The Last War of the 20th Century - Chapter 6
March 25, 2008 10:42 | by Jan Marijnissen and Karel Glastra van Loon
Men of steel
"One cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war." Albert Einstein
Might he make an opening statement, in order to set out his position clearly? Of course he may: who are we to refuse such a request from Sir Michael Rose, retired British Army general, former commander-in-chief of UNPROFOR in Bosnia, and outspoken critic of NATO's war in Kosovo. We are sitting in a restaurant a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace and we have just ordered lunch. The general began to speak, and in the five minutes which followed he let go with a monologue which we could in fact have reproduced word for word. He did not hesitate for a moment, did not commit a single slip of the tongue, and he never had to search for a word. Sir Michael Rose has thought long and hard about Yugoslav wars and he does not want any misunderstanding regarding the conclusions which he has drawn from this.
On the UN mission in Bosnia: 'Within the mandate given to us by the United Nations, we were exceptionally successful. We kept 2.7 million people alive, we daily brought 2000 tons of food and fuel allocated to us for this, and that during three-and-a-half years of an often three-sided civil war. According to American figures 130,000 people lost their lives in Bosnia in 1992. In 1993, the year that the UN peacekeeping troops were admitted, the toll fell to 30,000 and in 1994 to 3,000. Because hostilities could be reduced, progress was again being made in the political and diplomatic arenas, as a result of which in 1994 weapons were for the first time silenced and peace lay within reach. It is no secret that the Americans then prolonged the conflict by advising the Bosnian government not to sign the peace agreement.'
On the Dayton accord: 'This agreement was not brought about by the NATO bombings of Serb positions in August and September 1995. No way. These attacks were from a military point of view totally irrelevant, they had only symbolic significance. The Serbs knew what was going to happen and had abandoned most of their positions. The munitions depots were empty. There was at the very most a bit of damage to their communications system, and that was quickly repaired. What paved the way for Dayton was a dramatic change in the military-strategic balance. The Croatian army had, in particular, thanks to American support, taken a considerable amount of territory from both the Serbs and the Muslims. After that Milosevic and Tudjman had reached an accord, because both decided that given the circumstances it was no longer possible that a big, strong Muslim state would emerge - and that was what both had wanted to prevent by means of the war. That, and the UN's efforts to do as much as possible, in the midst of the warring parties, to protect the civilian population, led eventually to the peace of Dayton. But NATO had decided before this to state that the UN mission was a failure and that NATO's military power was what in the end led to an agreement. But that is emphatically not true.'
And lastly, on the Kosovo war: 'NATO has fought the wrong war in Kosovo. Deliberately, because of its own credibility, and because of the relations between the European countries and the United States, and for all sorts of other reasons, the lessons of Bosnia have been ignored. They believed their own propaganda about Dayton and based their strategy for Kosovo on it. As a result this strategy was doomed to fail. The wrong means were deployed for the wrong targets. They confused an ordinary war with a humanitarian mission. In an ordinary war you achieve victory by overpowering the enemy with an enormous surplus of force. In that case the safety of the population takes second place - and that's exactly what happened in Kosovo. But in the case of a humanitarian mission the safety of the population should come first. The conduct of humanitarian war should include three elements: political action, aid action, and security action. These three elements must be continually coordinated with each other, and none of the elements should be lacking at any moment.
'The deployment of ground troops is absolutely necessary in this. You cannot solve complex military problems solely from the air. Yes, naturally you can win a war from the air by dropping an atom bomb, which solves all problems in one fell swoop, but that is of course unacceptable. So you need ground troops. Why were these not deployed in Kosovo? Is it because of the fear of body bags, the fear of public opinion? I don't believe so. American opinion polls show that people there believe that America, because it is the most important great power, has a duty to help oppressed people. Moreover there were also a great many deaths amongst their own soldiers during the UN mission in Bosnia, without that having led to a loss of support from the people. The French lost some seventy to eighty soldiers, the British more than fifty. Nobody considered this reason enough to quit the mission.
