosovo, although he too ousted a murderous tyrant who burned and occupied a neighboring land. This general also led a cumbersome multinational coalition to victory in a short war--this time with zero combat deaths. But Gen. Wesley Clark, supreme allied commander Europe, will come home to no special welcome, no TV or book deals and no talk of the presidency. Clark's reward for victory is early retirement. Tomorrow, several months before his tour of duty would normally end, Clark will turn over the European command to an officer more to the liking of the ever-cautious White House and defense secretary.

Wesley Clark

Clark's problem was that he was a great general but not always a perfect soldier--at least when it came to saluting and saying, "Yes, sir." In fact, when he got orders he didn't like, he said so and pushed to change them.

Clark disapproved the gradualism of the initial bombing campaign against Belgrade. He wanted to hit hard and massively. But NATO governments and diplomats in Washington felt Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic would yield after only a few bombs and cruise missiles, as he had in Bosnia. They were wrong. Clark, who was part of the delegation that negotiated the Dayton accords with Milosevic, knew Kosovo was integral to Serb identity and to Milosevic's rise to power. He would not give it up easily.

When it became clear the initial NATO bombing wasn't working, Clark pushed for every airplane he could get, much to the dismay of the U.S. Air Force. Indeed, one of the unsung accomplishments of Kosovo is how quickly Clark built up air power--far faster than was done in Desert Storm. Clark prodded and cajoled the Europeans and the White House into accepting expanded, and riskier, target lists. He ordered 50 Apache attack helicopters to take the battle to the Serb ground troops, only to see the force reduced in size and then left to sit in Albania while the White House and Pentagon fretted about casualties. Clark also was right about readying troops for an invasion. The preparations for a ground war helped persuade Milosevic to surrender.

More presciently, Clark was right about the Russians. When fewer than 200 lightly armed Russian peacekeepers barnstormed from Bosnia to the Pristina airport in Kosovo to upstage the arrival of NATO peacekeepers, Clark was rightly outraged. Russians did not win the war, and he did not want them to win the peace.

Clark asked NATO helicopters and ground troops to seize the airport before the Russians could arrive. But a British general, absurdly saying he feared World War III (in truth the Russians had no cards to play), appealed to London and Washington to delay the order.

The result was a humiliation for NATO, a tonic for the Russian military and an important lesson for the then-obscure head of the Russian national security council, Vladimir Putin. As later Russian press reports showed, Putin knew far more about the Pristina operation than did the Russian defense or foreign ministers. It was no coincidence that a few weeks afterward, Russian bombers buzzed NATO member Iceland for the first time in a decade. A few weeks after that, with Putin as prime minister, Russian troops invaded Chechnya. Putin learned the value of boldness in the face of Western hesitation. Clark learned that he had no backup in Washington.

Recent events in Kosovo show that Clark's bosses in the Pentagon and White House still don't get it. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Henry Shelton, rebuked Clark in February for using 350 American soldiers to reinforce French troops who were unable to quell violence between Albanians and Serbs. After the American reinforcements were pelted with rocks and bottles, Shelton and the White House, panicky about potential casualties, told Clark not to volunteer U.S. troops again.

But Clark was right to act. He understood the value of using force quickly and early to show who was in control, and to demonstrate to the European allies that the United States is willing to put lives at risk too.

Both Desert Storm and Kosovo were imperfect victories because the despots who caused them were left in power. But the military fought them well. The thousands of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots and support troops who quietly rejoined their squadrons when the Kosovo war ended deserve more than a historical footnote. And Clark deserves more than a pink slip.

The writer is a managing editor at National Journal.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

The Washington Post


Seattle Times
Posted at 07:06 a.m. PDT; Wednesday, August 4, 1999

Clark's Exit Was Leaked Deliberately, Official Says
by Dana Priest
The Washington Post

Wesley Clark

WASHINGTON - One mystery solved. Why was Gen. Wesley Clark's early removal from his post as NATO's top commander leaked within an hour after Clark himself was informed of Defense Secretary William Cohen's decision last week?

Answer: Because Cohen's staff wanted to prevent Clark, who had led the NATO military campaign against Yugoslavia and was known to like his job, from working behind the scenes to undo the decision, according to a senior Pentagon official.

"They decided to prevent it," said the official. Included in the cabal that engineered the plot was Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon, the official said.

