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Gen. Chutzpah: Wes Clark wasn’t prescient about his own war
NRO ^ | 8/26/2003 | Rich Lowry

Posted on 08/26/2003 9:40:58 PM PDT by Utah Girl

Call him "Gen. Chutzpah."

General Wesley Clark is riding high on what is universally considered his prescience about the current Iraq war. Going unremarked is his utter lack of prescience about his own war, in Kosovo in 1999.

Back then, Clark thought he had Slobodan Milosevic figured out, and that the mere threat of NATO bombing — and perhaps a day or two of the real thing — would bring him to the negotiating table and force him to be reasonable. When this turned out not to be the case, Clark had no Plan B, because President Clinton had ruled out ground troops from the outset.

So, NATO continued with a limp air campaign that was inadequate to stopping Milosevic's ethnic-cleansing campaign, that appalled other members of the military brass who thought Clark had helped drag the U.S. into a near-fiasco, and that led to such ill-feeling toward Clark in the Pentagon that he was fired at war's end, launching his career as a TV pundit.

In his memoir, Clark recounts a conversation with Gen. Joseph Ralston before the war that starkly demonstrates his flawed assumptions. Ralston wants to know what will happen if the threat of an air campaign doesn't work:

"Well, it will work," I said. "I know [Milosevic] as well as anyone. And it gives the diplomats the leverage they need."

"OK, but let's just say it doesn't. What will we do?" he asked.

"Well, then we'll bomb. We'll have to follow through," I said.

"And what if the bombing doesn't work?"

"I think that's unlikely, but in that event, I guess we'd have to do something on the ground, directed at Kosovo."

"And if that doesn't work?" he persisted.

"Well, then we keep going. But I think you have to work at the front end of the policy, on how to make it effective. Besides, I know Milosevic; he doesn't want to get bombed."

Clark insisted: "'I can't believe that Milosevic won't sign, when the crunch comes. He always holds out. He has to be leaned on very hard. But he will come around."

Of course, Milosevic didn't. Even when the bombing campaign began, Clark made threats that had no connection to the amount of force NATO was willing to bring to bear. Clark said NATO would, "systematically attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate, and ultimately destroy" Yugoslavia's military and security forces. Uh, no it wouldn't — partly because everyone believed, like Clark, in the rosy scenario.

Ivo H. Daalder and Michael E. O'Hanlon write in their balanced account of the war, Winning Ugly: "NATO did not expect a long war. Worse, it did not even prepare for the possibility. Many alliance leaders deny that assertion to this day, but the evidence is overwhelming. And the blame begins with Washington, ultimately the most important architect of the air campaign strategy."

And so NATO stumbled on. "In short order," Andrew Bacevich writes in American Empire, "it became clear that Clark — though not he alone — had miscalculated. A defiant Milosevic did not fold. The first several days' bombing succeeded only in stoking the fires of Serb nationalism and providing Belgrade with the excuse to accelerate its ethnic cleansing of Kosovo."

To Clark's credit, he pushed for a ground option, but for everyone else in Washington it was a nonstarter, because no one thought it worth the risk in a war in which the American national interest was so attenuated.

Things turned out in the end, of course. But one million refugees later, and only because one of Gen. Clark's subordinates, Gen. Michael C. Short, did an end run around Clark to institute an increasingly aggressive bombing campaign against Belgrade. By the end, Bacevich writes, "Clark found his control over ongoing operations eroding. Rather than the theater commander, he became hardly more than a kibitzer."

Something to keep in mind the next time — and it will be soon — you hear about Wes Clark's prescience.

Rich Lowry is author of the upcoming Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 2004; electionpresident; wesleyclark

1 posted on 08/26/2003 9:40:58 PM PDT by Utah Girl
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To: Utah Girl; Destro
73 Serbian children and a couple of thousand other civilians died in Gen. Clark's evil bombing of NON-MILITARY targets in Yugoslavia in 1999.

He killed more civilians than the Serbs did in ALL of KOSOVO.

He is a war criminal for sure.

2 posted on 08/26/2003 9:49:28 PM PDT by Lion in Winter
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To: dirtboy
ping for incompetence
3 posted on 08/26/2003 9:50:07 PM PDT by okie01 (The Mainstream Media: IGNORANCE ON PARADE.)
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To: Utah Girl
Not only that, but the whole reason for going to war was to stop the alleged genocide of the "ethnic Albanians". No evidence of mass killings by the Serbs has ever been found. Where is the outrage of the left, and Clark in particlar that we were deceived into going to war against Serbia?
4 posted on 08/26/2003 9:57:16 PM PDT by Hugin
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To: Hugin
Exactly. The left lies about everything to further their agenda.

A jew who converted to Catholicism is the savior of Muslims.

Yeah, I trust this guy...
5 posted on 08/26/2003 10:05:48 PM PDT by At _War_With_Liberals (If Hillary ever takes the oath of office, she will be the last President the US will ever have. -RR)
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To: Lion in Winter
You know, I actually cheered when Russia had the cajones to send troops to take over that one airfield to put a stop to some of the crap that was going on. I may have been wrong, but it sure seemed like Russia did the right thing.

I found out recently Clark wanted a British brigade to attack the Russians, and the British commander told him what he could do with that order.

6 posted on 08/27/2003 4:32:00 AM PDT by yhwhsman ("Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small..." -Sir Winston Churchill)
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To: Utah Girl
>> You know, I actually cheered when Russia had the cajones to send troops to take over that one airfield to put a stop to some of the crap that was going on. I may have been wrong, but it sure seemed like Russia did the right thing.

Same here. When it is Muslims against "anyone else", it has always proved wiser to pull for "anyone else". I was also outraged that the press completely forgot about the ethnic cleansing of the serbs and other non-muslims from Kosovo that helped Milosovic gain power in the first place.
7 posted on 08/27/2003 4:42:26 AM PDT by PhilipFreneau
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To: Hugin
I distinctly remember Albright and Cohen insisting that Milosevic had taken 100,000 male Kosovars to the countryside and slaughtered them.

They also told me about the Serbs filling up a soccer stadium with male Kosovars and slaughtering them.

How come no main stream media called them on this???
8 posted on 08/27/2003 4:56:30 AM PDT by Guillermo (Proud Infidel)
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To: Utah Girl
BTTT
9 posted on 08/27/2003 7:12:12 AM PDT by Pokey78 ("I'm not going to start the Third World War for you"- Gen. Sir Michael Jackson to Gen. Wesley Clark)
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To: Hugin
Anybody see the show running last night on one of the discovery channels? It was about slobodon and kosovo and has clark and clintoon and others on the show. I was watching it. They had albanians on with video tape of slaughtered villagers. lo0oked real to me. I was trying to learn from the program about what happened over there. I agree what nato did was monstrous.
10 posted on 08/27/2003 8:27:06 AM PDT by Huck
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To: Huck
The whole thing was a monsterous charade of agression against the Serbian people.
11 posted on 08/28/2003 7:15:49 AM PDT by Lion in Winter
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