A balanced appraisal of the war in Kosovo must account not only for its accomplishments, such as avoiding civilian casualties, but also for its shortcomings in planning and execution. For example, the targeting process was ineffective, command and control arrangements were complicated, and suppression of enemy air defense was not thoroughly carried out. In addition, the Alliance strategy of ruling out a ground invasion and only gradually escalating air strikes, though politically understandable, likely convinced Milosevic that he could ride out the assault. The campaign also highlighted the need for a larger inventory of precision-guided munitions and for other aircraft that can deliver accurate munitions irrespective of bad weather. Airpower prevailed in Kosovo despite a risk-averse U.S. leadership and the difficulties of coalition operations. But the incrementalism of the campaign involved a potential price for questionable gain: It risked frittering away the hard-earned reputation of effectiveness that U.S. airpower had finally earned in Desert Storm. Airpower is a vital instrument of force employment in joint warfare, but it can never be more effective that the strategy it supports.
Originally published in: Joint Force Quarterly, v. 30, Spring 2002, pp. 12-19.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.
Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/research-integrity.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.