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Lesson 15 Air Power over Kosovo: Revival or Retreat (Dag Henriksen, NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Air power in the Kosovo Crisis)

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NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Air power in the Kosovo Crisis -Dag Henriksen

About the Author:

In 2007, Henriksen was a captain in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. He served in NATO operations in the Baltics and in Afghanistan. He holds a PhD in military studies from the University of Glasgow and lectures on air power at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Acedemy.

Main Argument:

Bosnia and Kosovo demonstrate the inevitable frustration involved with failing to link the means of war (air power's destruction) with the ends of policy. Air power leaders must work to develop methods of using air power that can effectively coerce in low intensity conflicts instead of assuming that all uses of air power in conflicts are high intensity.


Henriksen does a good job capturing the thoughts of the leaders involved in military operations in the Balkans, but offers little analysis about what could have been done better. He effectively weaves in Pape's coercion theory and the beliefs of numerous military experts/leaders. Unfortunately, he leaves the conclusion to the reader regarding the air campaign there. Obviously, things did not proceed according to plan...but was the use of air power successful or not and why?

Overall Impression:

Well-written. Fairly even-handed.


Good place to go for a general flow of the conflict and specifics about its conduct. Not very useful if you're looking for answers to the way air power should be used by a coalition in limited wars.

Class Notes:

Europeans saw this not as war, but as coercive diplomacy.

The USAF argues that their was war becasue of the amount of stuff we used.

With precision weapons, the utility of "war" diminishes and the utility of "coercive diplomacy" has been enhanced.

War is the relatively unbridled use of violence in pursuit of political objectives, and coercive diplomacy is the relatively bridled use of violence (this comment derives from the book, Give War a Chance)

In Kosovo, people were using their different analogies to define the problem.


(p. 8) the changing objectives of NATO's actions in Kosovo.

(p. 11) "According to General Clark, almost all military principles of war were violated when OAF started, and the whole campaign thereafter was a continous process of adaptation, starting out with an initial military effort "driven by political dynamics toward a more effective military campaign oriented on the Principles of War."

(p. 15) difficulties of sharing intelligence with allies.

(p. 46) the belief that OAF would be over in 2-4 days.

(ch. 3) set-up of Clinton administration's departure from the Weinberger-Powell use-of-force doctrine.

(p. 97) lack of strategic direction in Bosnia

(p. 109) Bosnia reinforced the notion that Milosevic would respond to force.

(p. 110-17) Six factors that made air power successful in Bosnia: 1) the economic embargo on Yugoslavia became a threat to Milosevic's power, 2) all parties' war exhaustion after years of ethnic violence, 3) the relative strength of the Serb forces was decreasing significantly in the face of a union between the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian Croats, 4) Clinton wanted to get re-elected, 5) Bosnia wasn't that important to Milosevic, 6) Operation Deliberate Force

(p. 115) the significant effect of domestic politics (Clinton's re-election bid) on US foreign policy (action in Bosnia)

(p. 118) Kosovo was a strategy of hope without actually linking the air campaign to a strategy to end the war. Most thought it would be a Bosnia repeat with Milosevic quickly coming back to the negotiating table. See also p. 95 for parallel to Bosnia's lack of linking policy ends with air power means.

(p. 140) the failure of coercive diplomacy and air power to provide results at the lower end of the conflict intensity spectrum

(p. 150) Prior to the conflict Milosevic believed the allies would bomb for 5-7 days and then the international community would force them to stop...which would make him and his ilk the moral winners.

(p. 159-60) the lack of results from Clinton's cruise missile diplomacy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan prior to Kosovo.

(p. 169) Clark advised "that limited air operations could be decisive against Milosevic."

(p. 174) according to Newsweek: the decision to go to war "was the fruit of a foreign policy carefully nurtured largely by Albright: 'diplomacy backed by force.'"

(p. 175) the lack of strategic thought about what the coalition wanted Kosovo or the Balkans to look like after the war.

(p. 178) common view of an escalation strategy in Kosovo...bomb a little, if unsuccessful bomb a little more, then a little more, then if required invade.

(p. 180) "both General Ralston and Lieutenant General Short have indicated that perhaps Clark wanted to get NATO involved to stop Milosevic's actions in Kosovo. He knew airpower was the only realistic option to get an operation started, and he knew that once started, NATO's credibility would be at stake, which would make it a necessity to finish the campaign seuccessfully."

(p. 191) "according to Lieutenant General Short there exists "a right way to use airpower."

(p. 193) Short's failure to appreciate the political circumstances of the operation

(p. 195) "In reality, and somewhat ironically, when NATO started issuing threats it did not act upon, it thereby coerced itself into issuing ever more threats in an escalating spiral out of which it was difficult to break."

(p. 197) "It represents a challenge for the military in general and the airpower community in particular to foces more resources and education on the conceptual development of coercive strategies and conflicts in the lower end of the intensity spectrum."

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