Turning Point: Operation Allied Force and the Allure of Air Power
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS
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In 1999, NATO initiated Operation Allied Force, a campaign of airstrikes against the Serbian forces of Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo. NATO intended for the airstrikes to stop Milosevic from carrying out ethnic cleansing against Kosovar Albanians. After seventy-eight days of bombing, Milosevic agreed to withdraw his army from Kosovo. This thesis explores how the U.S. public, policymakers, and military services perceived the use of air power before, during, and after Operation Allied Force to determine the extent of mainstream belief in a turning point related to what air power can accomplish on its own. In addition, the paper examines how well the exclusive use of air power succeeded to determine whether Operation Allied Force was a divergence from historical trends or a continuity in the necessity for air-ground cooperation to employ air power successfully. In 2011, encouraged by the Libyan rebel movement, NATO commenced Operation Unified Protector, an air campaign with the goal to stop Muammar Gaddafis violence against civilians and compel him to step down from power. Members of President Barack Obamas national security team made decisions related to the Libya campaign based on their interpretation of air powers role in Kosovo, as both campaigns excluded the use of ground forces. Overlooked evidence regarding the role of counter-battery radars in Kosovo and the use of Twitter in Libya suggests that extensive coordination with ground forces actually brought about the success of air power in both campaigns. Finally, the study concludes on whether there is a growing inclination to use air power for limited interventions.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics