by Charles Krauthammer
Friday, April 2, 1999; Page A29
On Monday, as "genocide" was going on in Kosovo (so said the State Department), Bill Clinton played golf. The stresses of war, no doubt.
But perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he needed to retreat to shaded fairways to contemplate the consequences of his little Kosovo war. Perhaps between mulligans -- alas, none are allowed in the Balkans -- he was pondering what has become of the objectives for which he unleashed, for the first time in its 50-year history, the might of NATO.
Objective 1: "We act to protect thousands of innocent people in Kosovo from a mounting military offensive" (televised address, March 24).
It is not just that the opposite has happened: savage ethnic cleansing, executions of Kosovar Albanian leaders, the forced expulsion of more than 100,000 Kosovars. That would merely imply gross presidential miscalculation. But the supreme allied commander of NATO, Gen. Wesley Clark, asserts that from the beginning "we never thought that through air power we could stop these killings on the ground."
Question: "Did you tell President Clinton . . . there is no way we can stop that kind of thing with a bombing campaign alone?"
Gen. Clark: "That's been said many times, and everybody understands that."
And yet Clinton publicly ruled out ground troops, thus declaring that there would be nothing but an air campaign. So he starts a campaign to protect Kosovar civilians knowing all along, says NATO's top general, that "you can't stop paramilitaries going house to house with supersonic aircraft flying overhead and dropping bombs."
Has there ever been a clearer case of foreign policy means and ends so mismatched, a condition Walter Lippman once called the very definition of "insolvency"?
Objective 2: To keep the Kosovo conflict from blowing up and destabilizing the neighboring countries. "All around Kosovo, there are other small . . . countries that could be overwhelmed by a large new wave of refugees from Kosovo" (March 24 address, again).
He meant Albania, Macedonia, and the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro -- every one of which is now overwhelmed by a large new wave of Kosovar refugees created since the start of Clinton's Balkan adventure.
NATO's bombing of Montenegrin territory and the influx of the refugees have left the West-leaning, anti-Milosovic government of Montenegro teetering. In Macedonia, long fearful of its own Albanian minority, violent anti-NATO anti-American riots have broken out. And Albania, already a wreckage, is overwhelmed by the huge numbers of Kosovars streaming into its territory. Every one of Kosovo's neighbors that Clinton was claiming to stabilize is being destabilized.
Objective 3: "We act to prevent a wider war; to defuse a powder keg in the heart of Europe that exploded twice before in this century with catastrophic results."
Goodness. Where does this man get his history? World War II was not remotely caused by the Balkans. And World War I was caused not by clashing ethnics in the Balkans, but by the catastrophic decision of the Great Powers to intervene and choose sides among the contestants for Balkan power.
Sound familiar? Clinton has taken a Balkan conflict that by world standards was relatively minor -- three times as many people were killed in the civil war in Sierra Leone in January alone as had died in the entire Kosovo war at the time we intervened -- and turned it into a world event. The NATO 19 are attacking Serbia; Russia, Belarus and Ukraine are supporting Serbia; China is denouncing from afar. Russia has kicked NATO representatives out of Moscow and is sending a warship into the Mediterranean.
Clinton isn't preventing a World War I scenario; he is recapitulating it. Of course, this time there is no danger of general war breaking out because, apart from the presence of nuclear weapons, the United States is overwhelmingly superior to all rival powers. But the fact remains that Clinton, intending to contain a minor civil war, has overnight internationalized it.
Objective 4: To preserve NATO.
Well, NATO did rather well, thank you, for 50 years without launching any wars against sovereign states. The greatest threat to NATO right now is that the Serbia campaign will fail. The Clinton administration, ever seeking to do good, has staked NATO unity and credibility on its ability to pacify the Balkans, a task never accomplished in the century except by Marshal Tito. And he needed all the delicate machinery of a police state to do it.
After Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, Kosovo marks the outer limits of this administration's foreign policy of good intentions. In war, good intentions are no excuse. They are instead the road to hell, as many Kosovars and Serbs can testify. Something for the president to contemplate while he putts.
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