'I think that a much more credible reason is that many armies from NATO countries are accustomed to what I call "levels of training that do not represent the realities of war". Their programme of exercises are, so to speak, not aimed at a real war, but at a civil society version of war. They have introduced all kinds of administrative procedures, particularly in the area of decision-making, which are unworkable under war conditions. So you can go outside the command structure to appeal against the decisions of your superiors. You can make use of working hours and regulations on leave forced through by trade unions. And in all sections, women are allowed, including in those where they, according to my firm conviction, in conditions of war do not belong. Because think for a moment at how a ground war in Kosovo would have looked: it would have been an infantry war, a low-level war, in the mountains with a rucksack and a rifle, fighting from improvised bunkers, in villages, in forests. The sort of war that the 14th Legion conducted in Burma against the Japanese. Women cannot physically cope with such a war. And I'm afraid that very many armies within NATO are no longer trained in this hard reality of the conduct of war - certainly not the armies of small countries. The modern NATO armies are very good in high-tech war, but for an infantry war they're imperfectly prepared. Yes, your marines could still perhaps do it, and the Belgian paratroopers, but those are small units, you won't get so far with them.
'So if you really want to conduct a humanitarian war, a war in which the civilian population is spared rather than being made the victim, then you need an overwhelming surplus of military force both in the air and on the ground. If you don't have that, as in Kosovo, then you give the enemy a free hand. Milosevic was able to achieve his aim without NATO being able to do anything about it. He wanted to chase the Kosovars out of Kosovo, and he succeeded. It is the diplomatic pressure from Russia which is to be thanked for the fact that the Serbs were finally restrained. And it was touch and go whether the Russians would also take half of Kosovo, or allow it to be taken by the Serbs, at the moment that they were already advancing towards the airfield at Pristina. That that didn't happen then we can thank just one thing: namely a telephone call from Clinton to Yeltsin, in which he said "if you do that, and we can't stop you, you won't get another cent from the IMF." That eventually determined the outcome of the war, and not NATO's air power. NATO did not win militarily, nor politically, it was defeated. NATO lost because of a lack of strategic insight and a lack of leadership. So, that's how I see things, and now it's for you to pull my statements to bits.' Sir Michael laughed, and the starters arrived.
Let's begin at the end. You said that Milosevic had achieved his ends and chased the Kosovars out of Kosovo. But the refugees were quickly able to return. So you could say that he won the battle but lost the war.
Sir Michael Rose: 'You could say that, yes, but it is the reasoning of someone who hasn't succeeded in achieving their first aim. It's the argument of a loser. You can say that the people were eventually able to return, but thousands of people fewer than when the war began. And the country to which they returned was completely devastated. A great many people were deeply traumatised. And as I said, that they could return was not so much to NATO's credit as to the Russians', and the importance that Russia attached to IMF moneys. NATO cannot possibly maintain that they won the war. It is intolerable, and they should not be allowed to get away with it!'
Okay, let's go back to the beginning. You called the UN mission in Bosnia a success. How would you describe the goal of this mission itself?
'The most important goal of our mission was to offer humanitarian aid and relieve human suffering. The second aim was, and this goes also for any peace-keeping force, to try to create circumstances in which peace is given a chance - which is something other than imposing peace by violence. The third goal, to finish, was to prevent the further spread of violence. It was for all involved, as much for us in the military as for the political leaders who directed us, totally clear that we would be completely occupied with peacekeeping and not with waging war. This would be heavy peacekeeping, if necessary supported from the air and with heavy artillery, but it would never become the conduct of war, it was not our task to destroy their military infrastructure, or eliminate soldiers, or whatever.'
But this clarity wasn't maintained. There was in the end a great deal of confusion over what the UN soldiers there should and could do, wasn't there?
'Of course - enormous confusion. We received a lot of contradictory orders and signals, from the different countries as well as from different corners of one and the same country. Then I spoke to the British UN ambassador in New York and he said, "you are a peace keeping force and that means that your possibilities are limited. But the next day my own Chief of Staff was told that we should punish the aggressor, that we had to take sides in the conflict. So I said, what now? What do you want? Because it doesn't matter to me. I'd like to be fighting here. But then I need another set of orders and other equipment. And then they decided after all that we should stick with peacekeeping. If you look at the orders we had, then the mission was a success. I've given you the figures. The criticism of our performance came mostly from people who thought that we should have done more.'
Let's talk about this criticism. You were accused of taking the side of the Serbs. Just as NATO wanted to give your troops air support, who were charged with protecting the enclave of Bihac, you ordered your units in the field not to pass on the locations of the Serb positions.
