92 There has been much discussion of the extent to
which the targetting policy of the NATO commanders was politically
controlled. This debate needs unpacking a little. There can be
no argument that there should be political control of targetting
decisions. The real question is whether the right decisions were
taken, at the right time and at the right level.
93 The Chief of Joint Operations described the graduated
tempo of the campaign thus
Initially it was a phased
... air campaign, and we responded to the political climate within
which NATO operated.
The Chief of Defence Intelligence explained
... the first package that
NATO put together, whilst there was an enabling part to it, in
other words to ensure our aircraft were not shot down so hitting
IADs [integrated air defences] and all these sorts of things,
part of it was very much "let us not do anything too unpleasant
straight away because we do not want to fight, we do not want
lots of people being killed, let us give him the chance of backing
Air Commodore Morris, who ran the UK's contribution,
We were operating under very
clear political guidance, initially, as to what we could and could
not expect to do ...
And General Naumann also made clear that NATO forces
... were not allowed initially
to use overwhelming force. It was a very modest attack which was
authorised for the first phase of the campaign. During this first
phase of the campaign, the political objective without any doubt
was to bring him back to the negotiation table to find a peaceful
solution. That we did not achieve and for that reason we had to
escalate. We did it quickly, as you know.
94 This approach did not meet with wholehearted approval.
Most notoriously, Lieutenant General Michael Short, who commanded
the USAF and NATO's air operations has expressed his impatience
with these political constraints. Lord Gilbert quoted him approvingly
in his evidence to us
I would like, if I may, to
quote from General Short: "As an airman I would have done
this differently. It would not be an incremental air campaign
or slow build-up but we would go downtown from the first night
so that on the first morning the influential citizens of Belgrade
gathered around Milosevic would have awakened to significant destruction
and a clear signal from NATO that we were taking the gloves off.
If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house
and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down
and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years I think
you begin to ask 'hey, Slobo, what's all this about?'" Those
are General Short's sentiments and, Chairman, they are mine too.
I argued forcibly within the Ministry of Defence for a different
menu of targets right from the beginning.
General Sir Charles Guthrie took a rather different
You have probably heard what
the United States General, General Short, has been saying about
how we ought to have taken out great chunks of Serbia and bombed
Belgrade on day one. Firstly, that was not what we were trying
to do and, secondly, again that was a step too far for quite a
lot of the Alliance. We have to think of Alliance solidarity.
Rather than having a triumph of NATO solidarity, which actually
saw this thing through, it would have had a disaster on day one.
General Naumann was equally unconvinced
Quite frankly, I am not so
sure as, for instance, General Short has been when he testified
in the United States Senate that a short, sharp and overwhelming
strike on Yugoslavia, more or less indiscriminate, would have
been the solution to the problem ... Personally, I am full of
doubts that this would have been a wise approach. I believe ...
nothing would have changed the first week of our air campaign.
Our military objective, our military recommendation, has always
been to neutralise as much as possible of the air defence system
and of the command and control system, so that we then had at
least air superiority and, with that, more flexibility to act.
It is clear to us that to have launched an all-out
air attack against Serbia on 24 March would have destroyed the
cohesion of the Alliance. On the other hand, the Alliance's graduated
approach to the air campaign evidently failed to convince Milosevic
that the subsequent escalation of the campaign would happen.
95 A further issue about political control which
has been much discussed is whether the bombing campaign was 'micro-managed'
by the Alliance's civilian and political bosses. The Chief of
the Defence Staff said
I do not think that we were
affected by political oversight. We discussed our targets with
our Secretary of State for Defence and the law officers took a
very close interest and the Prime Minister got involved in targeting
too, but very seldom.
The Chief of Joint Operations, Vice-Admiral Sir Ian
Garnett, strongly denied that the campaign was micro-managed by
politicians. He told us he had been constrained only by his targetting
... described to me the sort
of targets that United Kingdom forces were allowed to attack,
the ones that we were not allowed to attack, the degree of collateral
damage that we should seek to avoid, the risks to civilians and
many other factors like that, which constrained, in essence, what
targets, generated by NATO, United Kingdom forces could accept.
Air Commodore Morris confirmed that it was a national
responsibility to clear the target for the attacks that we prosecuted
and also the target weapon that was going to be used.
Sir John Goulden also strenuously denied that the NAC had tried
to control the details of target selection
Micro-management did not
occur at any stage. We cleared targets generically. We said, "This
phase is now authorised", "That phase is now authorised".
We never sat in judgment on an individual target.
General Naumann emphasised that he insisted on the
same restraint being exercised by NATO's Military Committee
I was not involved in the
military assessment which led to the selection of targets. That
is not the task of the Military Committee. I refused also to do
that for good reasons. On one occasion, I had a little bit of
an exchange with one nation which had insisted that the targets
should be discussed in the Military Committee in detail before
SACEUR was authorised to strike a target. I refused to do that.
96 However, for the coercive strategy to be sustained
the military required a sufficient pool of targets, agreed and
approved in advance, which could be drawn from as necessary, to
provide a range of operational possibilities. From our discussions
with those who were working at an operational command level, there
did not to them appear to have been a sufficiently large pool
of targets available to draw from on 24 March. We heard, furthermore,
about a perception of a lack of timely and clear strategic guidance
and an experience of an approval process which felt, to those
at the sharp end, tortuous. Targetting at times seemed to them
to lack an overall direction. Some of these problems may have
arisen from the political view that providing the military with
too much freedom, even within the overall strategic direction
that would always be set at a political level, could allow the
mission to get out of control. Some may have arisen from an instinctive
dislike amongst the military for bureaucratic procedures. Additionally,
the emphasis on avoiding collateral damage, particularly civilian
casualties, had been a prime determinant of the selection of targets,
especially at the outset of the campaign. While direct political
intervention was not evident in Operation Allied Force, at least
in the UK, political priorities still impinged very directly on
decision making at the operational level. That political and legal
concern with targetting decisions is a fact of life with which
the military are going to have to learn to live in operations
of this kind. That does not mean that both the military and civilian
side of the process do not need to work hard to minimise the negative
effects of such close political scrutiny on the conduct of essentially