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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

DEFENSE DOSSIER: Past Shows Airstrikes Bomb




The war in the Balkans is in its second month, but there is no end or victory in sight for either side. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has assembled almost 1,000 warplanes, but has at the same time run out of fixed military targets to attack in Yugoslavia.


As happens almost always in the course of any strategic military air campaign, the same airfields, radar relay stations and petroleum storage facilities are hit time and time again. Officially such repeated raids are intended to do more damage and to avert possible reconstruction. But the reality is more harsh - there simply are no other genuine military targets in sight.


The Yugoslav military has successfully dispersed and taken cover, while receiving virtually no serious punishment at the hands of NATO's airmen. Today NATO has only one choice left: to continue to raise more dust on long deserted airfields in Yugoslavia, or to begin to attack purely civilian targets.


In essence, such attacks have already begun. Cornelio Sommaruga, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, this week criticized both Yugoslavia for its forced expulsions of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, and NATO for its bombing attacks on civilian targets such as television and water supply facilities.


A deliberate attack on a civilian target is, of course, a war crime. The UN tribunal on war crimes in Yugoslavia may have lots of business to do in the future, with NATO military commanders and Western political leaders joining Yugoslav thugs in the dock, if the tribunal is a genuine court of law ready to prosecute any and all war crimes, no matter who the culprit is.


However, the UN tribunal has not done much recently to prove its not the Western-sponsored propaganda sham many Serbs and Russians believe it to be. Western airmen did not receive any warnings that they may be prosecuted for executing illegal orders to attack civilian targets in Yugoslavia. NATO leaders also were not warned that they may be held accountable for issuing such orders.


With no legal deterrent in sight, NATO will inevitably bomb more and more civilian targets in an attempt to break the morale of the Serbian people and force a capitulation.


Breaking national morale and the will to resist is the core mission of any strategic air campaign. That was the main aim of the German air blitz against Britain in 1940 - the first ever strategic bombing campaign in world military history. The Nazis believed that a bombing campaign would help win the war without a costly ground operation against Britain.The blitz fizzled out. But as Germany was fighting and losing its war of aggression, the United States and Britain in their turn began a strategic bombing campaign against Germany, its allies and Nazi-occupied Europe. Then, as today, military spokesmen constantly claimed that Adolf Hitler's war machine and the German morale would soon collapse. Of course, nothing of the sort ever happened. Germans continued to resist ferociously until the end, until they had no place to go, surrounded by Russian and Allied tanks.


In the wars in Korea and Vietnam, air power was used to meet strategic ends, and there were constant official predictions that the enemy would soon cave in under the onslaught. But in the end, these air offensives simply fizzled out.


After a month of bombing Yugoslavia, General Klaus Naumann, the outgoing German head of NATO's military committee, told reporters that "so far in military history, we have not seen an operation which was successful by using air power exclusively." It is a lesson, he added, that was told and retold to NATO's political authorities before the air campaign against Yugoslavia began.


There is one more lesson to be learned from military history books Naumann forgot to mention: German military chiefs have never ever admitted to having lost a war on their own. It was always the politicians, Hitler or someone else, who bungled it all.


After the bombing of Yugoslavia began, Russian military chiefs announced they would rethink their defense doctrine and increase reliance on nuclear power to stop a possible future NATO attack. But the bottom line of Russian worries is: Can nukes actually deter the West? The totally incomprehensible decision-making process Naumann has described, the constant shifting of blame and finger-pointing that is happening today in Western capitals, has caused many in Moscow to fear the unpredictable West's incompetence more than its presumed ill will.