I find it surprising that a maneuver warfare advocate like William S. Lind is judging air power's effectiveness in terms of attrition [Free for All, July 24].

In the interest of honesty regarding the air war, it is necessary to explain why Lind's assertion that the Yugoslav army was not a beaten army is wrong. Contrary to what Lind believes, air power should be given much of the credit for causing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosvic's acceptance of NATO's terms.

The Serb army relied on its vehicles to provide its soldiers with the advantages of mobility, heavy firepower, armored protection, resupply and engineering support. While they were engaged in "ethnic cleansing," the Serbs could afford to disperse and conceal their vehicles, limiting their movement to small numbers of vehicles that often were hidden within the movement of refugees. These measures, along with decoys, limited their vulnerability to NATO air attack.

But when the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) began its offensive, the situation changed dramatically, allowing NATO air power to create an intractable operational dilemma for the Serb army's commanders. Now the Serb commanders needed to conduct militarily significant amounts of vehicular movement if they were to provide their forces with the advantages they needed to avoid high casualties or even defeat when fighting the lightly armed KLA. Whenever they attempted such movement, their vehicles were quickly detected, located, tracked and targeted for NATO air attack by operators onboard E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft.

As Lt. Col. Clark Kelly, commander of the 12th Expeditionary Command and Control Squadron, told Bloomberg news service, the Serbs quickly "realized that when they moved, they died." With his commanders facing this intractable operational dilemma, it is not surprising that Milosevic chose to cut his losses and evacuate Kosovo.

-- Price T. Bingham

The writer is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.