Waging Modern War by Wesley K. Clark
The book Waging Modern War: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the Future of Combat by General Wesley K. Clark is one of the most explicit documentation of the nature of war today, its blatant causes, its detrimental effects, and most importantly; how we can forge the way forward. Right from the onset of the book, Clark exposes the nature of war in Kosovo and Bosnia—giving fitting examples of wars in both places—while also introducing the readers into the roles different superpowers played in fuelling the war.
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A good example here is given of how the USA, through its intelligence units and ruling mandate did not do enough to stop the war—in spite of having the potential of doing so. Such a strong sentiment by General Clark is, probably, why the book has been quite unpopular and not well-received in the USA. In fact, some scholars go as far as opining that despite Clark’s moving memoirs of the wars; his viewpoint is mistaken and utterly pretentious (Bacon, 2008). An example is given of how he defends the bombing of Kosovo from 10K feet just because he was afraid to lose his aircraft to the war (Bacon, 2008).
In some parts of the book, Clark also gives an anecdote of feeling that, had he done more, may be the war would have turned out differently. Casting the blame on NATO, the USA and some leaders in Kosovo and Bosnia is considered, by these critics, as his way of trying get public redemption rather than owning up to his role in augmenting the war (Steele, 2001).
Nonetheless, a significant number of scholars have been able to come out strongly in support of Clark’s sentiments. To them, Clark is a true war hero who should be hailed not only for exposing the true nature of the wars but also for presenting relevant ideas that can be used to avert a reoccurrence of the ill-fated war in Bosnia and Kosovo. A representative review of parts in the book I consider insightful is given below.
Personally, I would recommend this book to any citizen who would like to know how they can rightfully instruct their elected representatives to make wise decisions. This is based on the fact that the book details clear-cut ways in which decisions made by citizens duly influence the nature of operations in Bosnia and Kosovo-especially with regards to military reform. According to Clark, some of the consequences faced in the war could have been averted had the people in Bosnia and Kosovo stood their ground and defended what was rightfully theirs.
Choosing to silently voice their frustrations while things went from bad to worse, according to Clark, was a wrong move. No matter how little an effort is; it does count at the end of the day. To explicate this, Clark reports of NATO’s intervention in Kosovo during the spring 1999. In spite of the fact that the intervention is considered by some scholars as being dramatic, in order to manipulate public thinking; it was NATO’s first ever successful military intervention in over half a century. And as Clark reports, NATO’s intervention played a huge role in paving the way for other concerned parties to come up in helping to help alleviate the war, and ending it eventually.
One lesson that can be clearly learnt from Clark’s book is the fact the nature of modern war—like the one in Bosnia and Kosovo—uses strategies, tactics and ideologies that are relatively different from those proposed war experts like of Sun Tzu. For example, today, technologies have greatly advanced thus making the art of war hugely different. People no longer rely on Warships and Tankers to fight their opponents since better weapons such as nuclear materials and viruses do the work easily.
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Additionally, over the recent times, the media has become a very powerful tool of manipulating public opinion—just like it was the case in Kosovo and Bosnia. At the same time, these media houses have their corporate masters who control them like puppets. In most instances, therefore, information reaching the public depends on what these corporate masters want you to hear. Examples of premeditated wars like the highly debated Gulf war or even the famous 9/11 terrorist bombings—in which various media houses are accused of fuelling the—typify how the media is a strong and influential tool in war (Kellner, 2007, pp.123-130).
Apart from the changes in technology and media, the major players in war have also changed their behavior during war and the priorities of most of them have also, seemingly, changed from objectivity to egocentricity. To exemplify this, from Chapter 4 to Chapter 6 of Clark’s book, he documents that the leadership in NATO was, at first, not willing to help halting the Serb’s aggression against the Bosnians.
In order to do so, General Clark (who was at that time the Supreme Allied Commander-Europe) had to rally his compatriots to convince the main players like the Pentagon, State Department in the US, the White House and Belgrade (through Milosevic) to agree in supporting them. This was an uphill task for Clark and his compatriots. However, the dimension that all these parties would benefit if the war stopped led to a change of minds in 1999—whichpaved way for NATO’s intervention.
Today, the society is no different at all. Most leaders across the world tend to only rally behind policies and strategies that help them satiate their selfish needs. As a matter of fact, very few leaders today make decisions with the interest of the people at heart. This, however, is not to say that there are no good leaders in the world since there are countless examples are in existence to show the concern of leaders to their people. Nevertheless, to a great extent, the issue of benefiting from certain policies—commonly termed as capitalism—is, by far and large, the order of the day.
From Clark’s book, it is safe to say that we still have a long way to go before we become fully able to cut loose of the strong manipulative chains that are preventing us from advancing. Towards the end of the book, Clark (2001) recollects that “In Kosovo my commanders and I found that we lacked the detailed prompt information to campaign effectively against the Serb ground forces” (p.459). He goes ahead and states that most of the technologies that they used were immature thus unable to help them cope with the weather patterns or the advanced weapons that their enemies had.
This simply underscores the assertion that we are still not well-equipped to fight as we should—based on the changes that have come with the new era of modernity. If we are to win such wars, it is therefore unavoidable for us to keenly study the current patterns, learn from our past mistakes, and then put in place inclusive plans that fittingly prospect a better future for us.
Commendably, there are a number of strategies and policies that are already in place. Clark and other like-minded scholars have already laid a foundation for us. All that is left is for us to build on this foundation laid by our predecessors while we also intermittently prepare ourselves to pass the baton to the generations to come.
Bacon, N. (2008). Clark misunderstands modern war—and his results prove it.
Clark, W. K. (2001). Waging modern war: Bosnia, Kosovo, and the future of combat. New York: Public Affairs Books.
Kellner, D. (2007). The media in and after 9/11. International Journal of Communication 1 (2007), Book Review 123-142.
Steele, R. D. (2001). Most miss point: book excels at highlighting our weaknesses.