Nato leadership splits revealed

Thursday, 9 March, 2000

A BBC documentary has revealed the depths of tension within the Nato command during the Kosovo campaign.
The programme Moral Combat: Nato At War, to be screened on Sunday, exposes the gulf that developed between the politicians organising the campaign, and the military commanders trying to run it.
General Mike Short, the US Air Force officer who led the air campaign over Kosovo, tells the programme he almost resigned because of political interference.
"I thought, I just can't. I can't do this anymore. I don't believe that we're doing this right."
And he repeats complaints that European politicians prevented him conducting a "classic air campaign", in which pilots could attack major targets such as key bridges and ministry buildings, during the first stages of the conflict.
He tells the programme: "I don't think most of our civilian leadership understands air power and how it should be employed.
"Their exposure to it has been [through] films of the Gulf War, which looked very much like a video game.
"And what they were seeing on television was ethnic cleansing - streams of refugees being forced out of their homes."
General Short has previously said pressure from the French, in particular, meant that for the first 11 days of the campaign, targets were almost impossibly tiny and had no strategic importance.
Other members of the US military also reveal frustration about the early days of the campaign.
"Once you begin to use force, you should use it as decisively as possible, as rapidly as possible," General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander, tells the programme.
"But that is based on some prior understandings...those understandings weren't there."
Lt Col Cesar Rodriguez of the US Air Force goes further, saying the first phase of the operation was "a failure".
"We did not employ our assets in a swift and lethal fashion, so as to bring the enemy to sue for peace, in an early fashion," he said.

'Lowest common denominator'
General Short also complains that the requirement for the agreement of all 19 Nato member states for any action meant they were fighting a war by committee - and moving at the pace of the slowest member.
"I've heard the term 'lowest common denominator' used. It's probably over-used but you don't have a better one," he says.
This echoes previous statements from him that Nato should have allowed the US to run the campaign.
The BBC programme also revives memories of the clash between General Clark and the British commander of Nato's force in Kosovo, General Sir Mike Jackson.
General Jackson was replaced after refusing to prevent Russian forces from taking Pristina airport, reportedly saying: "I'm not going to start the Third World War for you."
In the programme he says: "We were [looking at] a possibility - let me put it no more strongly than that - of confrontation with the Russian contingent."
This "seemed to me probably not the right way to start off a relationship with Russians who were going to become part of my command."

Original article