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Laurentian Reviews
Summer/Fall 2005

Collision Course: NATO, Russia and Kosovo
By John Norris ’87
Praeger, 2005

The military confrontation between NATO and Serbia over Kosovo was the last episode of the nasty conflict which engulfed the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  Kosovo, an Albanian- populated province of Serbia, was occupied by the Serbian military in October 1998 in response to resistance by resistance forces of the Kosovo Liberation Army supported by Albania.  Unable to secure a cease fire and UN Security Council sanctions, the United States and its NATO allies threatened a bombing campaign against Serbia if Serbia did not comply and remove Serbian military forces. 

When negotiations with Serbia failed, NATO began a 78-day bombing campaign on March 21, 1999, to compel Serbia to observe a cease fire and remove its forces.  This strategy followed the NATO threat to bomb Serbia if it did not remove its forces from Bosnia in 1995.  It led to the Day Ten Accords and Serbian withdrawal, and the introduction of NATO peacekeeping forces.

John Norris’s book is a first-hand account of the Kosovo war and the extended diplomatic negotiations to end it.  As Deputy of Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s communication director, Norris was intimately in touch with the negotiations and the various views and political positions of the key participants: the U.S., NATO and Serbia.  Kosovo ironically was NATO’s first war in its 50-year existence and the first modern war which was terminated by aerial bombing, which had been threatened.  Bombing was the choice because neither did the United States nor NATO wanted to commit ground troops to liberate Kosovo. 
Diplomatic negotiations with Serbia were hampered by Russian support of Serbia, a long-time ally.  Russian political and military support of Serbia was limited however by Russian economic problems and military weakness vis-à-vis NATO power.  Ultimately, Russia became a reluctant supporter of Serbia withdrawal and the introduction of NATO peacekeeping forces, but not before unilaterally trying to impose its military in Kosovo in a stealth operation.

In this study of the Kosovo War and its protracted negotiations and lucid description of the U.S. and NATO strategies, John Norris had done a commendable job in constructing a detailed case study and analysis of decision-making by the participants.  Once would hope that at some time the inner workings of the Kremlin would reveal Russian thinking and actions on Kosovo.  Until then, we have John Norris’s fine account of American and NATO negotiations to shut down the war in Kosovo and expel Serbia.   

Robert N. Wells Jr.
Professor Emeritus, Government

Roadside Geology of Nebraska
By Robert Shuster ’76 et al.
Missoula: Mountain Press, 2003

As you pack the car and kids to head west to emulate the route of the remarkable Corps of Discovery led by Lewis and Clark during this anniversary period, throw a couple of books in the car with you.  Bob Shuster ’76, associate professor of geology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, has co-authored Roadside Geology of Nebraska, a very readable and informative narrative of the subtle geologic features of this Plains state.  This is one of a long-standing series of “Roadside Geology” guides that have been improving continually in scope, style and quality of composition over the past 10 or 15 years, and a fine example of the genre.

Between its covers one finds a concise, comfortably readable summary to the geology of Nebraska which sets the groundwork for a route-by-route description of the most fascinating elements of the geology of the region.  The authors clearly appreciate the relationships between bedrock and surficial processes that form the landscape.  A significant virtue of this book is the keen ability of its authors to recognize, interpret and make understandable for all readers the historical sequence of the Earth processes that have created Nebraska’s landscape.  Features that have been part of the American experience such as Scott’s Bluff and the Sand Hills are given real meaning for visitors and residents alike. 

Clarity of explanations is enhanced further by frequent illustrations with photos, route maps and the use of shaded relief maps created from the new USGS DEM series.  The latter in particular highlight the fabric and texture of the prairie landscape so as to amplify the brief discussions in the text.  Together, text and illustrations make insightful vignettes that explain the geology and often demonstrate its strong influence on the history of the region.

The authors have not forgotten the rich paleontological heritage of Nebraska.  Marine reptiles and fish from oceanic deposits of the age of dinosaurs, the Mesozoic Era, and Tertiary mammals are well represented in Nebraska.  The authors document the locations where travelers can view the most spectacular specimens.  Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park displays the rich, 10-million-year-old mammal fauna of North America in the Miocene Epoch, including camels, rhinoceros, horses and may others entombed at a waterhole by six feet of volcanic ash that fell over the region.  One wonders how long these remarkable fossils will be available to the public, since the state of Nebraska has laid off its entire paleontological staff at the state museum even though the paleontological materials are a major tourist attraction. Those scientists have been responsible for the work of discovery, excavation and curation of many sites like the Ashfall Fossil Beds.  For now, the museum displays and these geologic sites represent a remarkable record of the history of life on Earth.

So many of the principles of geology are clarified by the sites and vistas described that the general tourist user of this text will feel well acquainted with the basis and the importance of geology to our lives after a trip through Nebraska!  The relationships between geologic processes and climate, both short-term and long-term, are dramatic.  A site I strongly recommended is the resting place of the Missouri River steamer Bertrand, which carried supplies to the gold miners in South Dakota.  It sank with a full cargo in 1865, and the river meander in which it rests was cut off and completely silted in with the steamer still on the bottom, thus preserving ship and contents in perfect detail.  Goods and supplies of every type have been painstakingly excavated and curated.  Both the rapidity of river migration and the detail of presentation of cargo shown in the site museum displays impress one with this geologic process, essentially fossilization, and clarify how dinosaurs were similarly entombed in river sediments millions of years earlier.

If you follow the path of Lewis and Clark or go west on the Oregon Trail, you will appreciate the geology around you far better with Bob Shuster’s book at your side. 

J. Mark Erickson
Chapin Professor of Geology

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