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Luck Is Not a Strategy: Inefficient Coercion In Operation Allied Force

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Operation Allied Force, the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 over ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, has been used as evidence for many arguments including the value of independent airpower and the use of limited force to achieve coercion. This thesis examines the bases of airpower doctrine and coercion theory, and examines Allied Force as a case of coercion. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO, dominated by the United States, entered Allied Force without a coherent or complete strategy. Over the course of the air campaign, strategy eventually evolved to achieve the alliances goals, but this was only possible because of the incredible mismatch between the superlatively capable NATO air forces and the largely obsolete Yugoslav defenses. Allied Force conclusively proved that airpower alone can be used to coerce a target state to concede to diplomatic demands, but it also showed that the United States military and political leadership had little idea how to execute coercion. To improve the outcomes of future military interventions, it is essential that the United States military and political leadership devotes far more resources to strategic planning and analysis instead of hoping that operationally proficient military personnel will unknowingly arrive at an effective strategy.

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