General Wesley K Clark was Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces in Europe between 1997 and 2000, and in Waging Modern War he recounts how he masterminded "Operation Allied Force", the ultimately successful war against Serbia in Kosovo throughout the early months of 1999. However, this is no simple-minded military memoir. As a West Point graduate and Rhodes Scholar, Clark was regarded as both an intellectual and a hawk, a difficult position that led to a series of awkward political encounters throughout the military campaign. One of the most absorbing dimensions of the book is Clark's description of how he
...was torn between the guidance and perspective I gained from NATO, heavily influenced by the Department of State, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Downing Street, and the White House, and what I would hear in my US military chain reporting to the Pentagon. As Clark increasingly pushed for a land invasion, US political interference ensured that the completion of the operation became even more difficult. Clark's clashes with both Slobodan Milosevic and US Secretary of Defence William Cohen are both fascinating insights into contemporary realpolitik, while President Clinton remains a remarkably shadowy, ambivalent figure on the political margins of Clarke's book.
Waging Modern War is also an ambitious statement on the changing nature of warfare. Clark argues that Kosovo represented "modern war--limited, carefully constrained in geography, scope, weaponry and effects. Every measure of escalation was excruciatingly weighed". This is a timely reassessment of the political and military shape of the world in the aftermath of the Cold War by someone operating at its very heart. Clark emerges as a quiet but determined and ferociously competitive figure, who has written a formidably detailed account of Europe's first, and hopefully last "modern war". --Jerry Brotton