'That's a downright lie, pure propaganda from the Bosnian government. I know exactly what the repercussions were of the orders which I gave at the time. They concerned an attack from the south by the Serbs on Bihac. We were in the north and the centre, and I gave my units orders immediately to go south in order to map the Serb positions so that I could pass these on to the air force. I'd asked for this air support myself! But two years later a report appeared in the paper that I had been so pro-Serb that I ordered my men not to give the Serb positions to the air force.'
It would have concerned leaked CIA reports, in which a word-for-word transcript of your orders appeared. The radio channels which you used were bugged by the CIA.
'Of course they were bugged! Not by the CIA, however, but by the Bosnian secret service. And the Bosnians were bugged by the Serbs. Everyone knew that. You kept it in mind. When these stories came out I went to NATO and said, you've got the papers, you can prove that these are lies. Give me the literal transcripts, so that I can defend myself. And what did they say? That regrettably they had no documents regarding this period, that unfortunately they had been destroyed. To which I replied, how then did I get this out of your archives yesterday? Because I'm no fool, I had someone working for me in their headquarters. I already had those reports.'
So it was not only the Bosnian secret service, or the Bosnian government, who in your view came out with that report, but also NATO?
'Yes, they lied. And why? To maintain the myth that the UN was weak and corrupted, and that it was NATO who in the end decided the war in Bosnia. They deliberately and knowingly supported the Bosnian propaganda. They had the proof in hand to exonerate me, but they refused to make it public.'
Then you occupy a truly remarkable position. Because you were, as a British General, of course also usually part of NATO. And at the same time you were misused by NATO to blacken the UN's name.
'NATO began to be seen by us at a particular moment as a part of the problem and not part of the solution. This came about through their believing in the Bosnian government's propaganda, as well as that of the Croats. Why did the Americans take the Muslim side? Because the elections arrived, because the Muslims succeeded in persuading the media that they were the oppressed party, because the American public began to believe that the Muslims were the victims and the Serbs the wrongdoers. The US government then wanted to show that something was happening, that results had been achieved, and for that reason they took sides. Except that the problem of course was that the Muslim army didn't amount to anything. Without support from the NATO ground troops the Muslims could never have turned the war in their favour. And given that absolutely no NATO country was really prepared to fight in Bosnia, which includes the Americans, one had to be prepared to accept a compromise. Which is of course what in the end happened. Dayton was a compromise and a compromise that for the Bosnian Muslims ended up even worse than what they would have been able to achieve a year earlier. And how many deaths occurred in that time?"
Another important point of criticism of the UN is that they set up the so-called safe havens, and then turned out to be neither prepared nor able to defend these areas effectively. With all the terrible consequences that had. Wasn't the idea of safe areas flawed?
Rose: 'Absolutely not. It is an excellent concept. In the Middle Ages there were always in times of war places where civilians could shelter from the violence. But the concept stands or falls on the warring parties being prepared to respect these places of safety. You can't expect peacekeepers to defend such an area because that means warfare and they're not equipped for it. I said that from the beginning, moreover. These areas were safe insofar as both parties agreed on that and held to that agreement. But both parties breached the agreement."
Both parties, so not just the Serbs?
Rose: 'Of course. Take Srebrenica. In April 1993 the Serbs decided to attack Srebrenica, because the Muslims were continually carrying out attacks from there on surrounding Serb villages. It was then agreed that the Serbs would give up these attacks if the Muslims in Srebrenica were disarmed, so that the Serb villages would be safeguarded against Muslim violence. But the Muslims were never disarmed and the attacks simply continued. That's how things went in Bihac, and it wasn't any different in Srebrenica. Now most of the people who were staying in Srebrenica certainly didn't come from there. They were Muslims who came from other parts, in flight from the violence. These people would rather have gone to Tuzla, in the Muslim area. Mladic then offered to allow these people to get away, so that they could go to Tuzla. And who held out against that? Who denied these people safe passage? Precisely the Bosnian government, the military leadership of the Muslims. And why? To strengthen their own position of power. Because let's not forget, the people who are running the show today in Bosnia are the same people who time after time prolonged the suffering of their own people by consciously rejecting the possibility of peace, because they put their own political, military and financial interests first. In the end NATO institutionalised and legitimised their totally depraved and corrupt manner of operating politically. All the money and all the efforts that are now being spent on the reconstruction of Bosnia are benefiting the same people who were responsible for the unnecessary suffering of the population. The man with whom I had continually to deal whenever we had to negotiate over a transport of aid goods, this same gentleman is now president of the Bosnian airline. This man owns every jumbo jet in the country.
