NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998-1999

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NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998-1999

By Dag Henriksen
Naval Institute Press, 2007
304 pp. $24.00
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The path to Kosovo's independence, proclaimed in February 2008, was paved by the 78-day NATO bombing campaign of 1999, which eventually led to Serbia's withdrawal from the province and the subsequent UN trusteeship. NATO's Gamble provides good background to the current situation, but the author's main interest is in examining Kosovo as a case study in the application of military coercion, and airpower specifically. His main thesis is that NATO went to war without a strategy, having never reconciled its internal differences over whether to emphasize force or diplomacy, whether to act under its own authority or only under a UN mandate, and whether to bomb "strategic" targets, such as Serbia's leadership in Belgrade, or focus on more politically acceptable military targets in the field. A captain in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, Henriksen has little patience for the messy nature of an ad hoc war fought under the direction of 19 countries with very different strategic cultures. He understands that fighting as an alliance inevitably requires compromise and flexibility but insists that NATO could have done better -- and had better do so if it faces similar situations in the future. The story of NATO in Kosovo demonstrates the benefits of fighting as a coalition -- but also the costs.

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