Autumn 1999 - 28 June 2000

Last update 26 Dec. 2003

Clark Recalls 'Lessons' of Kosovo
Air chief's Kosovo lesson: go for snake's head first
Cyberwar could spare bombs
SHAPE NEWS SA 28 JUNE 2000, Kosovo-comments
 ProfDB.Ru ::

Clark Recalls 'Lessons' of Kosovo

By Joseph Fitchett    International Herald Tribune

Gen. Wesley K. Clark

MONS, Belgium - General Wesley Clark says that he can recall ''only a couple of bad days'' in his military career, which stretches from West Point to NATO command during the alliance's first shooting war.

One was in Vietnam, the day he was shot and wounded. He has never publicly specified the other, but there is little doubt about the day General Clark had in mind.

It was the day last July, barely a month after the end of hostilities in Kosovo, when he got a call from the Pentagon informing him that he was being replaced ahead of schedule as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. As a result, General Clark, 55, will fly home Wednesday after three years at NATO, a shorter term than most would have expected.

As ''Saceur,'' General Clark won NATO's victory in Kosovo, validating the intervention against Belgrade ordered by the United States and its European allies. His supporters believed he was entitled to gratitude, not a public slap.

So, how did the man generally credited with winning the war in Kosovo wind up losing his job?

Probably, he was too aggressive for the Clinton administration, diplomats said this week, explaining that General Clark clashed with Washington on questions of how quickly to escalate the war in Kosovo. There were other incidents, too. General Clark clashed with the administration in the closing hours of the war when he was ready for a confrontation with Russian troops to preempt them from taking the Pristina airport - a move that General Clark feared could have led to partition of Kosovo. (Russian sources have subsequently told the BBC that their forces were prevented from doing just that when Romania and Bulgaria closed their airspace to Russian transports, largely at General Clark's behest.)

At each stage of the war, General Clark seemed ready to lobby in allied capitals for tougher actions - including the deployment of Apache helicopters and preparations for a ground war - than the Clinton administration wanted.

But recriminations or personal vindication about his treatment by his superiors seemed the last thing on General Clark's mind during a recent interview in this town in southern Belgium, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has had its military headquarters since being expelled from France in 1967.

Lingering a moment in his long office at the massive wooden partners desk used by the alliance's first commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, General Clark wanted to talk about what he apparently sees as a new challenge to trans-Atlantic unity of historic proportions.

In a nutshell, he argued that Western governments should learn from Kosovo that their gradualist approach to combat might not work again.

In the future, General Clark said, once a decision is made to use force, the alliance should deal a fast, stunning blow aimed at quick, decisive victory.

''Once the threshold is crossed to employ force, then force should be employed as quickly and decisively as possible,'' General Clark said. ''The more rapidly it can be done, the greater the likelihood of success.''

His comments amounted to the first detailed explanation of a new strategy that General Clark apparently intends to push publicly as NATO's most prominent former commander.

Tellingly, this approach runs counter to the plan that General Clark himself had to work with in Kosovo when he was under orders from Western leaders.

Allied capitals shunned a ground offensive and even refused to bomb key military installations until the tenacity of Belgrade compelled Western leaders to authorize strikes on more sensitive facilities such as the television towers used by Belgrade and factories operated by the Serbian leadership.

Such gradualism could backfire in future, General Clark warned, because democracies need a clear-cut outcome fast - before accidents undermine their political determination.

In conflicts of the sort likely to arise these days, according to General Clark, the stakes can quickly seem marginal because they do not directly threaten Western national interests.

On the other hand, U.S. adversaries may succeed in playing for time in future secondary-level conflicts because the superpowers' nuclear arsenals have lost what General Clark called ''their dampening effect'' in containing crises involving each other and their satellites.

Repeatedly, General Clark insisted that his comments were not meant as criticism of the political constraints imposed by Washington and other allied capitals on NATO in Kosovo.

''The politicians did well and creatively in the crisis, so this is no criticism,'' he said. But ''it would be wrong to ignore the lesson to be learned.''

In his mind, political leaders and public opinion need to learn to wield force boldly once the alternatives have been exhausted, as they were in lengthy negotiations with Belgrade over many months before the Kosovo campaign.

When the air raids started, a gradualist strategy prevailed, apparently because Western leaders mistakenly thought Belgrade would yield to a show of force. Almost immediately, the timetable telescoped as bombing escalated, and NATO was clearly close to launching the long-denied ground campaign when Belgrade ceded.