'Let me make one thing clear: I have more criticism of Milosevic, of Mladic and of Karadzic than of the leader of the Muslims and the head of the Bosnian government, Mr Izetbegovic. But in 1994 there was a cease-fire around Sarajevo, the town was prospering again, transport was again possible from and to the town, there was gas and light, there were plans being made for repairs. And who then put an end to that truce? Mr Izetbegovic. And why? Because he didn't want peace - yet. He thought that from the next phase of war he had something to gain. You should have seen the faces of the people in Sarajevo! They didn't want any more war, they wanted peace. But the Bosnian government had other plans. So what I say is that the Muslims had originally right on their side, but they threw that right away themselves. When the UN went to their aid, and the peacekeeping troops arrived to help prevent Bosnia from disappearing from the map for good, they started to believe that they could win the war. They were going to use the international support to tilt the balance in their own favour. The UN's impartial peacekeeping troops then became all at once an obstacle. From friends we suddenly became an enemy. That was also said quite literally to me by prominent Muslim leaders: They considered us, just like the Serbs, an enemy. And they hoped that they could achieve more with NATO's support. Which didn't happen. The Dayton peace came a year later than it was needed, and the conditions were less favourable to the Muslims. But they no longer had a choice. They gambled and lost. And the biggest loser was the population. So I'm also critical of the Muslims and not only the Serbs.'
Let's be honest: Sir Michael Rose has an interest. It is inevitable that his opinions are coloured by the fact that UNPROFOR, his UNPROFOR, has been weighed down with so many cartloads of criticism. It is inevitable that it stings him that it is not the UN peacekeeping force but NATO that walked off with the honours of the Dayton peace agreement. Yet it is nevertheless indeed remarkable that his analysis fits seamlessly with that of Rob de Wijk in the previous chapter, who also called the idea that the Dayton agreement could be attributed to NATO's air raids a myth, and who also was of the opinion that this myth had set NATO on a false trail in the Kosovo war.
Before we return to Sir Michael Rose's criticism of Operation Allied Force, we would like to give the floor to another expert. His name is Clifford Beal, and he is the editor-in-chief of the world's most influential military trade journal, a magazine which is essential reading for every senior military officer and every politician charged with military responsibilities: Jane's Defence Weekly. The offices of Jane's (named after the magazine's founder, Fred T. Jane) are to be found in the endless sea of red brick houses, tarmac roads and railway lines which together form the outskirts of Greater London. Clifford Beal welcome us to a rather nondescript meeting room identical to the ones with which every other office appeared to be equipped. We drank tea, as you would expect in England, and Beal began in a similarly typically English fashion, with an apology. 'Actually,' he said, 'I don't have a very good understanding of the things you are writing about. I'm an outsider, an observer.'
'That,' we replied, 'is precisely the reason we want to speak to you.'
And so Clifford Beal proceeded to an eloquent, well-rehearsed opening statement - just as Sir Michael Rose had done. There was, however, one difference: around five minutes into his discourse Beal's English accent began slowly to make way for an unmistakable American twang. When we asked him about this later, he explained that though American he had over a long time become thoroughly Anglicised.
He drinks his tea with milk. .
Perhaps we can begin with the lessons that we can draw from the Kosovo war.
Clifford Beal: 'You can look at this on two levels: the military-technological and the political. To begin with the latter, I think that Kosovo can be seen as a warning that something is changing in the way in which the idea of "sovereignty" is regarded. Whether you like it or not, because the United Nations in fact sanctioned NATO actions after the event, a precedent was set for the future. And I hear from various sides that people aren't happy with this, because they weren't happy with the whole way in which the Kosovo crisis unfolded. There is in itself nothing wrong with giving foreign policy an ethical component, but at the same time it's important that you keep a cool head. It is understandable that, under pressure also from the media, the emotions play a role in decision-making, but the danger exists that at a certain moment a decision-making process is set in motion within which rationality has little place.'
Do you think that the television pictures of violence and of refugees played an important role in the decision-making of the Western leaders?
Beal: 'Well, it certainly contributed.'
