Ground Troops in Kosovo?

Sam Pawlett epawlett at
Thu Apr 1 13:36:34 PST 1999

> From today's Wall Street Journal:
> "U.S. spokesmen continue to insist that a combat ground force [in the
> Balkans] isn't an option, yet some top U.S. generals glumly argue that
> such a U.S.-led force, probably with participation by the French and
> British, may be the only way out. Meantime, military planners both in
> Brussels and Washington are working on what such a force might look
> like.
> "One senior U.S. Army officer says some planners already are pondering
> how to fly in the elite 82nd Airborne Division, the U.S. military's ace
> in the hole, as a blocking force to create a safety zone for ethnic
> Albanian refugees being driven out of Kosovo by Serbian troops. In this
> scenario, that light-infantry force, which can't assault Serb armored
> units head-on, would be relieved in a few weeks by a heavier American
> tank division based in Europe.
> "President Clinton has repeatedly said NATO won't send ground troops to
> impose a peace on Kosovo, and opposition in Washington to such action
> would be fierce. But already, some politicians are warning that the
> alliance may have no other choice. Sen. John McCain, who was shot down
> over Vietnam, is urging NATO to take far more risks form the air, yet
> also says that the U.S. may have to send in ground troops. 'We've
> committed ourselves.... Now we have to do whatever it takes.'...
> "White House officials insist the option of sending in ground troops not
> only isn't on the table, but also simply isn't feasible: Getting a
> ground force into Kosovo would take weeks, far too long to wait. At the
> Pentagon and at NATO headquarters, however, planners say that it could
> be done, if the political will is there.
> "One idea, quietly being discussed, would put a light-infantry U.S. Army
> division into Kosovo and then replace it in a few weeks with a
> tank-heavy armored U.S. division based in Germany. Planners say 3,000
> to 4,000 troops could be flown into Macedonia and then trucked into
> Kosovo, and could be on the ground in 48 to 72 hours."
> Best of all is the WSJ sidebar, "Clinton's Kosovo Policy Has Echoes of
> LBJ, Vietnam." A sample:
> "Nobody expects the Balkan crisis to reach the scale of Vietnam. But,
> ironically, the president's approach has some echoes of Mr. Johnson's
> record of gradual escalation, putting sharp limits at each stage on how
> much military power can be used and allowing hubris to cloud his vision.
> In Johnson-like style, Mr. Clinton approves which targets are to be
> attacked, questions objectives and inquires whether there could be
> unintended casualties....
> "Taking the plunge with ground troops would complete the eerie morphing
> of Clinton into Johnson. 'Johnson had his Great Society and Clinton has
> his domestic focus,' says Richard Haass, director of foreign studies at
> the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. 'Johnson's undoing was
> Vietnam. Bill Clinton has labored for six years to avoid having foreign
> policy at center stage; now it threatens to do just that.'"
> One problem with that parallel, of course, is that LBJ at least *had*
> the Great Society program as a legitimate domestic achievement. What
> can Clinton point to ... welfare "reform"?

> This Administration has been
> a catastrophe in every possible sense.

It certainly has. I would estimate the U.S. (NATO) would need at least 500-750,000 troops to make Serbia cry uncle and give up Kosovo.In contrast to NATO, the JNA is battle hardened, experienced, mobile, knows the geography, knows the people, culture, language etc. and has fairly sophisticated Eastern bloc weapons. If the Generals are crazy enough and have enough lust for blood to introduce ground troops, a lot of people are going to die. It took 6 months to amass a similiar sized force in the Persian Gulf. There already are 10-20,000 American troops each, in Bosnia and Macedonia, so that is where the new troops will go. On a personal level, I do not envy the Americans who might have to fight the Serbs on the ground.

What is becoming really scary, is that the NATO bombing seems to be going after economic infrastructure. A car factory, engine factory, bridges, pharmaceutical plants and other industrial concerns have all been blown. Its beginning to look like the exit strategy is to bomb Serbia into the stone age. There is talk of bombing downtown Belgrade. If the bombing continues for a few more weeks at the current rate, there will be little left to bomb.

Sam Pawlett

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