Ultimately, allied governments did whatever it took to win in Kosovo, despite their initial miscalculations, because NATO's unity was at stake and therefore became a vital interest for the Western democracies, General Clark asserted.

The good thing to emerge from Kosovo, he said, is that the world should now be on notice: NATO can and will do anything necessary to defend Western vital interests.

But victory in Kosovo, General Clark indicated, should not blind leaders to a pattern in which Western interventions have succeeded when they dealt overwhelming initial military shocks.

He cited Panama, where a disproportionately large U.S. force quickly overran the tiny country. Even in the Gulf, Iraq's army was already reeling from the massive air attacks before the allies' ''left hook'' with armored forces.

General Clark's approach, which would require lengthy debates in the key NATO member states, would be a change for a generation of Western policymakers who appear fearful that rapid military escalation will shock public opinion.

The trouble with this approach, General Clark suggested, is that conflicts in future are likely to be marginal affairs - Kosovo, Somalia, East Timor - where the democracies' survival are not obviously at stake.

Time works against democracies in such marginal interventions because any major setback is liable to shake their political determination.

In contrast, authoritarian governments - in Baghdad or Belgrade, for example - have time to adjust to military punishment if it is incremental.

Belgrade miscalculated, according to General Clark, who rejected any suggestion that Western high-tech armed forces will become incapable of sustaining casualties, a near-inevitability in ground operations.

''Potential adversaries should recognize that Western nations are fully capable - militarily, diplomatically and industrially - of high intensity combat operations that include the use of ground forces when their vital interests are involved and even when less-than-vital interests are involved,'' he said.

Late last month, shortly before being named an officer in France's Legion of Honor, General Clark had a meeting with President Jacques Chirac, the first time a NATO commander has been received by a French head of state since NATO moved to Mons after General Charles de Gaulle took his country out of the alliance's integrated military command. The honor to General Clark came after French forces fought under his orders.

So an obvious question is, a NATO diplomat said: Will he get similar attention from the Clinton White House?


Air chief's Kosovo lesson: go for snake's head first

Released: 28 Oct 1999

by Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- If it had been solely up to U.S. military chiefs, the lights in Belgrade would have gone out a lot sooner, according to top Operation Allied Force field commanders.

"I'd have gone for the head of the snake on the first night," Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Short said in an Oct. 21 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Serving as the air chief during NATO's air campaign against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's military, Short appeared with Army Gen. Wesley Clark, overall operational commander, and Adm. James Ellis, commander of NATO forces in Southern Europe.

U.S. military and political leaders are studying Operation Allied Force, NATO's first large-scale conflict, for ways to improve the security alliance and to ensure future success. The recent Senate hearing was one of several to review U.S. lessons learned and prepare a record for future military strategists.

"I'd have turned the lights out," Short said. "I'd have dropped the bridges across the Danube. I'd have hit five or six political-military headquarters in downtown Belgrade. Milosevic and his cronies would have woken up the first morning asking what the hell was going on."

According to the general, a combat aviator himself, the way to stop ethnic cleansing would have been to put a dagger in the Serb leadership's heart "as rapidly and as decisively as possible." Based on his personal experience with Milosevic, Short said, "If you hit that man hard -- slapped him up side the head -- he'd pay attention."

Clark echoed his air chief's hard line, but noted that political constraints affected the alliance operation.

"Once the threshold is crossed and you are going to use force, that force has to be as decisive as possible in attaining your military objectives," he said. In the case of Kosovo, however, he said, the consensus of 19 nations was required to approve action, and many countries had preconceptions about how to apply force.

"Every single nation had a domestic political constituency, and every single nation had a different set of political problems," Clark explained. "In some there were government coalitions. In others there were historic relationships. Some bore the agony of defeat in a previous conflict and the word 'war' couldn't be mentioned. Others were long-standing partners with American efforts elsewhere in the world."

Despite their political differences, Clark stressed, the allies pulled together and their cohesion and resolution got stronger.

"The fundamental lesson of the campaign is that the alliance worked," Clark said. "The procedures that were honed and developed over 50 years, the mechanism of consultation, the trust, the interoperability that we'd exercised time and again in preparation for missions, they all came together."

NATO prevailed despite bad weather, political constraints and the advent of a humanitarian crisis as refugees poured out of Kosovo. Clark stressed NATO's conditions were met -- the cease-fire, the removal of Serb military forces, the placement of a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo and the return of refugees.

Yet, there is room for improvement, the three field commanders agreed. They highlighted the need to address the growing gap between U.S. and NATO allies' military capabilities. Clark said NATO allies clearly understand the gap and are committed to closing it.

