Operation Deliberate Force Review: Defence Analysis Journal


Review published in Defence Analysis journal. Editor, Professor Martin Edmonds

Tim Ripley’s Operation Deliberate Force is more than an account of the culminating operation of Autumn 1995 which contributed to bringing the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina to a rapid conclusion. The author provides all the threads leading up to that result with exceptional clarity and detail. His access to information and to key individuals is what separates this book from a straightforward campaign history. He gets under the skin of the subject, patiently analysing and explaining the apparent muddle in which political, military and social issues co-existed.

The author is an experienced observer of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia scene. From 1992-1995 he covered events there for Jane’s Intelligence Review and Flight International. It is upon this platform that he builds the foundation for Operation Deliberate Force. What is most striking about this book is the transparency of overwhelming obsession, deceit and ignorance among the principal political players. To understand Kosovo, which was an extension of that process, Operation Deliberate Force is required reading.

Ripley explains in fine detail the tension that existed between the Euro-centric UNPROFOR peacekeepers, attempting to provide protection with an inadequate mandate, and the State Department, straining at the leash to ‘lift and strike’ against the Bosnian Serbs. Carl Bildt famously summed up the situation with: ‘There will be no peace in Washington until there is war in Bosnia-Herzegovina’. What served as the trigger to initiate the NATO air strikes was a mortar attack on a Sarajevo market in much the same way that the murder of Kosovar Albanians at Racak became the trigger to launch NATO air strikes upon Serbia proper.

The author’s Intelligence background helps to provide interesting insights into the covert rearming of Bosnia and Croatia and how the Croatian offensives against the Bosnian Serbs particularly at Krajina, Operation Storm, were guided by State Department-sponsored mercenaries. Also of interest is the account of Operation Mistral 2, the co-ordinated Croat and Bosnian Muslim offensives against the Serbs.

If there was ever one least good idea identifiable over the four years of armed conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina, then the prize must surely be awarded for the creation of ‘safe areas’. The author provides us with two detailed examples how the representatives from different armies dealt with their impossible situations: the Dutch in Srebrenica and the British in Gorazde. It is to be hoped that the lesson has been learned and that as the situation evolves in Kosovo, there will be no revisitation of the idea of ‘safe areas’.

Operation Deliberate Force is not a book for bedtime. But, if the reader wants a detailed, analytical account of a ground-breaking armed conflict fought out amidst often inept and depressing diplomacy and confused military strategy, this book is both commended and strongly recommended. It makes ground-breaking additions to our experience and for anyone trying to comprehend the nuances of modern armed conflict, this book is essential reading.

This Review posted on web site February 11th, 2000

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