Military officials privately acknowledge that removing Colonel Qaddafi from power is the desired secondary effect of striking at state television and other symbols of his authoritarian rule. “His people may see the futility of continued resistance,” one Pentagon official said.
Senior officers who served in NATO’s previous air war, fought in 1999 to protect the population of Kosovo from Serbian forces, said the campaign over Libya drew on lessons learned then.
Gen. John P. Jumper, who commanded United States Air Force units in Europe during the Kosovo campaign, recalled that allied “air power was getting its paper graded on the number of tanks killed” — even though taking out armored vehicles one by one was never going to halt “ethnic cleansing.”
So NATO began to hit high-profile institutional targets in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, instead of forces in the field. Although they were legitimate military targets, General Jumper said, destroying them also had the effect of undermining popular support for the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic.
“It was when we went in and began to disturb important and symbolic sites in Belgrade, and began to bring to a halt the middle-class life in Belgrade, that Milosevic’s own people began to turn on him,” General Jumper said.
For more on NATO’s campaign against Serbia see:
- “Legitimate Targets? How US media supported war crimes in Yugoslavia” by Jim Naureckas (Extra!, Jul./Aug. 1999)
- “BELGRADE: Reduced to a ‘caveman’ life, Serbs don’t blame Milosevic” by Steven Erlanger (New York Times, 25 May 1999)
- “NATO bombs infrastructure” (Associated Press, 4 May 1999)