"This operation had a remarkable effect in spurring European determination and resolve to pick up a greater burden within the alliance," he said. "They really want to strengthen the European pillar of NATO."

Allied Force naval chief Ellis called for improved secure communications among the allies and streamlined NATO procedures enabling timely political and military action. The admiral also stressed the need to recognize the complexities that emerged during the conflict.

"As we were successfully prosecuting an aggressive air campaign, we were at the same time and in the same region working to bolster the resolve and security of critical front-line states ... while also conducting massive humanitarian relief operations literally under the guns of our enemy," Ellis said.

Short noted that Serb air defenses proved to be far less competent than U.S. and NATO officials expected.

"We expected them to come up and fight; they did not," he said. "Their MiG-29 drivers turned out to be incompetent at best. And their surface-to-air missile system operators chose to survive as opposed to fight."

All three senior leaders' opening remarks praised the professionalism of the U.S. and allied troops who conducted the 78-day operation. More than 900 aircraft -- two-thirds American -- flew more than 14,000 strike and 24,000 support sorties.

The United States suffered the only NATO air losses, an F-117A Nighthawk and an F-16 Fighting Falcon, with both pilots rescued safely. NATO lost no service members to hostile action.

Allied crews delivered more than 23,000 bombs and other munitions with less than 20 incidents of collateral damage.

"That's an incident rate of less than one-tenth of 1 percent," Clark said. "There's never been anything like it in the history of a military campaign, and I think it's a real tribute to the skill and proficiency of the men and women who flew and executed this campaign, to achieve that kind of precision."



Cyberwar could spare bombs

Nato commander Wesley Clark boosts the case for telecom assaults with a vision of how they might have been used in Kosovo

Julian Borger in Washington
Friday November 5, 1999

UFOSeek Search

The general who led Nato's forces in Kosovo believes the bombing campaign might not have been necessary if new electronic methods of waging war had been used to force President Slobodan Milosevic into submission.

General Wesley Clark, the outgoing supreme allied commander in Europe, stunned a recent session of the US senate armed forces committee by calling for a complete rethink of western strategy and questioning the need for the aerial assault on Serbia, which caused an estimated 1,500 civilian casualties and came close to losing the propaganda war.

His testimony last month was the highest level of endorsement so far given to the use of forms of "cyberwar" which, their supporters argue, could have stopped Serb ethnic cleansing faster and with far less bloodshed.

Such a war would have used "offensive hacking" against Belgrade's computers and Mr Milosevic's bank account, and jammed or subverted his communications and propaganda. Meanwhile small groups of special forces sent into Kosovo with powerful computers would have directed Nato's overwhelming firepower at the Serb troops responsible for the slaughter.

"We need to look at all of the instruments of power that can be brought to bear," Gen Clark told the senators. He argued that as well as legal means of blocking the Danube and the Adriatic ports, Nato should have used "methods to isolate Milosevic and his political parties electronically".

"There were a number of measures that could have been taken sooner and some that were never actually implemented that would have augmented - maybe even been more powerful than - the military instrument, maybe have prevented the use of the military instrument."

In the course of the Kosovo war, Gen Clark came to be regarded as a maverick in the Pentagon, and his forced early retirement from his Nato post - he leaves next spring, several months ahead of schedule - was widely seen as a calculated snub to his views.

But his outspoken remarks to the senate have added significant weight to a growing body of thought among US strategic thinkers.

In a report published this month, the US council on foreign relations (CFR) argued that new non-lethal technologies offered a "middle option" between "classic diplomatic table-thumping and indiscriminate economic sanctions on the one hand and major military intervention on the other hand".

Nato troops have been experimenting for years with ways to bring the west's overwhelming technological superiority to bear on its enemies without resorting to the vast destructive power of high-altitude bombardment. They call it the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). But it is a revolution that has hitherto been kept top secret.

"The US admits it has SF [special forces] troops but it doesn't admit it has IO [information operations] forces," said Martin Libicki, a cyberwar expert from the National Defence university in Washington, who is researching the issue for the Rand Corporation.

The Kosovan conflict has been called the first war on the internet. Hackers disrupted and defaced Serb and Nato websites, and jammed computer messaging systems with "email bombs". Some were government-sponsored and some private, but they had a limited effect on each side's military capabilities.

Meanwhile, a hidden internet battle for far higher stakes was under way. According to defence analysts, US computer hackers burrowed into Serb government email systems to read Belgrade's mind day by day, while some infiltrated their way into the internet systems of banks around the world in search of accounts held by Mr Milosevic and other Serbian leaders.

