338 Finally, we asked how decision makers, particularly
in the MoD, could best assess the military risks and benefits
of any future intervention of choice that might be contemplated,
before committing the UK to military action.
339 The world's most powerful military Alliance found
that the task of persuading Milosevic to desist from his abuses
of human rights was far more difficult than was anticipated before
it committed itself to the chain of decisions that ultimately
led to the military action in Kosovo last year.
340 Kosovo has, fortunately, dispelled the illusion
that NATO is an instrument that can readily be used in a precise
and discriminating way to support diplomacy. Military conflict,
it reminded us, is messy, dangerous and not wholly predictable.
Politicians will, we hope, face up to some of its less palatable
lessons, as well as breathing a sigh of relief over achieving
a measure of military success without paying too great a political
price. Those lessons should include a realisation that the use
of military means to manage crises cannot always be approached
wearing velvet gloveseither they must be determined and
prepared to do a job properly or be able to decide not to do it
341 The conflict also reminded us that in conducting
such operations against an unprincipled adversary, an organisation
like NATO has some inherent weaknesses some arising from
its multinational nature, some from the legitimate expectations
of democratic accountability. These are also, of course, its strengths.
It is particularly vulnerable to asymmetric responses, and needs
to understand and prepare for them.
342 Kosovo should have also dispelled the illusion
that the Alliance's success is guaranteed when it is used for
such purposes. It seems to us fortunate that Milosevic conceded
when he did. The problems of mounting a forced ground entry would
have been immense in both political and practical terms. At that
point in June 1999, NATO was on the eve of facing some very unpalatable
choices. The shortcomings in the Alliance's preparedness were
therefore not wholly exposed.
343 NATO was originally configured as a defensive
organisation to protect its members against all-out attack. Deployed
for coercive purposes, its multinational natureits very
raison d'êtreproved to be its weakest point.
The hesitant and cumbersome approach of NATO when acting as a
crisis management organisation precludes much decisive action.
The risks of failure are so immense that the necessary boldness
of action is very difficult to achieve. This must lead us to ask
whether NATO is really going to be able to overcome those impediments
to effective operation we have identified aboveunless it
can, it will not be guaranteed success in future crises. If it
cannot, then there is a question about whether it should be deployed
for these purposes, or whether it would not be better to rely
on coalitions of the willing within the Alliance who share a political
analysis of a crisis and have a shared determination to address
it. The problems of achieving unity of purpose in the future can
only be exacerbated if NATO enlarges further.
344 We have examined the causes of some of the difficulties
encountered in prosecuting this campaign. We shall not attempt
to predict whether NATO's actions have reduced the probability
of another such crisis erupting in the near future. But we must
be prepared for the worst. The clearest lesson of Kosovo is that
military might and technological superiority are not sufficient
to guarantee that the Alliance will prevail in addressing any
future crisis. In the search for consensus, it is all too easy
to forego clarity in order to maintain unity. But without unity
of purpose and clarity of political aims from the outset,
and the moral courage to see things through, the Alliance's ability
to act effectively will be at risk.