"I don't really have anything to add," Bacon said Monday.

Cohen, who clashed with Clark during the war over Clark's desires to plan for a ground invasion, made the decision to remove Clark early and without consulting him beforehand, because he wanted to find a way to keep Gen. Joseph Ralston, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Ralston, set to retire next year, said the NATO post was the only job he wanted.

Clark, who is set to leave in April, is not the only top general leaving soon. In December, Gen. John Tilelli, commander of the combined U.N.-U.S. forces in South Korea, will be replaced by Gen. Thomas Schwartz, now commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command. After that, Adm. Harold Gehman Jr., head of the U.S. Atlantic Command, will retire, to be followed by Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni, now commander of the U.S. Central Command. After that, Marine Corps Gen. Charles Wilhelm departs as head of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in South America and Central America. Adm. Richard Mies will then leave as commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the U.S. nuclear arsenal. And finally, out goes Gen. Peter Schoomaker, head of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

President Clinton's "Distress"
August 3, 1999 Weekly Review of Current Events Volume 2.30

...Defense Secretary William Cohen, who reportedly ensured that Clark's dismissal was coordinated with the White House and leaked to the press, mused publicly that Clark might be given an ambassadorship. Reports throughout the Kosovo war reflected tension between the Pentagon and NATO command, with Gen. Clark advocating more assertive measures than Washington was often comfortable with. President Clinton delivered restrained praise for Clark at the Sarajevo summit, noting that "I have the highest regard for him," but acknowledging "distress" over the way the decision was publicized rather than any disagreement with the decision itself...


Balkan Action Council

Washington's Long Knives

We commend the following article to your attention, written by executive director James R. Hooper, and published in The Washington Times on Friday, August 13, 1999.

Wesley Clark

The Clinton administration's decision not to reappoint Gen. Wesley Clark for a second term as Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) of NATO forces following his victory over Serbia in the Kosovo war reveals the state of high-level Washington confusion over fundamental Balkan policy aims.

More than any senior U.S. civilian or military official, Gen. Clark epitomized a tough, no-nonsense approach to Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Belgrade no doubt views the decision and its timing as a reflection of Washington's unwillingness to stay the course in the region that can be exploited in the months ahead.

The removal of Gen. Clark three months shy of the end of his first term has been portrayed by the Pentagon as a regrettable technical necessity to make room for the appointment of Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, the deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Ralston, a talented, hard-working and honorable officer, had emphasized that he would only remain in uniform when his current assignment ends early next year if he received the NATO appointment (technically, the appointment is to the post of Commander in Chief of United States Forces in Europe, or USCINCEUR, which carries with it the SACEUR billet as well). Gen. Ralston is well-liked on Capitol Hill, and many there and in the administration presumably felt that his previous decision to forgo a proffered nomination as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs due to publicity he received over an earlier affair when separated from his wife was an unnecessary sacrifice to political correctness.

So much for the People magazine view of Washington personnel decision-making. The real story, of course, is that Gen. Clark was not reappointed because he had ruffled too much senior Washington plumage in achieving NATO's victory. The administration expected that a brief and light NATO bombing campaign would bring Mr. Milosevic to heel, put a lid on the violence in Kosovo, and enable the United States to restore the frayed credibility of its European leadership role and the viability of the alliance itself. All at little price and minimal risk.

Belgrade's decision to intensify the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo that it had begun the previous year, when over 500,000 Kosovo Albanians were displaced from their homes and 500 villages destroyed, challenged these comfortable assumptions. The alliance could either make peace with Mr. Milosevic on his terms, or adapt its strategy and tactics to the new Belgrade-driven realities. Washington hesitated, Gen. Clark did not. By exercising his option as field commander, forcefully advocating escalation of the air war to defeat Serbia and pressing for all necessary resources to achieve that objective, he left little room for the administration to follow its preferred course of action whenever Mr. Milosevic called its bluff.

This was a decisive break with the policy that Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had brokered of coming to terms with Mr. Milosevic and giving him a major "peacemaker" role. As a key participant in the Dayton peace negotiations with Mr. Holbrooke, Gen. Clark believed that such coddling of the Serbian leader had only tempted Belgrade to believe that Washington had an almost inexhaustible patience for Serb-inspired destabilization of the region. When negotiating the crucial written details of the October 1998 Kosovo cease-fire after Mr. Holbrooke had obtained oral commitments from Mr. Milosevic, Gen. Clark concluded that Belgrade would not abide by it for long, that the cease-fire would break down, and that this would present Washington with a national crisis. Anticipating war, he sought to prepare the administration and the allies for the looming conflict.

