Why Did Slobo Cave? (II) ... or ... Why America
Needs an Independent Bomb Survey

June 28, 1999

Comment: #294

Discussion Thread:  #293


[1] Steven Lee Myers, "Damage To Serb Military Less Than Expected," New York Times, June 28, 1999, Pg. 1.

[2] Vince Crawley, "Building Bombers, Fighting SAMs Top Air Force Goals'," Defense Week, June 28, 1999, pg. 1.

Comment #293 made the case that we really DO NOT KNOW why Slobo folded his hand suddenly and unexpectedly in early June.

This uncertainty stems from the interaction of two central impressions: (1) the damage done to the Serbian army appears to be far less than that claimed, and (2) there is a real possibility that Slobo was tricked by the G-8 Trojan Horse. Simply stated - it is not possible, given the limitations on the current state of knowledge, to dismiss as implausible the hypothesis that NATO's diplomats tricked Slobo (and perhaps Russia) into thinking he was agreeing to the G-8 compromise in order to get NATO ground troops into the Kosovo fortress. Once inside the fortress, NATO was in a position to use the increased leverage of its strengthened position to force a more stringent deal, in effect forcing his capitulation to something close to the Rambouillet conditions, except for Appendix B, which would have given NATO wide ranging power inside Serbia proper.

Since billions of dollars are at stake in the upcoming defense budget debate, Comment #293 concluded by calling for an independent bombing survey to help clarify the fundamental question of why the war ended so suddenly.

The two References to this message support and build on the argument presented in Comment #293, but first a little more background on the escalating effectiveness debate.

The Pentagon claimed on June 10 that NATO bombing had killed 122 tanks, 222 armored personnel carriers and 454 artillery/mortar pieces, and that the overwhelming majority of these kills occurred between May 29 and June 11. The briefing slide can be found that the Defenselink Website: < http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jun1999/990610-J-0000K-007.jpg >

On the other hand, the Times (UK) reported on June 24 that NATO troops had only found 3 tanks left in Kosovo, while the Serbs claimed they lost only 13. Moreover, NATO troops in Kosovo counted 250 tanks, 450 APCs, and 600 artillery/mortars being removed by retreating 47,000 soldiers, or several thousand more troops than NATO estimated to be in Kosovo, which seems to undercut NATO's claim to have killed 5,000 to 10,000 troops. The Times report is consistent with earlier, albeit less detailed, information reported by Bob Fisk in the Independent (UK- June 12) and Tim Butcher and Ben Rooney in the Telegraph (UK - June 19).

Reference #1 to this message corroborates the reports in the British press. Steven Myers of the New York Times reports from Kosovo that the damage inflicted on Serb forces inside Kosovo was much less than that claimed by NATO. He describes some of the now familiar reasons why this may be so -- camouflage, dispersion, deception, etc. -- and adds some interesting examples based on first hand observation. Even in the Mount Pastrick region of southern Kosovo, where NATO heavily bombed massing Yugoslav forces as they were flushed into the open by Kosovo Liberation Army in the last weeks of the air war, Myers found little evidence of the damage claimed by the Pentagon. Indeed, he quotes Lieut. Col. Dietmar Jeserick, a spokesman for the German peacekeeping troops, as saying "Nothing is here," "We found positions," "We found bomb damage in those positions, but we didn't find any vehicles or tanks."

Reference #2 illustrates why it is crucially important for a bombing survey to be conducted by a group of impartial observers with no interest in the outcome. Iit shows how the Air Force is already laying out its road maps for increasing its budget share in the coming war with the Navy and Army (which will be financed by the taxpayer).

Notwithstanding the growing number of reports questioning the effectiveness of the bombing campaign, Vince Crawley, of Defense Week reports that Major General Dennis Haines said the Air Force is already laying out a bomber road map. This budget plan, which will require additional budget dollars, is based on at least four speculative assumptions: (1) that high-tech weapons now give a 46% smaller force 10 times the lethality it had in 1990, (2) that the B-2s and JDAM (a GPS guided bomb) were the heroes of the war, (3) that the stealthy F-22 will provide a quantum leap in our ability to evade enemy radars, but (4) that we need to invest more in air defense suppression technologies. The contradictions implicit in the third and fourth assumptions are particularly noteworthy, in view of the fact that the Serbian air defense system was equipped with old Soviet Weapons, primarily the vintage SA-3 (fielded in 1961) and the SA-6 (fielded in 1970) radar missiles and the fact that the Air Force has spent over $60 billion since 1975 on stealth technologies that were supposed to provide quantum reductions in the need for radar defense suppression technologies.

Going back to Reference #1, Myers says "The Pentagon has announced that the Deputy Secretary of Defense, John J. Hamre, and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, would lead a thorough review of the war, including the damage done to the Yugoslav Army."

I believe the Pentagon should conduct such a review, but the Pentagon's leaders are hardly disinterested observers. Moreover, granting the Pentagon bureaucracy an information monopoly on the lessons learned in the Serbo-NATO war is tantamount to permitting the Pentagon to control a budget debate that affects its own self-interested prerogatives. The Air Force's ambitions in Reference #2 are a case in point. In Versailles on the Potomac, history has shown repeatedly that such monopolistic power inevitably devolves into a bureaucratic logrolling drill that rubber stamps such agenda-driven road maps.

Our country is supposed to be based on the idea of checks and balances -- the pitting of interest against interest, or faction against faction, in a free market of ideas, because men are not angels, to paraphrase James Madison. The citizens of the United States deserve to know why Slobo caved before they are asked to pony up the money.

A truly independent bombing survey like that suggested in Comment #294 would go a long way toward creating such a free market of ideas ... moreover, allowing the sun to shine in might just put some intellectual rigor into the military - industrial- congressional complex's rush to judgment.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]