'Leaks' Show Military Protecting Its Rear

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Fingers are wagging at the Pentagon as it builds a defense perimeter against any "Who lost Kosovo?" inquisition. Critics point out that the military's attempts to distance itself from the current air-war strategy would carry more weight if they'd resisted the campaign from the outset. This buzz barrage comes after the leaking over the weekend of a letter allegedly written by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Defense Secretary Cohen. In it the top brass reportedly warns that the administration's political objectives in the conflict can't be achieved without ground troops, suggesting that the military establishment wants the politicians to carry the can for the outcome of the conflict. But the Pentagon can't easily wipe its fingerprints off the strategy, even if it was conceived primarily by the politicians. "Sure, some of the Joint Chiefs had qualms about the Kosovo campaign, but the point is they signed up to it," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "When their minions now go around saying 'We knew this wasn't going to work,' the media needs to hold them to account. Military officers have to be prepared to put their stars on the line when they oppose a campaign -- they can't sign up and then denigrate it off the record."

Meanwhile, pressure continues to mount inside NATO for a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Germany's coalition government survived a near mutiny by the Green Party last week, but only after its foreign minister agreed to push for an early suspension of bombing. Italy's government is threatened with collapse when parliament debates the Kosovo campaign on Wednesday, with key coalition members demanding that Rome withdraw from NATO's campaign -- a move that would create a crisis for the alliance, whose air campaign is staged almost entirely from Italy. "Each new instance of collateral damage is having a much greater impact," says Thompson. "It's going to get a lot harder keeping some of the allies on board for the air campaign." Especially when elements in the military establishment are signaling that it won't work.