Any conflict produces inevitable tensions between field commanders and headquarters. Those tensions are multiplied when the alliance is as disparate as the 19 member nations of NATO. Gen. Clark's achievement was to provide the NATO alliance with the will, vision and strategy to win and not let tactical obstacles overwhelm his strategic objectives. His bombing campaign, moreover, set the stage for the resurgence of democratic activism in Serbia aimed at displacing Mr. Milosevic.

That Gen. Ralston differed with Gen. Clark over many of the key war-fighting recommendations made by SACEUR does not augur well for the firmness of future alliance policy in the Balkans. That the Army was prepared to let the NATO command go to an Air Force officer for only the second time in alliance history suggests that the Pentagon's senior Army leaders have yet to digest the lesson that their inclination to field the best-equipped force that does not fight-witness the Apache helicopter non-deployment fiasco-is impelling the service toward strategic irrelevance in Europe. That Secretary of Defense William Cohen would undercut Gen. Clark as he begins the enormously complicated and difficult task of implementing the KFOR security mandate raises questions about the secretary's military judgment (though not, of course, his right to remove Gen. Clark).

That the president would assent to the removal of Gen. Clark for, in effect, being right projects political small-mindedness and lack of vision.

Gen. Wesley Clark has earned the nation's gratitude. He learned well the lesson of using force to prevail in the Balkan snake pit and emerged as a genuine allied commander of stature. In so doing, however, even a leader of his talents and professionalism was unable to survive the more harsh and unforgiving Washington snake pit. He will depart NATO next April as the shortest-tenured SACEUR since Dwight Eisenhower. That's not bad company to be in.

The Washington Post

Army Faces Reduced Leadership Role

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 1, 2000; Page A01

The U.S. Army goes missing in action Tuesday.

When Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark steps down as U.S. commander in Europe and is succeeded by Air Force Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, the Army will find itself in the unprecedented position of holding none of the regional commander-in-chief or "CinC" positions that were created in the U.S. military after World War II.

After Tuesday, an Air Force general will preside in Europe for the first time since 1962. The Navy will continue to hold the top command in the Pacific, its traditional domain. And, unusually, Marine generals will occupy the regional commands covering the Middle East and South America. Of the nine top commands in the U.S. military, collectively called the Unified Combat Commands, an Army officer will run just one, the relatively low-profile Special Operations Command.

That's quite a change from the days after World War II when Army generals strode the Earth like viceroys, with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as the commander for the Far East and Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as the "Supreme Allied Commander, Europe."

The shift may not attract much public attention because the CinC (pronounced sink) jobs are largely out of the public eye except in wartime. But inside the armed forces, the change is being noticed and discussed. The CinCs are some of the most coveted positions in the U.S. military establishment, generally seen as more enjoyable and invigorating than the grind of being a service chief in Washington.

Moreover, the CinC positions are now arguably more important than the service chiefs (the chief of naval operations, commandant of the Marine Corps, and chiefs of staff of the Army and Air Force). Like the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the CinCs have grown in power and prestige over the last 15 years, since the Goldwater-Nichols Act revamped the structure of the U.S. military and reduced the operational role of the service chiefs, focusing them on personnel and training.

Think, for example, of how many Americans still recognize the name of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who as CinC for the Central Command oversaw the U.S. prosecution of the Persian Gulf War--and contrast that with how few outside the Army remember that the chief of the Army then was Gen. Carl E. Vuono.

The reasons for the shift away from the Army say a lot about the U.S. military today, and perhaps also something about the changed nature of warfare. The loss of the European command in particular is causing some soul-searching among thoughtful officers in the Army, which already is in the midst of protracted self-examination. That "identity crisis," as some analysts are calling it, was caused partly by criticism of the Army's slowness in deploying to Albania last year; partly by personnel problems, such as a chronic recruiting shortage and an increasing dropout rate among its junior officers; and partly by a suspicion that the American public will no longer tolerate the high casualties that ground wars usually bring.

