The war initiated on March 24 did not go well for NATO. A ground invasion was never a serious military or political option, and Mr. Clinton had been advised to that effect beforehand. There are few logical routes through which Yugoslavia could be invaded. Hungary, the only NATO country bordering Yugoslavia, was admitted to NATO only a few weeks before being pushed into war with its neighbor, and would be unlikely to consent to being used as a staging area. The neighboring Serbian province of Vojvodina that would come under immediate attack is home to more than 350,000 ethnic Hungarians.
Neither would Rumania, Bulgaria, or Madedonia likely consent to being a staging area for an invasion. They are not NATO members, and public opinion in all three is strongly anti-NATO after the bombing started. An attack from Bosnia, also not a NATO nation, would have to go through the Republika Srpska and ignite the conflagration in Bosnia all over again. An invasion from Albania into Kosovo would be a costly military operation, given the extremely poor infrastructure in Albania and the few passes through mountainous terrain that an invader would have to use.
Another very significant factor in a land invasion was the Yugoslav Army itself. In preparing since the 1940s for a possible invasion by the Soviet bloc, it built up an enormous network of underground ammo dumps, hangars, petroleum storage facilities, bunkers, barracks, and perhaps even petroleum refineries in the mountainous terrain of the nation. Most of this infrastructure remained untouched by NATO bombing after two and a half months, since it was designed to withstand nuclear blasts. The Yugoslavs have also developed a flexible command structure for concentrating and dispersing troops as needed in fighting a defensive war.
In these circumstances, there was little likelihood that a ground invasion would ever take place. The costs of victory would have been very high against a well trained professional army. During World War II, Serbian forces tied down 700,000 Axis troops with only the Greeks as their allies in the Balkans. Albanians, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, Hungarians, Rumanians, and Bulgarians all fought for the Axis, and Germany herself had 23 divisions in Yugoslavia. Assuming we did occupy the country, what would we then do to govern a hostile population of 11,000,000? How long would we have to stay to control our new protectorate? A land invasion, moreover, would have provoked even stronger reactions around the world and within NATO countries.
Militarily, the air war was a debacle for NATO. The Yugoslavs had great success in preserving their anti-aircraft capabilities throughout. Many of their fixed sites were destroyed early, but they retained mobile sites and were strong in their ability to target lower flying aircraft. They set up dummy tanks, trucks, and SAM sites for NATO planes to attack, regularly moved and carefully concealed AAA and SAM sites, confused NATO aircraft with fake radar signals, and were highly successful in targeting the UAVs that NATO had to rely on to get real time surveillance over moving targets. Though they lost about half of their few MIG 29's, their most advanced aircraft, their pilots also shot down a number of NATO aircraft, including a Stealth fighter. The great bulk of their air force remained intact in underground hangars.
Already, other nations in the world who assume they too might one day face a bomb-happy NATO are studying Yugoslav defensive tactics.
Though the official NATO line thus far is that only a few aircraft and no lives were lost, it is unreasonable to assume that such could be the case. The International Strategic Studies Association of Alexandria, Virginia, in its April issue of Defense & Foreign Affairs, reported that in the first month of the fighting NATO lost at least 38 fixed winged aircraft, including three Stealth fighters, six helicopters, seven UAVs (unmanned reconnaissance drones), and large numbers of cruise missiles. Remains of one Stealth aircraft and intact cruise missiles are already in Russia. These calculations were based on intelligence coming from a variety of sources.
The most careful ongoing effort to post to the Web information on NATO losses gathered from newspaper, radio, TV, and e-mail reports all over Europe, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Rumania, Greece, and Yugoslavia itself now lists more than 300 NATO aircraft of all kinds as having been downed or disabled by early June. Several F-117 stealth fighters were lost. Recently, two B-2 stealth bombers appear to have gone down over Yugoslavia. Several B-52s were shot down. A minimum of four Apache helicopters (two were said to have been lost in "training exercises") were downed before the U.S. announced it would not use them. At least 25 UAVs were downed, and more than 200 cruise missiles were hit in the air. Macedonian and Greek sources have verified the passage of dozens of coffins through their countries.
Whatever the exact figures, which NATO will not publicize, it is true that General Wesley Clark asked twice to increase the numbers of aircraft committed to the war. On May 8 it was announced that 176 additional aircraft would be brought into action. At the end of May it was announced that an additional 68 aircraft would join the war. These were only American aircraft. Additional helicopter rescue crews were also brought in, since efforts to rescue downed NATO pilots often resulted in the loss of helicopers, their crews, and some commando units. Some military experts feared that if another serious military front were to open up elsewhere in the world, the U.S. would be hard pressed to respond adequately.
