[General Sir Michael Rose was, from 24 January 1994 to 23 January 1995, Commander, United Nations Protection Force, Bosnia-Herzegovina.]
Extracts from ‘Fighting For Peace: Lessons from Bosnia 1994’ (Paperback edition), published 7/10/99 – by General Sir Michael Rose
Preface page xviii [opening sentence] :On 24 March 1999, just over three years after the war ended in Bosnia, NATO decided to launch the most intensive bombing campaign in the history of warfare against Yugoslavia.
Preface page xxi: At the start of the war NATO stated that their pilots would only fire on targets when they were confident they could ‘strike accurately’. In the event, because of the restrictive rules of engagement that required pilots to fly only at medium and high altitudes, more than 1,200 civilians were killed by NATO bombing during the course of the war. By deliberately continuing with such indiscriminate rules of engagement and by their frequent use of area damage weapons in an environment where so many civilians were present, NATO was close to acting contrary to the Geneva and Hague protocols. These place on combatants in war an obligation to have due regard for the safety of civilians in war. For NATO repeatedly to attempt to justify its actions by stating that worse killings were being done by the Serbs is both legally and morally indefensible.
At the start of the campaign General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, stated that NATO was going to ‘systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately destroy’ the Serb forces. NATO was not able to achieve this military goal, for it transpired after the war that little damage was actually done to the Serb military machine – in spite of the most intense bombing campaign in the history of warfare and many claims that its strategy was succeeding. It was, of course, possible for NATO successfully to damage the civil/military infrastructure of Yugoslavia – the bridges, the power stations and communication centres – and it was probably the inability of the Serbs to withstand this assault that finally caused Milošević to sue for peace. However the stated aims of NATO sufficiently degrading Milošević’s military capability to bring a rapid halt to ethnic cleansing were not achieved.
Apart from the tragic failure by NATO to deliver the required humanitarian objective, its actions had a highly negative effect on [preface page xxii] prospects for global peace and security in the next century. For by starting the war in Yugoslavia without the express authority of the United Nations, NATO’s actions have marginalised the United Nations and set a dangerous precedent for other alliances or nations to act in a similar way. In the future, it will not be possible to argue that military intervention, no matter how morally justified, must always be sanctioned by the Security Council. NATO also acted against the terms of its own Treaty, which in its preamble unequivocally recognises the United Nations as being the principal organisation responsible for peace and security in the world. However the most damaging consequence of its war with Yugoslavia is the damage that has been done to NATO’s relations with Russia. For over fifty years NATO was able to claim credibly that it was a defensive alliance concerned only with the collective defence of its members. In the decade following the end of the Cold War, Russia almost came to believe this. Following NATO’s action against Yugoslavia most Russians once again regard NATO as a hostile organisation. The prospects for peace and security in Europe have been greatly set back.