Why did Slobo Cave? -- The Case for a G-8 Trojan Horse and
Why America Needs an Unbiased Strategic Bomb Survey

June 26, 1999

Comment: #293

Discussion Thread:  #271


[1] "NATO's Victory," STRAFOR Special Report, 0430 GMT, 990621.

[2] "Nato dropped thousands of bombs on dummy roads, bridges and soldiers ... and hit only 13 real Serb tanks," Michael Evans, Times (UK), June 24 1999.

[3] "BDA Refutes Claim that NATO Bombed Serbs into Submission," STRATFOR Commentary, 2045 GMT, 990624.

[4] Bradley Graham, "Air Vs. Ground: The Fight Is On: Air Force, Army Already Battling for Lead Roles in Future Wars," Washington Post, June 22, 1999, Pg. 1.

[5] Lisa Hoffman, "Supporters, Critics Split Over B-2 Success In War," Scripps Howard News Service


We still do not know why Slobo caved in to NATO, but the fog is lifting slowly, and our capacity to form tentative impressions is increasing. Synthesizing these impressions into a coherent picture that matches reality is still a long way off, however. Consider this comment to be but one more frame in the succession of fleeting images that make up a complex moving picture -- no doubt, the story told by these pictures will continue to evolve and mutate in unexpected directions as we learn more about what is becoming a very weird war and we can take the initiative to speed up this learning process.

This is a long commentary so you may want to print it out before reading it.


Comment # 271 (May 12) provides a good backdrop for speculating about the question of why Slobo capitulated so suddenly and unexpectedly in early June. Recall how I used two essays in #271 to present contemporaneous perceptions of the boundaries of optimism and pessimism framing the debate over the eventual outcome of the Serbo-NATO War. My aim was to circumscribe the extent of what is sure to be a vigorous debate in the coming months and years.

On one extreme stood Lt Col Jonathan Czarnecki (USANG). He argued in general terms that the victory glass was half-full for a variety of reasons, but particularly because Milosevic, like the President's domestic adversaries, had underestimated Clinton's capacity for ruthlessness, determination, flexibility, and cunning which always comes to the forefront when he perceives his own vital interest to be at stake [Comment #271, Atch #1].

In contrast to Czarnecki's general optimism, the analysts at the STRATFOR Group were very specific about why that glass was half empty [Comment #271, Atch #2]. They predicted that (1) there will be a cease-fire prior to the implementation of any agreement, (2) the Serbs will continue to control Kosovo, (3) Serbian police will retain some sort of presence, (4) a lightly armed international peacekeeping force will be permitted into Kosovo, (5) some NATO members will send forces and several non-NATO members, including Russia, will also send forces, and (6) the command structure of the force will remain deliberately vague. Given such an unsatisfactory outcome, they concluded Russia will be the biggest winner in terms of geo-political influence; the US will retreat into a more sober, cautious, and even mildly isolationist U.S. foreign policy as it adapted to the fact that superior power is not the same as omnipotence; and given the decline in European confidence in American leadership (UK excepted), we are on the cusp of a new era where several great powers will be loosely united to limit the one superpower.

At that time, I believed STRATFOR's view of the future was closer to emerging reality than Czarnecki's. In fact, I thought he was so far out on a limb, I warned him that he may not want me to attach his essay to the commentary I was preparing.

It turns out, however, that Czarnecki may have been considerably closer to reality than STRATFOR, as evidenced by STRATFOR's own more recent analysis of why NATO won the war, which is reproduced in Attachment 1 below.


The analysts at STRATFOR argue in Attachment #1 that a diplomatic coup overcame a military stalemate. They claim this stalemate was a product of insufficient preparation or planning and amateurish prosecution. By implication, NATO was faced with continuing an increasingly brutal bombing campaign aimed at the bludgeoning the Serb people and/or a bloody ground invasion of Kosovo.

