The Times of London, April 18 1999                           

    Air power has failed and the allies' only
  real option is to get out, writes General Sir 
                  Michael Rose
      Nato must head for door marked exit

 The tragic accidental bombing by Nato of       
 civilians in Kosovo will not surprise those
 who understand the difficulties aircrews face  
 flying missions over Yugoslavia and the
 limitations of Nato air power. Its weapons
 systems were designed for general war against  
 the Warsaw Pact - not for the limited type of
 engagement taking place over Yugoslavia.       

 Think back to February 1994, when Nato issued
 another ultimatum. Then the United Nations     
 brokered an agreement between the Bosnians     
 and the Serbs to establish a 20-kilometre      
 exclusion zone around Sarajevo; Nato said it   
 would launch airstrikes against any heavy      
 weapons that remained within the zone.         

 But surveillance aircraft found it impossible  
 to determine accurately whether there were     
 any tanks or guns in the exclusion zone. On
 one occasion, air reconnaissance identified a  
 Serbian mortar position that turned out to be  
 a collection of haystacks. Nato had to rely    
 on UN military observers on the ground to
 verify possible targets.

 It is not easy for pilots flying at more than
 400mph over broken country to identify the
 sort of targets that will have to be
 destroyed if Nato is to succeed in Kosovo.
 The lesson that can be drawn from the sad
 incidents that have occurred so far is that
 air power is a blunt weapon, wholly
 inappropriate for use by itself in this form
 of conflict.

 Without soldiers on the ground able to verify
 targets and direct airstrikes, the terrible
 mistakes (the bombing of a passenger train
 and refugee convoy) that occurred last week
 will inevitably continue to happen.

 Such a lesson is not clearly understood by
 Nato. On April 14, at the daily press
 conference, Jamie Shea, the alliance's press
 spokesman, said Nato had chosen a modus
 operandi in line with its policy not to be at
 war with the Serbian people. The alliance, he
 said, wished to avoid inflicting "unnecessary
 pain on the Serbian people or their economy".
 Within a few hours many Kosovo Albanians had
 been killed and wounded by Nato airstrikes.

 Expressions of regret, however sincere,
 coupled with bland assurances that Nato is
 doing all it can to avoid such mistakes - and
 that anyway Milosevic is to blame - are an
 insufficient response to these mistakes.
 Civilised people will not stand by for ever
 and watch the Serbian people, who have
 already been reduced to the edge of survival
 by their brutal rulers, being bombed.

 One of the more worrying characteristics that
 has emerged during the first month of the war
 is the degree to which rhetoric has taken
 over from reality. Daily, we are being
 subjected to increasingly irrelevant accounts
 of military actions being routinely
 undertaken by Nato against civilian and
 military targets in Yugoslavia - without any
 real analysis as to whether what is being
 done is delivering the stated objectives.

 Instead, we get the sort of fairy tale told
 by Shea that "every morning President
 Milosevic wakes up and realises that in the
 last 24 hours he has become weaker, he also
 sees that Nato is becoming stronger".

 These musings are usually accompanied by
 emotional descriptions of the terrible things
 that are being done by Milosevic's brutal
 regime - as if their repeated telling would
 somehow justify the continuation of a Nato
 strategy that has already failed.

 Before long, the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo
 will be halted - not because of anything Nato
 may have done, but because there will be no
 Kosovo Albanians left in Serbia.

 The alliance's credibility is already hanging
 on a thread. Clear thinking coupled with firm
 action, not words, are required if it is to
 emerge intact from its war in the Balkans. We
 urgently need to find a way for Nato to
 extricate itself with some vestige of honour
 from this increasingly messy situation.

 Assuming it is now too late to prevent
 Milosevic from achieving his objectives in
 Kosovo, Nato will be left with the options of
 continuing the air campaign for the
 foreseeable future, escalating the war to
 include the use of ground forces, or seeking
 a political compromise.

 Nato and the Americans seem to favour the
 first course of action. This would reinforce
 failure, leave the initiative to Milosevic
 and assume the continuing unity of the
 alliance. But success would still not be

 The second option, while making military
 sense, having moral right on its side, still
 seems to be ruled out by most of the
 contributing countries; they are either too
 worried about the possibility of military
 casualties or do not believe they have armies
 properly equipped or trained to fight a
 ground offensive in Kosovo. Such an option
 would also require the presence of combat
 troops on the ground for many years.

 Most armies have been drastically reduced in
 size since the end of the cold war, and it is
 unlikely that they could undertake the sort
 of commitment still being met in South Korea
 by the American army almost 50 years after
 the Korean war ended. At present levels of
 operational deployment, tour intervals in the
 British Army are less than 12 months. This is
 unsustainable even in the short term.

 The third and, in my view, the most likely
 option is that Nato will agree a political
 compromise through the mediation of the
 Russians and the UN. It would meet some, but
 not all of Milosevic's political aspirations.
 With his typical ruthlessness, he would
 probably judge that by ceding part of Kosovo
 to the Albanians he would be ridding Serbia
 of a big problem for ever.

 The long-term benefits of this would greatly
 outweigh the loss of territory that a
 partition would imply.

 He has done so before: in 1994 he struck a
 secret deal with Franjo Tudjman to quit
 Krajina in return for an early end to the war
 in Bosnia.

 Whatever the outcome of the war, Nato cannot
 continue to ignore the fact that it has
 suffered a strategic defeat. It cannot go on
 using words to conceal the absence of a
 suitable exit strategy from the increasingly
 counterproductive war in which it is now
 involved. Above all, it is worth reminding
 the political and military masters of Shea,
 who recently described life in Kosovo as
 "nasty, brutish and short", that Thomas
 Hobbes also wrote that words were "the money
 of fools".

 General Sir Michael Rose is a former
 commander of the UN in Bosnia and author of
 Fighting for Peace

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