Nato bombing of YU called a failure by experts


Tuesday, March 21, 2000

The NATO bombing campaign over Yugoslavia was a military and political blunder based on "selective indignation" that set a dangerous precedent for the handling of such humanitarian crises, a new report on the conflict says.

Continuing fallout from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's assault to protect ethnic Albanians in Kosovo "has the potential to redraw the landscape of international politics," the study says.

But the study acknowledges that such intervention never would have been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council and predictably recommends reform of that key policy-making body -- including the possible removal of the five permanent members' veto power to stall UN intervention.

If the veto power cannot be removed, it could at least be blunted, said Ramesh Thakur, vice-rector of United Nations University in Tokyo and a co-editor of the university-sponsored study.

"Faced with another Holocaust or Rwanda-type genocide on the one hand and a Security Council veto on the other, what do we do?" Mr. Thakur asked.

The answer, he said, is a new international consensus on humanitarian intervention.

"We are not necessarily suggesting a formal amendment of the charter and removal [of the veto]," Mr. Thakur said. "It's possible to operate under the current constraints."

In fact, through most of the 1990s, permanent members refrained from exercising their veto powers, enabling the UN to undertake several humanitarian missions that would never have passed muster during the Cold War.

"We need to get back to the shared management of a troubled world order," Mr. Thakur said in an interview.

Council members could adopt "ambiguous" language to govern future interventions or agree to leave the decisions to a new international crisis-solving body, with or without U.S. support.

The problem with the NATO strategy, and the way the NATO members conducted it, is that they relied heavily on threats, with no other real non-military plan behind them. Once Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic called the bluff, the humanitarian crisis was transformed into the catastrophe NATO was trying to prevent, the study says.

The six months leading up to the 79-day air campaign should have been played out differently by the politicians, the study says.

The study found that in Canada and other smaller NATO countries there was support for the humanitarian aspects of the assault.

But scholars also uncovered a surprising amount of internal opposition to the bombing in most countries.

Commenting on the military ineffectiveness of NATO's strategy, one of 36 contributors to the study, retired Australian Air Marshall Ray Funnell, said military power was badly misused and called the campaign "insipid."

Referring to its code name, the former air commander said in an interview: "It was not Instant Thunder. It was constant drizzle."

Ruling out ground forces was "exceedingly dumb," he said, because it made Mr. Milosevic's calculations much easier.

The study also rejects the notion that local or regional intervention is somehow preferable to international action.

Original article
Report (edited)