But didn't these Western leaders in their turn also use these pictures to generate support for their air raids? And didn't Blair, amongst others, continually appear on TV talking about genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass murders, and so on?
Beal: 'Of course that's also true. When the prime minister of Britain goes touring a refugee camp in his shirtsleeves, he is doing that in the full knowledge that pictures of his visit will be shown throughout the entire world. And that these will provoke a certain emotion. So the media are also used, that's correct. In the course of this war all sorts of factors played a role. Also, we at Jane's do not know precisely at the moment, for example, precisely what happened in Rambouillet. We'll probably know the truth some day, but that is not yet the case. It seems that the Western countries were also divided there. That some wanted to give diplomacy another chance, but that the Americans especially wanted to teach the Serbs a lesson. The Americans also now make no secret of the fact that they want to see the back of Milosevic. They want a stable Serbia, a reconstructed Serbia, but on their conditions, revamped along Western lines and under Western influence.'
Did the Americans underestimate the Serbs and Milosevic?
Beal: 'I think that there is every reason to assume that Madeleine Albright especially though that the Serbs at that time, under pressure from those few NATO air raids around Sarajevo, signed the Dayton treaty. And that on those grounds they concluded that Milosevic would now also quickly back down. They thought, we chuck a few bombs, he shoots off a few rockets so that his people can see that he's prepared to defend his country, and then he backs down. A great number of analysts, in Europe as well as in the United States, warned that he would not back down. But they were not listened to - for whatever reason.'
What lessons can be drawn from the war that followed this mistaken estimation?
Beal: 'I can most easily talk about the military lessons, because that's my field of expertise. There are two important lessons to be learned. The first is that there exists a great need for more and better precision weapons For various reasons: the first reason is that if you really want to win in a military operation such as this using only the air force, you must be capable, including in heavy cloud and fog, of taking out your targets with great precision, so that you don't have repeatedly to bomb before you know with certainty that you have taken out your target. The people in finance ministries should be pleased if better precision bombs arrive, because that would save bombs and therefore money. The ordinary citizen should also be pleased, because it would reduce the chance of civilian casualties. Moreover the technology is developing so quickly that these improved weapons should soon not cost so much as the old precision weapons. And what we have seen in Kosovo is that these old precision weapons are not satisfactory and that we have too few of the new type of weapon. At the end of the war the Americans had run right through almost all of their stocks.
'The second lesson to be learned is that there is still a great deal of room for improvement in the area of interoperability - that is at the moment the buzz-word in military circles. What it means is the capacity of the different countries to make use of each other's systems. In Kosovo it turned out in particular that great differences existed between the various technical systems used. In, for example, the area of radio communications. Some European NATO countries didn't have available radio apparatus which was compatible with that of the Americans. Because of this you had of necessity to make use of frequencies which could be listened in to by the Serbs. Another problem was the espionage. Both the Americans and the Germans made use of unmanned aircraft to take aerial photos of enemy installations. That is of course of vital importance, because before you send a manned plane to drop bombs, you would first like to know where exactly the targets are, and what there might be in the way of anti-aircraft weapons. These American spy planes take digital photos, which they send on straight to the ground. But the Germans still work with old fashioned photographic rolls. So then a plane of that kind has first to return, which doesn't always happen, and then the films must be developed, and only then do you know what the enemy is up to - or was up to, of course. Because modern warfare is a round the clock business. It no longer stops when the sun goes down. So the speed of information processing is of vital importance. And in all of these areas NATO fell short. They weren't sufficiently prepared. What you had in fact to deal with a fight between a giant and a midget, and nevertheless they were beset with problems. NATO could indeed claim major successes in the air campaign, but if you look at the enormous number of flights, the thirteen- to fifteen thousand attacks which were carried out, you are entitled to ask how successful they really were. Naturally, they were reasonably successful in destroying Serbia's infrastructure. But the mobile targets, the tanks, the army units, how many of those were actually taken out? In American air force circles there was decided disappointment over the results.'
To what extent did the Gulf War play a role in this? Were expectations of what air power could achieve inflated?
