In the Shadows of War

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Still, says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson, "NATO's done a pretty good job of minimizing civilian casualties, which obviously alarm NATO's civilian leadership." The alliance has begun acknowledging, however, that five weeks of bombing have had minimal impact on the fighting strength of the Serb forces in Kosovo, and NATO commander in chief General Wesley Clark admits that Belgrade may even have reinforced its military presence in Kosovo since the air war began. In order to achieve its objectives, then, NATO plans to escalate its bombing operations. And that inevitably threatens to raise the "collateral damage" count.

The Pentagon even announced Thursday that a shortage in its stockpile of air-launched cruise missiles has led it to arm B-52 bombers with considerably less accurate gravity bombs for Balkan missions. While a cruise missile is supposed to be able to distinguish between two adjacent buildings on a downtown street, a gravity bomb dropped from 15,000 feet is something of a Hail Mary. Thompson dismisses such claims as war talk designed to scare the Serbs: "The alliance has to do its best to keep the public calm long enough for it to complete its target list -- dropping dumb bombs to look for soldiers in a forest that may be full of civilians isn't likely to do that." Nor are recurring images of hapless civilians poking through the wreckage of their bombed apartment blocks or mass transit vehicles. Being a sentimental lot, TV audiences tend to sympathize with ordinary folks shown outside their shattered homes, no matter which side of the war they're on.

Photos: On the Margins of War >>

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