There are divided views on whether they succeeded, but analysts agree that it was an early example of the wars yet to come, in which the struggle will turn on access to the enemy's financial and communications computer systems.

With that in mind, the Pentagon set up a specialised agency two years ago aimed at securing US classified systems against a "cyber-terrorist attack" in which, for example, hostile hackers would cause chaos in the American skies by planting a "logic bomb" in air traffic control computers to scramble their software.

Cyberwar proponents argue that Nato put the interests of financial stability first and decided not to erase Mr Milo sevic's bank accounts. They also argue that the west failed to use the non-lethal means at its disposal to disrupt Serb television propaganda. The CFR report said microwave technology could have disabled Belgrade's electronic equipment, while cruise missiles armed with carbon-fibre payloads could have shorted out the Serb electric grid.

Alternatively, transmissions from neighbouring countries or electronic warfare planes like the EA-6B Prowler could have subverted Belgrade's television broadcasts by slotting in reports of Serb atrocities in Kosovo or replacing them wholesale with the BBC or CNN.

To that end, it argues, video cameras could have been distributed to the Kosovo Liberation Army and Kosovan civilians to accelerate the flow of live evidence of Serb ethnic cleansing.

By using non-lethal means Nato would have avoided rallying Serb popular support around an otherwise hated regime, and would have found it easier to maintain a Nato consensus behind its campaign, the report argues.

But it is in Kosovo itself that the new forms of warfare might have had their greatest effect.

According to John Arquilla, one of cyberwar's leading prophets and a professor of defence information sciences at the Naval postgraduate school in California, small groups of US, British and French special forces were infiltrated into Kosovo and could have been used to direct bombers or helicopters against the Serb militias carrying out ethnic cleansing.

With the help of satellites, electronic warfare planes like the Prowler and the unmanned drones under development, these troops could have provided their commanders with an accurate and constantly updated picture of what Mr Arquilla calls the"information battlespace".

In a joint article with David Ronfeldt, a Rand researcher, he wrote: "Advanced information-gathering tools, including orbital and aerial assets, night vision equipment and unmanned sensors deployed along the lines of movement, let our units know where enemy units are, when they are moving and in what numbers. Our preliminary view is that a cyberwar campaign might require only one-tenth the number of an adversary's forces."

Instead of exploiting these possibilities, the Pentagon fell back on the "Powell doctrine", called after the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Colin Powell, which maintained that the US should intervene only when it could muster overwhelming force.

The special forces in Kosovo and the Apache helicopters waiting just over the border were never used to stop the slaughter.




According to the newspaper [France's Le Monde], Gen. Clark indicated that during the air campaign over Yugoslavia, his relations with the French were "excellent." Asked if he had problems with French authorities regarding the targeting of bridges, he said: "A high-ranking French air force officer once told me, ‘I understand you want to attack bridges.’ I answered, ‘yes.’ But, the French officer added, ‘don’t you understand that we do not want to hurt the Serbs, our European brothers? And, anyway, who do you think will have to pay to rebuild the bridges?’ This is very sharp reasoning. It did not make me change my mind, but I understood better why certain countries were resisting the idea of taking out the bridges. But this being said, eventually, we would have taken the bridges out anyway; it was inevitable." According to the newspaper, the anecdote reinforced Gen. Clark’s conviction as well as the main lesson he draws from the Kosovo conflict: "Once you have crossed the threshold of resorting to military force, you must use it in the most possible decisive way to reach your objective. The next question is: isn’t it better to go strong from the beginning, in order to shorten the operation and reach your goal with more efficiency, rather than let things drag and have to destroy so much and risk more civilian casualties?" According to the newspaper, Gen. Clark called for a reflection on "a new strategic partnership," stressing: "The logic of the Cold War, under which it was sufficient to show force to demonstrate cohesion and purpose is no longer valid. Today’s armed forces must be capable to reach a military objective in order to rapidly obtain a negotiated capitulation." Gen. Clark reportedly insisted one thing was clear: Europe had neither the air power nor the technology to conduct the war. Asked whether Europe would be capable to take care of Kosovo-like conflicts if it acquired those lacking means, he answered: "I believe there must be a first resort to NATO. We must use all of our diplomatic and political weight. One thing we remember from the Cold War is that together, the United States and Europe are capable of resolving any problem. Those who would try to act without this trans-Atlantic link risk being disappointed."