Beal: 'That certainly played a role. There had not been sufficient realisation that the conditions in Europe, with its mountains, bad weather, and in this case its small, mobile army units, are completely different from those in the Arabian desert, where large army units were concentrated in an open landscape under a clear sky. And don't forget, when the Iraqis set fire to those olive groves, this immediately caused problems with these precision weapons. Because as the smoke developed the laser guidance system wouldn't work any more. The lessons should have been drawn from this but they were insufficiently learned. I think that the manufacturers of all of this hi-tech stuff also played a role in this. They made the things seem rather more splendid than in reality they were. Because in the Gulf War as well the bombings were far from being as precise as they would have had us believe.'
Now if we could talk about the industry, to what extent did the military-industrial complex as it is so aptly called play a role in the Kosovo war?
Beal: 'Naturally it's the case that wars are used to test new weapons systems. That happened in the Gulf, and it also happened in Kosovo. And if it turns out that a new weapons system works well, then more are ordered. But a war isn't started so that a weapons system can be tested, so that was not the case here. There are always other, political reasons.'
You said just now that we should conclude that still more intelligent weapons systems are needed. Yet at the same time you say that the Europeans lag far behind the Americans. How must that then be for the rest of the world? Aren't you afraid that the enormous lead the West enjoys in the technological-military area will lead to new tensions? Or to a new arms race?
Beal: 'There's certainly something in that, but on the other hand technological development doesn't simply stand still. So you don't have that much choice. Furthermore it is becoming ever easier to avail oneself of modern technological methods. You don't any longer have to put a spy satellite into space yourself in order to be able to conduct espionage from space. There are private corporations which have access to that sort of satellite and which you can simply commission to take extremely detailed photos, or infra-red pictures for example, of whatever bit of the earth's surface you like. That is now already the reality. Israel, for example, tried to get the American authorities to put pressure on that sort of firm so that no photos of Israeli territory would be sold to Arab clients. But the American government in the end told them that they had no say in the matter. That is therefore a development which runs parallel to the technological development of Western defence capabilities. And then the Russians may not have the money right now to do very much about the development of defence apparatus, but the Chinese are working hard on it. They're working on laser techniques by which they can shoot satellites out of the sky, or at least damage them so much that they become unusable. And satellites are of vital importance for hi-tech warfare. So I do indeed see the problem, but I think that we have little choice. You can at the very most say that more effort should be made to resolve conflicts or even to prevent them. Because you can't expect the soldiers to do everything.'
And that brings us smoothly back to Sir Michael Rose, one of the soldiers from whom politicians expected more than he could deliver. While his meal went slowly cold, he slammed the politicians who send men such as himself to war, and then start new wars on the basis of a faulty analysis of past failures.
Sir Michael Rose: 'My military instinct tells me that NATO did not do everything it could in Rambouillet to prevent a new war. I can't prove it, but everything seems to point to the fact that they had already decided before the last round of negotiations to go to war. Why else would they have come with ever more new demands? Why else would they have demanded from Yugoslavia that they should declare themselves within twenty four hours in agreement with a military paragraph that gave NATO the right to make unlimited use of Yugoslav territory? No country whatsoever would have accepted that. I think therefore that NATO per se wanted proofs that it could fulfil its new self-appointed role, that they wanted to show that they could succeed where the UN in Bosnia had failed, as they said. They wanted to show the world that they could do it cleanly, clinically and effectively in Kosovo. And I also understand the psychology behind this very well. I understand the aversion to the Serbs, after everything that had happened in Croatia and in Bosnia. I understand what was driving NATO. But it was not for nothing that rules were laid down in the past to which countries must abide when it comes to waging war. This was done because they wanted to get rid of the unworkable idea that there were just and unjust wars. And that idea is now once again being embraced. We are going back to the time when countries believed on the basis of moral considerations that they had right on their side when they attacked another country. And that is exceptionally dangerous. How much easier would it have been for the NATO countries to condemn the war in Chechenya if they had not themselves been drawn into the struggle in Kosovo? How much more credible would the criticism of the Russians have been? But now they have themselves ignored the international laws, and of course the Russians' crimes in Chechenya are worse than those of NATO in Yugoslavia, but an ordinary burglar has nevertheless little right to criticise a big bank robber. It doesn't matter whether you have broken the law a little bit or a great deal. Whoever breaks the law loses moral credibility.
'Humanitarian war is an objectionable concept. A humanitarian action, which is possible, consists of the three parts which I listed earlier. But to whitewash a war by calling on humanitarianism, that is deadly dangerous. European history gives enough bloody examples of that.'
