Europe’s Welfare Queens

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The Clinton administration, headed by someone who refused to serve in Vietnam, is going to war. Without even the pretense of justification for bombing another sovereign state.

Yugoslavia hasn't attacked the U.S. It hasn't threatenedAmerican citizens. It isn't even the worst human rights offenderaround the globe.

Conflict wracks many other countries. In January morepeople were killed in Sierra Leone than in Kosovo all last year.More people were murdered in one massacre in Afghanistan inDecember than died in Kosovo in 1998. As many people died in onethree-day battle between Tamil guerrillas and the Sri Lankangovernment last fall as in Kosovo the entire year.

Indeed, though Slobodan Milosevic is a demagogic thug, thebehavior of his government towards Albanians looks not unlikethat of America's ally Turkey towards the Kurds. Ankara usesU.S.-supplied weapons to kill Kurdish guerrillas and levelKurdish villages; some 37,000 people have perished over the lastdecade.

But the administration says nothing in any of theseconflicts. President Clinton obviously believes humanitarianismmeans saving white Europeans.

There are more than enough flaws in the administration'spolicy. It seems to believe that it can micromanage a guerrillawar, and impose a solution which neither party supports. Infact, backing insurgents who long for a greater Albania is likelyto spread nationalistic flames throughout the region.

Moreover, President Clinton will ensure permanent Europeandependence on America. There should be little doubt that eventsin Kosovo are more relevant to Europe than America. Yet the U.S.is being expected to take the lead in Kosovo.

Why? NATO was created a half century ago to provide adefense shield behind which the Europeans could rebuild. Thealliance was never intended to provide a permanent subsidy forpopulous and prosperous states after the hegemonic threat haddisappeared.

In fact, the American leaders who originally shaped NATOwould be appalled at continued U.S. domination of the alliance.Dwight D. Eisenhower warned: "Permanent troop establishmentsabroad" will "discourage the development of the necessarymilitary strength Western European countries should provide forthemselves."

Experience has borne out Eisenhower's fears. Although theEuropeans were always far more at risk than was the U.S., theynever matched America's defense effort.

Their preference for social over military spending ismatched by a reluctance to act without America. In the eyes ofsome, this demonstrates the necessity of American leadership.

However, by acting when the Europeans choose not toguarantees continued European passivity. So long as they caninduce Washington to subsidize their defense and moderate theirconflicts, they have no incentive to organize independently.

Instead of constantly bailing Europe out of its troubles--troubles which, in contrast to those in times past, do notthreaten its very existence--America should set the Europeansfree to make their own decisions and bear the resultingconsequences. Let the members of the European Union, with acombined GDP of $8 trillion, population of nearly 400 million,and armed forces of more than one million sort out the problemsof the Balkans. That is, if they believe doing so to be worththe cost.

Truly ridiculous are claims that U.S. military interventionis necessary to save NATO. For instance, Robert Hunter of theRand Corporation complains that "If fighting in Kosovo goes onunabated at the time of NATO's 50th anniversary summit inWashington this April, the focus will not be on its new strategicconcept or grand visions. Kosovo will overshadow bothcelebration of the past and plans for the future." One ofClinton's foreign policy hands was quoted anonymously ascontending that "the alliance itself is at risk because if it'sunable to address a major threat within Europe, it really losesits reason for being."

The argument is silly on its face: the conflict in Kosovoendangers no NATO member, let alone poses a "major threat."Serbia is not a new Soviet Union.

Even more idiotic is the notion that the U.S. should go towar to preserve the European alliance. This turns a means intoan end. Alliances are created to deter and win wars; wars shouldnot be used to preserve and strengthen an alliance.

In fact, NATO lost its raison d'etre with the collapse ofcommunism. There is no better evidence that the alliance isready to join the Warsaw Pact in the dustbin of history thanfears that NATO can't survive without bombing a small country onthe periphery of Europe.

To paraphrase German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, theBalkans is not worth the bones of a single healthy Americanpilot. The duty of the President is to defend this nation, notto go warmongering around the world in the name of peace.

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.