H.R. McMaster Has Researched The Balkans - How Will He Use His Knowledge?
Or, will he be able to?
H.R. McMaster, Donald Trump’s new National Security Adviser, not only has military field experience in Iraq but has done thorough research on quite a number of global regions. His study on the war in Vietnam, "Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, The Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam"was his Ph.D. thesis at UNC, but from today’s viewpoint has more of a historical value.
On the other hand, McMaster’s study “CRACK IN THE FOUNDATION: Defense Transformation and the Underlying Assumption of Dominant Knowledge in Future War," done in 2003 for the Centre for Strategic Leadership in association with the Hoover Institute is of more interest from the standpoint of the position he currently occupies.
Of course, what will probably be first looked at is his stance towards US-Russian relations and US policy towards the Middle East, an area in which McMaster should be well-versed. But McMaster’s views are already getting a closer look in other regions, particularly the views expressed in his 2003 study.
One of the regions where McMaster’s views have already been scrutinized is The Balkans. Certainly the first concern there is what the US policy will be towards the region as a whole. But, the other aspect that has to be kept in mind is that in the current political climate, this policy will certainly have implications on US-Russia relations.
One of the largest Serbian media outlets, B92, has taken a detailed look at what McMaster spoke about in his study regarding the events in The Balkans during the Nineties, trying to gain insight into what kind of advice McMaster may put forward to the current US president.
One of the points that had been stressed is that McMaster thought that there was a “surrender of Dutch peacekeepers to the Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic” when the Bosnian enclave fell into the hands of Serbs in July 1995.
At the same time, some attention was given to the fact that McMaster believed that after a massacre of civilians at the Markale market in Sarajevo, NATO’s tougher stance expressed in Operation Deliberate Force “was a sharp contrast with the previous two years of irresolute and ineffective air strikes that NATO carried out in Bosnia under Operation Deny Flight.”
What has also caught the attention of the Belgrade media outlet was McMaster’s statement that during NATO’s airstrikes of what was then the state of Serbia and Montenegro in 1999, Slobodan Milosevic (the country’s president at the time) "anticipated NATO's actions and countered them,” but also that during those strikes NATO hit many targets “unintentionally” and expressed that Belgrade authorities "had access to plans through spies at NATO headquarters"
Some of the opinions McMaster expressed in his examination of the Balkans can also have wider implications, particularly concerning his stance toward the NATO alliance in general. McMaster states in his study that “the Serbs’ ability to obtain considerable intelligence on allied operations despite their technological inferiority draws into question the denial component of 'information superiority' against even a foe that has very basic capabilities,” as well as that "NATO greatly exaggerated losses inflicted on the Serbian military.”
This critical stance towards NATO might be one of the reasons McMaster was picked for this role in the first place, but a more pertinent question is not only what McMaster’s policy advice will be but whether or not and how it will be implemented.