NATO's strategy in Kosovo, ineffective?
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Thousands of people continue to be senselessly murdered in our world. Violence is a prevailing theme in the news headlines today and is a continuing way of life for many countries. Good examples of such violence include the Balkan countries along the Adriatic Sea. In the past twenty years, countries such as Bosnia, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo have consistently been places for brutal ethnic killings. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has attempted to diminish violence in recent years with limited success. One NATO effort to end ethnic driven violence was in Kosovo during Operation Allied Force in 1999. Although the campaign in Kosovo was an overall success, the problem with Operation Allied Force was NATO's strategy. NATO's strategy for Kosovo was not effective for three main reasons: first, there was a failure to leverage more decisive diplomatic efforts to restore peace; second, there were unclear political objectives and unspecific plans to attain them; third and finally, was the decision to not use ground forces. Let's take a closer look at each of these points and the supporting evidence. The first reason the strategy in Kosovo was ineffective was due to indecisive diplomatic and military decisions and resulting actions. Kosovo was the result of policy makers in Washington and elsewhere who proved unwilling or unable to set political objectives and to consider how far they were prepared to go to achieve them militarily (Ugly, p.17).
The first such evidence occurred early in the campaign when Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton Administration's Balkans envoy, traveled to Belgrade in October 1998 to persuade Milosevic to end his attacks on the Kosovar population. Although an agreement was made between Holbrook and Milosevic, key details for that agreement were poorly defined (Ugly p.23). One key detail, was how to punish Serb non-compliance. Milosevic's violent reputation was well documented and NATO could reasonably assume he would not "make good" on any future agreements or at least sustained compliance. A clear and credible message for a man like Milosevic was essential due to his recently proven violent actions in Bosnia and Kosovo. He disregarded peace agreements on several occasions. Here was a man who was responsible for a decade of violence in Croatia and Bosnia by killing over 100,000 people, and he is at it again in Kosovo. NATO needed to get this man to sign his name agreeing to very specific details of a plan to end his violence and more importantly, have an assured method for dealing with a good chance of noncompliance. Additionally, how and when Milosevic would finally end violent retaliation against the Albanian civilian population and reach an agreement with the KLA were not clearly specified in the Holbrook-Milosevic agreement. Another specific political objective left unanswered concerned the withdrawl of Serb Forces from Kosovo.
Unarmed monitors would therefore be an unwise choice to send into a violent situation with the armed opposition having a distinct advantage. Additionally, there was ambiguity about what the monitors of the agreement were supposed to monitor on the ground and in the air to maintain peace (Ugly, p.50). Secretary of State Albright explained, "I didn't want to see something that was like the UN forces in Bosnia, who didn't have any real authority." While monitors were part of the agreement, their role was never specific and they did not have any real authority in the eyes of the Serbs. While Operation Allied Force was an overall success by restoring Kosovo, the reasons and supporting evidence stated in this document clearly show how NATO's strategy in Kosovo was ineffective for several reasons. Indecisive diplomatic efforts and military action was at the heart of the ineffective strategy in Kosovo since clear political objectives were never really agreed on. This indecisive diplomatic decision making led to indecisive military action. Additionally, the US and NATO showed no decisive strategy throughout the Kosovo campaign. There were only small steps taken with an air campaign and no follow on second, third and fourth order plans. The decision not to use ground forces was especially unwise; many Albanians were killed as a result of it. Hopefully in the future, the US and NATO will apply the lessons learned in Kosovo to save lives during campaigns to achieve lasting peace.
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