NATO's Gamble: Combining Diplomacy and Airpower in the Kosovo Crisis, 1998-1999

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Naval Institute Press, 2007 - History - 263 pages
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Selected for the 2008 Royal Air Force Reading List

In this revealing work, Dag Henriksen discloses the origins and content of NATO's strategic and conceptual thinking on how the use of force was to succeed politically in altering the behavior of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). The air campaign, known as Operation Allied Force, was the first war against any sovereign nation in the history of NATO and the first major combat operation conducted for humanitarian purposes against a state committing atrocities within its own borders. This book examines the key political, diplomatic, and military processes that shaped NATO and U.S. management of the Kosovo crisis and shows how air power became the main instrument in their strategy to coerce the FRY to accede to NATO's demands.


The book further shows that the military leaders set to execute the campaign had no clear strategic guidance on what the operation was to achieve and that the level of uncertainty was so high that the officers selecting the bombing targets watched NATO's military spokesman on CNN for guidance in choosing their targets. Henriksen argues that structures preceding the Kosovo crisis shaped the management to a much greater degree than events taking place in Kosovo and that the air power community's largely institutionalized focus on high-intensity conflicts, like the 1991 Gulf War, hampered them from developing strategies to fit the political complexities of crises. Because fighting and wars in the lower end of the intensity spectrum are likely to surface again, study of the Kosovo crisis offers lessons for future international conflicts in which the combination of force and diplomacy will play a very significant role.

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About the author (2007)

Dag Henriksen is a lecturer in air power at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy.

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