Distributed August 1999
Copyright ©1999 by Brent S. Goodwin
Air power: Air power alone may not win wars, but it is an effective instrument of policy if, and only if, the things the opposing regime values most can be targeted and reached. In Serbia, this was the case, but not in Somalia. In politics, international or domestic, having power means having the ability to change the minds and actions of others. Because we never know precisely what will effect change, we should not a priori preclude the use of legitimate, legal, military methods, whether they be air power or the deployment of ground troops.
Public support: Public support for NATO activity, while lukewarm, was nonetheless sustained by candor about what was going on in the Balkans. However in order to support more costly operations, officials need to speak more directly to the goals being sought and why they are important. In short: "Why is this worth fighting for?" Events in the Balkans also revealed that there is a reactionary element in America and elsewhere that views all American, and therefore NATO, activity with cynicism. A healthy dose of skepticism is one thing, but the elaborate critiques of NATO policy as a power grab in the Balkans -- never mind the lack of geostrategic utility or natural resources -- went a bit too far. It is worth noting that stories filed from Belgrade, and elsewhere in Serbia, often contain a reasonable facsimile of this statement: "We were bombed by NATO because our government's policies were wrong and not in accordance with the international community." If the average Serb on the street understands this, why can't the critics of NATO policy?
Sustaining a coalition: NATO's civilian leaders demonstrated that they can sustain a coalition of 16 nations with differing views about the origins and resolution of the conflict. There were, however, a few visible cracks in the united front presented before the Washington summit: The Greeks, Italians and others were less enthusiastic about the bombing than Britain, Germany and the United States. How much more complicated will matters get when expansion brings new members from a potentially volatile part of Europe?
The United Nations: In Kosovo, just as in the former Yugoslavia, the United Nations has been unwilling -- or unable -- to resolve matters. Beginning with Yasushi Akashi's absurd refusal to use force in 1990, and continuing with the Security Council's inability to take action due to likely Chinese or Russian veto, the United Nations has contributed to the instability in the region. The situation is eerily similar to one in 1971 in what was then known as East Pakistan. The Security Council was gridlocked and unwilling or unable to take action regarding massacres taking place there. After months of appeals to the United Nations, India unilaterally intervened in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, to put a stop to the killing. The United Nations is helpful when it works, but there remain circumstances under which states need to act without U.N. approval, and unilaterally if necessary.