The prospect of a grinding battle of attrition did seem very real in the latter part of May. On May 19, for example, General John Jumper, Commander of US Air Forces Europe, urged patience, saying the bombing campaign would continue for months [reported by Michael Gordon, New York Times, May 19, page 1]. In Comment #271 (May 31), I endeavored to describe how the refugee crisis created a time squeeze that was bearing down on NATO planners as they contemplated making a decision in mid-June about the necessity for a ground invasion. I concluded that comment by suggesting that it would be insane to assume Slobo was unaware of this squeeze, since he created it.

Four days after making my 'brilliant' prognostication, Slobo stunned the world by suddenly folding his hand.


In Reference #1, STRATFOR's analysts give their answer this question. What follows is my interpretation of that answer, with some elaboration on my part. The reason, they argue, is that NATO's political leaders used diplomatic cunning to pull the military's fat our of the fire. The diplomats deliberately created a chaos of ambiguity, ambivalence, confusion, and deception surrounding NATO's interpretation of the G-8 compromise vis a vis the competing interpretations of Russia and Serbia and perhaps the UN. This chaos permitted them to outfox the wily Slobo (and perhaps the Russians as well) by indirectly using Russia to trick him into thinking he was making a deal instead of capitulating. The G-8 Trojan Horse (my words for this deal) permitted NATO's ground forces to quickly and easily penetrate the border defenses of the Kosovo fortress while it lubricated the exit pathway for the Serb forces.

But once inside the fortress, NATO forces on the ground, in combination with NATO's overwhelming air power, created a changed military situation. These new circumstances effectively gave NATO the power to control Kosovo (at least vis a vis the Serbs -- the KLA is still an open question). They also permitted NATO to enforce a more stringent interpretation of the G-8 principles than Milosevic (or the Russians?) thought he had agreed to in effect, moving the agreement back toward the Rambouillet principles while neutralizing the vexing question of an eventual referendum on independence. So, all Slobo may end up with is the dropping of Rambouillet's infamous Appendix B, which would have given NATO sweeping powers throughout all of Yugoslavia.

The STRATFOR analysts are still pessimistic about the long term price of this victory, however. They note that NATO now has semi-permanent responsibility for maintaining stability in the Balkans, a dubious trophy that Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire eventually gagged on. In addition, the war opened a rift in NATO by alienating Germany. [It should be remembered that Germany helped to trigger the Balkan wars in the early 1990s by recognizing the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, which power-boosted the nationalistic excesses of the two biggest scorpions in the war-crimes bottle -- Franjo Tudjman of Croatia vs. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia -- as they competed to destroy the ideal of a multi-ethnic Yugoslavia.] The STRATFOR analysts also say the war and its victory intensified the anti-reform process in Russia and drove U.S.-Chinese relations to the lowest level since Nixon first met Mao. They conclude that this is a large price to pay for assuming responsibility for the Balkans -- but even if even if NATO won a booby prize, the concluding diplomacy was a wonder to behold.

Is the G-8 Trojan Horse a viable enough hypothesis to leave on the table? Or to use Czarnecki's words, did diplomatic ruthlessness, determination, flexibility, and cunning pull NATO's military fat out of the fire?

While some may be tempted to dismiss the Trojan Horse as an attempt by the analysts at STRATFOR to recover from the errors in their previous predictions, it is better to think of this hypothesis as part of a moving picture, because it does seem consistent with some of the post-war impressions now emerging out of the weird murk of the Serbo-NATO War.

A variety of newspaper reports, particularly in the British press (the Telegraph, Independent, and Times), have suggested the bombing campaign may have been much LESS EFFECTIVE than its proponents claim. The Times (UK) report in Reference #2, for example, is the most recent and detailed of these reports. If these reports are close to the truth, they lend weight to, and make it more difficult to reject, the G-8 Trojan Horse hypothesis.

STRATFOR summarizes and analyzes these reports in this context of the Trojan Horse in Reference #3. Taken together, the information in Reference #2 & #3, while not definitive, present a very different picture of effectiveness than that spun by Jamie Shea in his daily NATO press briefings.