On this point as well the former general had the support of the editor-in-chief of Jane's Defence Weekly, who had this to say about the humanitarian mission of the West: 'NATO, western Europe and America want to impose their vision on the rest of the world. They see it as a question of good versus evil. They want to spread democracy and the free market. But the question of course is whether you can indeed do this in this way. Or whether you won't very quickly run into the practical limitation that you can't be everywhere at once, that you simply do not have sufficient means and manpower to bend the entire world to your will'
And this, on the humanitarianism of the war in Kosovo: 'You of course have to ask yourself whether it is permissible in a humanitarian war to bomb targets such as television stations and electricity generators. Shouldn't NATO have warned that this broadcaster was considered a military target, so that the civilians who worked there would have had the choice to remain at home? In a traditional war you don't have to pose such questions. This sort of target is legitimised because you can consider it part of the military-industrial complex. But if you devastate Donau, if you bomb chemical factories so that enormous quantities of poison go straight into the water, threatening the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of civilians, can you then still speak of a humanitarian war, or is that simply chemical warfare? These are important questions. An enormous catastrophe for civilians has been brought about in the name of humanitarianism. If I was now a young law student I would immediately specialise in military law. Because in my view there will be a great deal of money to be earned in the years to come presenting claims against the West on behalf of the people of Yugoslavia.'
Sir Michael Rose: 'The Geneva Convention states categorically that everything possible must be done to spare the civilian population. So if you're going to drop bombs from rapid-flying aircraft from 15,000 feet and you regularly miss your target causing unnecessary civilian casualties, then you will have to adjust your strategy. Refrain from doing that, and continue despite everything for eleven weeks, then you are committing a war crime. A civilian who accidentally lets off a pistol and kills someone else can call on the fact that it was an accident, but if he does this ten times one after another, he will be be thrown in jail. Then he's a criminal. And I can assure you that within NATO it was thought of in just this way. Among the people that I know there I have still come across no-one who thought the Kosovo war a success. They are ashamed by what happened there. They considered it a hopeless mission carried out in an excruciatingly poor fashion. For external consumption they maintain the appearance that it was a success, but internally they are very, very unhappy.'
Beal: 'You should ask General Wesley Clark if he is still of the opinion that the NATO air raids were such a great success. Or if he was able to conduct the war in the fashion that he himself would have done, or whether he had to settle for compromises, that he was obliged furthermore to follow the way of least risk, in order to ensure that the alliance stayed together. I think that that was the case. I think that he was mistaken about how difficult it is to conduct a war together with nineteen countries, each of which has its own interests and culture. And you should ask him how it was that journalists who were on the spot saw far fewer destroyed Serbian tanks than NATO claimed were hit."
Rose: 'How did Clark explain the pictures of all these Serbian tanks and soldiers withdrawing from Kosovo following the signing of the peace? They did not have the appearance of a crushed and defeated army. On the contrary. Once again: NATO did not win this war. And what should we think of the destabilising effect that radiated from this war? NATO has introduced a culture of violence. They have shown the world that they reserve to themselves the right to use violence to bring order to things if something doesn't please them. But what if Milosevic, just like the Russians, had had a nuclear weapon - would they still have attacked him? I don't think so. I think that they would then, just as in Chechenya, have thought twice. So what is the message to Milosevic and to other dictators like him? Make sure you get a nuclear weapon!'
As we said, we would have loved to have put all of this to General Wesley Clark, but we didn't get the chance. In a number of interviews with a range of media outlets the former commander-in-chief did react to critics of the NATO attacks in general and his own role in particular.
It seems to us extremely doubtful that Clifford Beal and Sir Michael Rose would share the view of Leonard Olstein, journalist on the leading Dutch current affairs weekly Vrij Nederland that Wesley Clark "displayed a brilliant strategy in Kosovo."
Due to the untimely death of one of the authors of this work, Karel Glastra van Loon, neither the tapes nor the transcripts of the original interviews with Sir Michael Rose and Clifford Beal could be located. The interviews had therefore to be re-translated, back from the Dutch translation into English, so that the actual words used by Mr Beal and Sir Michael will have undergone inevitable changes. Great care has been taken to preserve their meaning, however. We nevertheless apologise to the two interviewees and hope that they will understand that this was a most unfortunate case of circumstances beyond our control.