OPERATION DELIBERATE FORCE by Tim Ripley
Reviewed by Alan Dawes in Air Forces Monthly Magazine, January 2000 edition
Readers will already be well aware that Balkan politics are almost impenetrably complex and any attempt to explain events is a severe test of the information gathering and analytical skills of the researcher.
There is a sense in which the events which collectively comprise the recent history and disintegration of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are almost beyond rational explanation and Tim Ripley is to be congratulated on his achievements with this book. A particular strength of Ripley’s work is that in preparing it he obtained a wide range of hard-hitting interviews with many of the central military and political figures of the day. This goes a long way towards establishing the factual accuracy of his account of his account of the key moments of his accounts in the three-year Bosnian war. It is, at the same time, a depressing expose of the limits of conventional diplomacy and military action, of formally agreed multi-national policies being corrupted by the pursuit of national self-interest and self-deception about the crimes committed in the name of military necessity.
Intermingling of intrigue and conspiracy theory help to relieve the solid weight of the politics and military manoeuvring which are the foundations of the book. Events such as the mysterious transport aircraft flights into a highway airstrip near Tuzla in February and March 1995, which have not been formally attributed, but are widely held to be a CIA-led operation in support of the Bosnian Muslims, are covered in detail.
Similarly, the US Government-endorsed activities in Croatia by the Virginia-based mercenary organisation, Military Professional Resources Inc(MPRI), are described as is the hitherto unreported development and deployment by Croatia of a range of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for covert surveillance. These are allegedly capable of over flying Belgrade and were regularly flown over Serb territory in early 1995.
The reader is greatly assisted in this book which abounds in names of personalities and acronyms, in its provision of a ‘cast list’ of ‘major players’, a ‘glossary of terms’, a chronology of events 1991-1994 and some simple, but excellent maps to illustrate key issues. These are particularly useful for Operation Storm (Oluja), covering the re-taking of the Krajinain August 1994. Equally useful, at the beginning of the book is an explanatory listing of the political and military groupings directly or peripherally involved in Bosnia, which also serves to emphasis the complexity of the region’s affairs. Finally, there is a useful assessment of the military commanders involved with Deliberate Force, a comprehensive biography and orders of battle for all participating units and a very clearly laid out index.
This an excellent book on a vitally important episode of recent European history, even if the lessons from this had not been absorbed in time to prevent the further Balkan tragedy in Kosovo only four years later.
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