End Bill Clinton’s War

Reprinted with permission from Copley News Service.

More civilians--Kosovar refugees, at that--havebeen killed by allied air strikes. NATO has destroyed China'sembassy in Belgrade, dropped cluster bombs on a Serb market,shredded relations with Russia, blasted the Yugoslav economy intorubble, triggered escalating violence against Kosovars, anddestabilized all of Southeast Europe.

Yet allied attacks continue. Not just continue, butintensify.

Bill Clinton's war has proved to be one of America'sgreatest foreign policy debacles. What does the President do?Hire Leslie Dash, vice chairman of Edelman Public RelationsWorldwide, to advise the administration on Kosovo. PresidentClinton should end the war instead.

The President launched an unprovoked war of aggressionagainst a small, distant state. He cynically wrapped hiscampaign in humanitarianism while ignoring worse slaughterselsewhere. He arrogantly assumed that foreign leaders wouldgenuflect before him. He attacked their nation when they didn't.

How does Bill Clinton justify his war? In a recent speechat National Defense University President Clinton likened eventsin Kosovo to those in Nazi Germany: a "vicious, premeditated,systematic oppression fueled by religious and ethnic hatred."

This is pure cant. The administration has nothing against"vicious, premeditated, systematic oppression" if committed byallies, like Croatia and Turkey. Or if perpetrated against blackAfricans.

Moreover, as ugly as was the Kosovo conflict, it was no NaziHolocaust, but a minor civil war, with casualties a fraction ofthose occurring in such places as Kashmir and Sri Lanka. Wherereal genocide results, like Rwanda, President Clinton studiouslyaverts his gaze.

Once it became clear that the administration intended toeffectively strip Yugoslavia of Kosovo, however, Belgradeunsurprisingly lashed out. Indeed, allied bombing turned allKosovars--whose leaders publicly lobbied for NATO intervention--into enemies of the Serbs.

Yugoslavia wasn't gentle before being bombed. It certainlywasn't going to be gentle afterwards. The number of refugees inAlbania and Macedonia jumped from 45,000 to 640,000.

At the same time, the allied war quickly turned into a waron Serb civilians, with strikes on everything from bridges toelectrical plants to television stations. The only way NATO cancontinually intensify the bombing is to widen its target list.And that means more dead civilians.

Accidents may be unavoidable, but they are least justifiablein a supposedly humanitarian war. How many Yugoslavs deserve todie to enable Kosovar refugees to go home? Ethnic cleansing isugly; premeditated murder is worse.

Of course, Bill Clinton argued in his speech that reducingYugoslavia to ruins "is the right thing for our securityinterests over the long run." But he can't really believe that.

The conflict in Kosovo, though messy, was contained untilNATO began bombing. The Serbs were attempting to hold onto whatthey had, not expand. Yugoslavia's earlier civil war did notexplode Europe because none of the major powers intervened.

But the administration's maladroit attempt to impose asolution unwanted by either side sparked Belgrade's crackdown,followed by mass refugee flows that destabilized Serbia's fragileneighbors. The war has immeasurably strengthened the KosovoLiberation Army, which has expansionistic dreams--to uniteAlbanians throughout the region--vis-a-vis Kosovo's more moderatepolitical leadership.

The NATO countries are fast dividing as they confrontRussia, itself sliding towards political chaos. Bill Clinton hasspilled gasoline across Europe.

Continued bombing guarantees only continued killing,instability, and failure. Kosovars will suffer and Serbs willdie for nothing.

Inaugurating a ground war, and following it with a long-termoccupation (Republican presidential candidate Lamar Alexanderspeaks of "three-to-five decades of patrol") would be far worse.If the Europeans want to turn Kosovo into a protectorate andoccupy Belgrade, let them. They have a million men under arms.

The U.S. should stop bombing. Today.

Forget about concerns over credibility. Credibility, likepatriotism, is the last refugee of the scoundrel. NATO'scredibility is already in tatters. Maintaining, nay,intensifying a manifestly failed policy will rend what little isleft.

Instead, Washington should propose negotiations whereregional proposals, rather than U.S. dictates, are presented.Discussions need to be led by a country that hasn't warredagainst Serbia; Russia must participate.

The goals are basic: return of refugees, protection ofKosovars, presence of Western monitors, end of the guerrilla war,and political autonomy for Kosovo.

None of these will be easy to obtain. Thanks to NATO thealready deep hatreds in Kosovo have been intensified beyondimagination.

But there is no alternative. It should be tragicallyobvious by now that Washington cannot impose peace.

The President does have a PR problem with his war. But theproblem is the war. The solution is not to hire another mediaflack. It is to end the war.

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.