Review: Waging Modern War–Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat

5 Star, Empire, Sorrows, Hubris, Blowback, Intelligence (Government/Secret), Military & Pentagon Power, Stabilization & Reconstruction, Threats (Emerging & Perennial), War & Face of Battle
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars

Most Miss Point: Book Excells At Highlighting Our Weaknesses,

>November 3, 2001

Wesley K. Clark

Every citizen should read this book so they can instruct their elected representatives and vote for military reform. As things now stand, we will lose the war on terrorism over time because of the perennial flaws in our system that this book identifies.Don’t Bother Us Now. The U.S. political system is not structured to pay attention to “early warning”. Kosovo (as well as Croatia and Serbia beforehand and later Macedonia) were well known looming problems, but in the aftermath of the Gulf War, both Congress and the Administration in power at the time said to the U.S. Intelligence Community, essentially: “don’t bother us anymore with this, this is inconvenient warning, we’ll get to it when it explodes.” We allowed over a hundred thousand to be murdered in genocide, because our political system was “tired.””Modern war” is an overwhelming combination of micro-management from across the varied nations belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; a reliance on very high-tech weapons with precision effect that are useless in the absence of precision intelligence (and the lawyers insist the intelligence be near-real-time, a virtual impossibility for years to come); and an obsession with avoiding casualties that hand-cuffs our friendly commanders and gives great encouragement to our enemies.

Services versus Commanders. The military services that under Title 10 are responsible for training, equipping, and organizing the forces–but not for fighting them, something the regional commanders-in-chief must do–have become–and I say this advisedly–the biggest impediment to the successful prosecution of operations. The detailed story of the Army staff resistance to the use of the Apache helicopters is the best case study I have ever seen of how senior staff generals with political access can prevent operational generals with field responsibilities from being fully effective. In combination with the insistence of the services that forces be held back for Korean and Persian Gulf threats that might not be realized, instead of supporting a real war that existed in Europe, simply stated, makes it clear that there is a “seam” between our force-creating generals and our force-fighting generals that has gotten *out of control.* The fog of war is thickest in Washington, and the greatest friction–the obstacles to success in war–are largely of our own making.

Lawyers, Fear, and Micro-Management. Just as we recently witnessed a lawyer overruling the general to avoid killing the commander of the Taliban, General Clark’s war was dominated by lawyers, a fear of casualties, and micro-management, from Washington, of his use of every weapons system normally left to the discretion of the field commander. This has gotten completely out of hand. Within NATO it is compounded by multi-national forces whose commanders can refuse orders inconsistent with their own national view of things, but reading this book, one is left with the clear understanding that General Clark was fighting a three-front war at all times: with the real enemy, with the media, and with Washington–his NATO commanders were the least of his problems.

Technology Loses to Weather and Lacks Intelligence. Throughout the book there are statements that make it clear that the U.S. military is not yet an all-weather military, and has a very long way to go before it ever will be. Aligned with this incapacity is a high-technology culture that suffers from very weak maintenance and an almost complete lack of intelligence at the level of precision and with the timeliness that is needed for our very expensive weapons to be effective. Nothing has changed since MajGen Bob Scales wrote his excellent Firepower in Limited War, pointing out that artillery still cannot be adequately supported by the intelligence capabilities we have now.

Strategic Mobility Shortfalls, Tactical Aviation Constraints. Although General Clark judges the air war to have been a success, and an essential factor in facilitating “coercive diplomacy”, he also communicates two realities about U.S. military aviation: 1) we do not have the strategic aviation lift to get anywhere in less than 90-180 days, and his request for a 75 day mobilization was not possible as a result; and 2) our tactical aviation assets are so specialized, and require so much advance preparation in terms of munitions, route planning, and so on, that they cannot be readily redirected in less than a full day. A full day. This is simply outlandish.

We Don’t Do Mountains. No statement in the book hurt me more than one by an Army general telling General Clark that his plans for the ground campaign could not be supported by the U.S. Army because “we don’t do mountains” This, in combination with the loser’s attitude (no casualties) and the general reluctance of the services to put their high-tech capabilities like the Apache at risk in a real war, sum up the decrepitude of the U.S. military leadership and the Revolution in Military Affairs-Andrew Gordon in Rules of the Game has it exactly right-the post Viet-Nam and post Cold War era has left us with a bunch of high-tech chickens in control of military resources, and we need to find ourselves some rat-catchers able to redirect our military toward a lust for man to man combat in every clime and place-and the low-tech sustainable tools to do the job.

General Clark’s concluding words, on page 459: “In Kosovo my commanders and I found that we lacked the detailed prompt information to campaign effectively against the Serb ground forces. Most of the technologies we had been promoting since the Gulf War were still immature, unable to deal with the vagaries of weather, vegetation, and urban areas, or the limitations of bandwidth and airspace. The discrete service programs didn’t always fit together technically. And (sic) the officers who operated the programs were not qualified to work across service lines and did not understand the full range of national capabilities. I worried about the nature of Joint skills even among senior officers.” Are we ready? No.

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