The big winner in this shift is the Air Force, which in about a year is expected to hold six of the top 14 jobs in the U.S. military whose occupants are eligible by law to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That's significant because a successor to the current chairman, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, will be picked next summer, just before Shelton's second term expires.

"There clearly is a major effort afoot to position an Air Force officer to succeed Shelton," concludes Williamson Murray, a prominent historian of the 20th century U.S. military currently associated with the Institute for Defense Analyses in Alexandria.

If so, that portends a change in the pecking order at the Pentagon, where the Air Force is sometimes still regarded as a kind of junior partner to the Army and Navy. The last three officers picked to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs were all from the Army. Meanwhile, the last president to choose an Air Force officer to lead the U.S. military was Jimmy Carter.

To be sure, the Army is at a low tide now, and will soon recover somewhat. By mid-summer it is expected to pick up one CinC position, and it could score as many as three. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who picks the commanders from nominations made by each service, is expected soon to choose Army Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks to succeed Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni to lead the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Mideast.

Also, the Army may pick up another slot if, as expected, Army Lt. Gen. William F. Kernan is nominated to take over the Joint Forces Command, an evolving command that retains geographic responsibility for the Atlantic Ocean but increasingly is concentrating on joint training and experimentation. Essentially, the holder of this obscure post is charged with looking to the future of the U.S. military--an effort on which the Army is focusing as it seeks to make itself better able to move combat forces quickly to hot spots around the globe.

No decision has been made yet on yet another "CinCdom," the Southern Command, officials say. The Army has nominated Lt. Gen. Thomas Burnette; the Marines put forward Lt. Gen. Peter Pace. The betting inside the Pentagon is that Pace will be selected.

In addition, the Army continues to hold the top slot in South Korea. That's a prestigious four-star billet, but in legal terms it is a subordinate command. At any rate, there is no competition there, because the Korea position always goes to an officer from the Army, whose personnel dominate the U.S. military presence on the peninsula.

But all those are secondary posts. That the Army, for the first time since the command structure was established, at least temporarily won't hold any of the big four regional commands in the U.S. military represents a kind of tectonic shift both for that service and for the entire armed forces.

Some officials cite the change in the nature of warfare as the biggest single reason for the Pentagon's new inclination to favor Air Force officers. The Kosovo war last year was the first ever in which a nation submitted only because of the air power used against it, notes one officer.

Retired Air Force Gen. John A. Shaud, now director of the Air Force Association, says it appears that the classic American way of fighting in the 20th century--that is, inserting ground forces and supporting them from the sea and air--is no longer the preferred option. He points not only to last year's Kosovo campaign, but also to the 1998 airstrikes against Iraq and cruise missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan.

"The overall trend in warfare is to fight at a distance," gloomily agrees a career Army tank officer at the Pentagon. "The war in Kosovo provided a case study for those who want to punish from a distance. Prior to this, no nation had ever submitted to air power."

But others, particularly on the staff of the Joint Chiefs and around the secretary of defense, say the shift has more to do with internal factors. Specifically, they argue that the Army currently has a "weak bench" of generals.

Even some in the Army say that their service isn't producing the right type of general. "The Army is a decidedly anti-intellectual institution," said one Army colonel at the Pentagon who is worried by what he sees as his service's waning stature. As a result of its aversion to glibness and suspicion of political smoothness, he said, the Army is less able to articulate its positions in Washington debates over policy and budgets. It "steadfastly refuses to promote the kind of people Cohen and everybody else thinks they need for CinCs," he said.

Some aides to Cohen confirm this, complaining that they find the Army a confusing and difficult institution to deal with.

On the other hand, Cohen and his aides generally have been seen as pushovers for the Marines--a major reason the Corps wound up with two CinCdoms in recent years. The office of the secretary of defense continues to look Corps-friendly. Gen. James Jones, the Marine commandant, is an old basketball-playing buddy of the secretary, and until last summer served as his military assistant. He was succeeded by a Navy admiral. The new deputy defense secretary's top military aide is another Marine general.

But these things go in cycles, experts say. Just as the Army is down now, it may be the Air Force's turn next, warns Chris Seiple, a former Marine Corps strategist. He argues that the Air Force is likely to be the next service to fall into crisis as its pilot-dominated culture is undermined by two phenomena: the growing role of pilotless aircraft and the increasing significance of outer space in military operations.

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

The Washington Post



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