Read them carefully and judge for yourself. Bear in mind: WE STILL DON'T KNOW why Slobo caved, but the story may be far more complicated than that portrayed by the bombing enthusiasts. More importantly, we can not decisively reject the Trojan Horse hypothesis out of hand, given the current state of popular knowledge.


Reference #4 below illustrates why sorting out this ambiguity is crucially important to the taxpayer. Bradley Graham describes how the Army is squaring off against the Air Force in the battle over the future defense budgets. Billions of dollars, institutional power, and personal reputations are at stake. The courtiers in the military industrial congressional complex understand this after all, this is their war and it's going to be played on their home turf. Graham's report suggests they are already assembling their forces for the assault on the taxpayer. Expect to be carpet bombed by the "lessons the courtiers want us to learn." The huckster-like 'certainty' surrounding the hype of the B-2 promoters exhibited in Reference #5 is a harbinger of things to come.

We may never know why Slobo caved. Nevertheless, the mere fact that a case can be made that the combined military forces of the US and NATO had to be rescued by diplomatic legerdemain in a war against an impoverished country of 10 million people, with a GDP that is at least one-third SMALLER than that produced by the 900,000 people in Fairfax County, Virginia, raises the real possibility that the hucksters of hi-tech are simply wrong. If so, the taxpayers are about to be snookered.


The very real possibility that the bombing campaign was less effective than its supporters claim cries out for an independent survey of its effectiveness.

The logic of a bombing survey would be straightforward: compare the plan to reality. What damage did the plan identify as necessary? Why was that damage deemed to be necessary? What forces did the plan require and to what extent were these forces committed? Did the bombing achieve the desired level of damage? And did this destruction have the predicted effects in terms of reducing Serbian capabilities in Kosovo and in shaping Slobodan Milosevic's strategic decisions? With the exception of Milosevic's decision making, these questions can be answered now that the war is over, but combat data is perishable. We must begin planning to obtain it today, so we can gather the data before it disappears.

These questions and others like them should be answered by impartial group of experts who have no financial, professional, or egotistical interest in the answer.

The Kosovo bomb survey could, for example, be managed and funded under the auspices of an independent agency known for its excellence and objectivity, such as the National Academy of Sciences. The effort would be broken down into three phases. The first phase, organization and preparation, would include administrative planning and the study of intelligence data, war plans, and the conduct of U.S. operations. The second phase would be the data collection phase. Assuming the team members will not be permitted to visit Serbia to examine the damage and interview Serbian officials, Phase 2 would have to rely on our organic intelligence capabilities to obtain information describing the effects of the bomb damage to Serbia. Secrecy in Phase 2 might therefore be necessary to protect the sources and methods of these capabilities. The final data compilation, however, would be sanitized and made available in its raw form to the public. Phase 3 would consist of the study, evaluation, and synthesis of the data into a coherent picture and the writing of reports. This phase would be open to public scrutiny, and the final report would be made available to the public.

Finally, the Academy could also be provided with special appropriations for the next five years to underwrite grants for independent scholarly research. Using the mass of data provided by the survey as a point of departure, the objectives of this research program would be to advance the state of scholarly knowledge and increase the general understanding of the cause-and-effect issues raised by the bombing campaign (for example, how it dislocates military operations, how it disrupts economies, how it affects the morale of troops and citizens, and how it affects the decisions of leaders). Hopefully, over time, scholars would be permitted to travel to Serbia to augment the results of the survey with primary research into these questions.

Powerful forces in the military industrial congressional complex will be violently opposed to such a program, because it puts too many rice bowls at risk.

On the other hand, the citizens of a democracy must know what their government has done if they are to have a sound basis for judging its actions. In 1822, the architect of the Constitution, our fourth President, James Madison wrote: "A popular government, without popular information, or a means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both."

It is up to the press, the President, and Congress to prevent such a farce or tragedy from happening before the hucksters raid the Treasury.

Chuck Spinney

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