Kosovo Bombing

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KOSOVO BOMBING. In the aftermath of the Bosnian peace agreement, which the United States brokered in the fall of l995 in Dayton Ohio, conflict in the Balkans soon spilled over into Kosovo, a province of Serbia. There, increasing Serbian repression directed against the Albanian Kosovar majority triggered violent encounters between members of the newly formed Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbian military forces.

After news of a particularly gruesome atrocity committed by Serbian forces at Racak became known, an outraged Secretary of State Madeleine Albright pushed hard for a form of diplomatic and military intervention to end the violence in Kosovo. Consequently, she persuaded President Bill Clinton to adopt a policy designed to prevent further ethnic cleansing by the Serbians in Kosovo.

Following the failure of a diplomatic effort directed at the Serbians to end their violence, Clinton, on March 24,1999, ordered an air assault on Serbian positions in Kosovo and Serbia proper. Backed by NATO, this undertaking provided an alternative to a land invasion, which the Defense Department, Congress, and a majority of the American people flatly opposed. Thus, NATO aircraft flew over 34,000 sorties, firing 23,000 bombs and missiles in its air mission in Kosovo. Among the targets hit by American missiles, however, was the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which caused several deaths inside the embassy and produced a furious uproar in Beijing. As a result of this incident, an American apology and indemnity soon followed.

The bombing produced mixed results. It did not fully degrade the Serbian Army, as NATO had hoped, and it produced many civilian deaths in both Kosovo and Serbia while accelerating the forced flight of refugees from Kosovo itself. Yet as the war ended, Bill Clinton was relieved, knowing that the mission had avoided American casualties and had reinforced America's senior and dominant role within NATO's command structure.


Ash, Timothy Garton. "Kosovo: Was It Worth It?" New York Review of Books. Vol. XLVII, Number 14 (September 21, 2000): 50–64.

Berman, William C. From the Center to the Edge: The Politics and Policies of the Clinton Presidency. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Clark, Wesley. Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat. New York: Public Affairs, 2001.

William C.Berman

See alsoBombing ; Human Rights ; North Atlantic Treaty Organization ; Yugoslavia, Relations with .