Indeed, the war against Yugoslavia may have the effect of undermining the mystique of Western air power that had developed in the bombing of Iraq, a poorly defended desert state. Intelligence communities will not be fooled. In Yugoslavia, Stealth fighters and bombers have proven not to be invincible, and their remains are now in the hands of other countries for scientific and engineering analysis. Older Russian-built AAA and SAM sites, handled by well trained Yugoslav crews, proved to be effective against aircraft. Shoulder-held missiles have been very destructive. The Russian-built MIG-29s, flown by competent pilots, acquitted themselves well in air-to-air combat with NATO aircraft. The MIGs that were lost were almost all destroyed on the ground in air raids.
Because NATO was largely unable to get at truly military targets, it soon had to broaden its definition of "military" to go after the civilian infrastructure. Some describe what resulted as a campaign of terror to intimidate Yugoslavia into surrendering. One result is what the Defense & Foreign Affairs article reported as morale problems among the NATO military. They found themselves fighting a war in which "there are questions about the wisdom of the orders they are receiving, and a total lack of clear strategic (let alone military) objectives."
NATO took to bombing public buildings, bridges, rail lines, fertilizer plants, automobile factories, plastics factories, shoe and clothing factories, pharmaceutical plants, post offices, power plants, refugee columns, trains, buses, and other essentially non-military targets. Numerous bombs and missiles struck purely residential neighborhoods or small isolated villages. NATO has destroyed much the infrastructure of the Yugoslav economy, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work and creating widespread suffering for civilians, whose deaths have outnumbered military casualties by 4 to 1. GDP has declined by an estimated 25 percent.
Since 300 schools were hit in "collateral damage," the country had to close down its educational system. Collateral damage also affected hospitals, libraries, museums, cemeteries, and numerous religious sites and shrines. Recent attacks on electrical installations and water supplies have endangered the lives and health of large numbers of civilians. Hospitals could not run dialysis equipment or incubators, bakeries could not bake bread, fresh water could not be pumped. Unable to defeat the Yugoslav military through the air and unwilling to confront them on the ground, NATO resorted to making hostages of Yugoslav civilians in a shameful campaign aimed primarily at the helpless.
Italian fishermen in the Adriatic were killed pulling up cluster bombs in their nets, and many ceased fishing out of fear. NATO first claimed they were World War II bombs, then stated that it was routine practice for NATO planes returning from raids over Yugoslavia to drop their remaining bombs into the Adriatic.
A damaged aircraft would likely jettison its ordnance before landing. However, the presence of bombs in the Adriatic would also corroborate reports that some NATO pilots were dropping their bombs and missiles over the Adriatic rather than on Yugoslavia. There are uncorroborated reports that one NATO country pulled its pilots out of the war. NATO pilots, when interviewed, admitted that the Yugoslav antiaircraft defenses were resourceful and highly professional. Another said that this was a "credible" enemy.
The NATO bombing of petroleum and chemical installations in the Belgrade area is threatening a large scale ecological disaster as dangerous chemicals such as phosgene, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, naphtha, ethylene dichloride and transformer oil are released into the atmosphere or into the Danube and seep into underground water supplies. In some areas, water has become undrinkable. It was nearly miraculous that a NATO bomb did not explode a liquid ammonia tank that would have poisoned many in Belgrade. The result of such bombing is a kind of low intensity chemical warfare.
It was admitted that American aircraft were using munitions tipped with depleted uranium (DU), whose use in Iraq has precipitated a seven-fold increase in leukemia, caused thousands of children to be born with various deformities, and is a suspect in Gulf War Syndrome. The U.S. was also using cluster bombs in clearly civilian areas such as Nish. This is strictly an antipersonnel weapon akin to a type of land mine whose use has been outlawed because of its continuing destructiveness long after fighting has ceased.
In the attack on the village of Korisa, where many Albanians died in homes they had just returned to, the U.S. planes were using a type of thermal bomb that generates up to 2000 degrees Celsius and burns people beyond all recognition. Besides the attack on Korisa, NATO aircraft on at least three other occasions targeted refugees who were returning to their homes in Kosovo. NATO aircraft targeted a Greek and a Rumanian humanitarian relief convoy going into Yugoslavia whose movements had been announced in advance. They attacked a convoy of Western journalists in Kosovo, which included the French philosopher Daniel Schiffer. The three low yield missiles that struck the Chinese Embassy each hit the apartment of a Chinese journalist who had been writing against the war.
The extensive bombing of bridges and the pollution of portions of the Danube River have had economic repercussions for Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Rumania, and Bulgaria, since all traffic and trade on the waterway have been halted. Tourism has also been affected.