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Bob Travica 
Idealism Won't End It 
By James R. Schlesinger 

Washington Post, Wednesday, March 31, 1999; Page A29  

It is astonishing that those who spent decades recounting the "lessons of 
Vietnam" have themselves failed to heed those lessons. Forgotten now are the 
injunction not to intervene in civil wars and the admonitions regarding the 
strength of nationalism. Slobodan Milosevic is under far greater pressure to 
avoid ceding control over Kosovo than Ho Chi Minh was to abandon his goal of 
absorbing South Vietnam. "Signaling" the seriousness of our intent through 
bombing was not a sure-fire way of overcoming resistance in Vietnam -- nor 
is it in Serbia. Nor are our longer-run purposes clear. In Bosnia, we bombed 
the Serbs because they sought self-determination; we are now bombing other 
Serbs because they refuse to allow self-determination for the Kosovars.  
What are our objectives? Presumably, they are to weaken Milosevic, to 
protect the Kosovars, to stabilize the region and to prevent the conflict 
from spilling over Yugoslavia's borders. Can these objectives be achieved 
through the means chosen? Not likely. Our instrument was to threaten to bomb 
Serbia until it accepted the agreement that we and our allies hammered out 
at Rambouillet -- and then persuaded the Kosovars (at least temporarily) to 
accept. Unless Milosevic was prepared to yield control over Kosovo, a deeply 
emotional symbol of Serb nationhood, he had at most a few weeks to subdue 
Kosovo. For those who know the history of Serbia in this past century, his 
response should have caused no surprise. Nationalism, we learn again, is a 
powerful force. The Serbs have rallied around Milosevic. Rather than 
protecting the Kosovars, we have triggered the very outcome we sought to 
avoid. Far more intimidation, repression and deaths will follow in the weeks 
ahead than in the period up to now.  

And we have ensured that the conflict will spill over the borders of 
Yugoslavia -- partly from the pressures of the refugees and partly from our 
reported intent to use Macedonia as a launching platform for our 
helicopters. Up to now, objectives and our means have been sadly mismatched. 
Demonizing Milosevic may be satisfying, but it is scarcely an effective 

How do we define the American interest? Since coming into office in 1993, 
the administration has regularly -- and quite sensibly -- stated that 
getting along with Russia (sometimes referred to as our "strategic partner") 
is a major determinant of our policy. Yet we decide to bomb the Serbs and to 
ignore the Russian reaction, thereby forcing Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov 
-- en route to Washington -- to turn his aircraft around as he reached the 
Atlantic. This seems to suggest that the elusive goal of protecting the 
Kosovars is more in the national interest than maintaining amicable 
relations with Russia. That would seem a questionable conclusion -- and 
scarcely what we have heard for these past six years.  

The first goal should be be to stop the violence, the first victims of which 
are those we seek to protect, the Kosovars. To accomplish this, the Serbs 
must be convinced that their own national aspirations will be taken into 
account. To be sure, we can continue on our present course of attempting to 
bomb the Serbs into submission. It might ultimately be successful -- but 
probably too late. We can do what we have said we won't do: move in ground 
forces and impose our will on a somewhat desolate landscape. But that 
probably would imply a lengthy stay for U.S. ground forces.  
Since international politics, even more than domestic politics, remains the 
art of the possible, we could move toward accepting the emotional realities 
of the Balkans -- and acquiesce in partition and, to the extent necessary, 
population separation. Self-determination is the only aspect of Wilsonianism 
that we have sought to avoid -- with our insistence on imposing an 
American-style multiethnic society on Bosnia and now Yugoslavia. To be sure, 
we have not always been consistent in our rejection of partition or 
self-determination. We embraced it when we encouraged the Croats to expel a 
half-million Serbs, but we never admitted what we were up to.  
Neither the history nor the emotions of the Balkans lend themselves to an 
American ideal of a multiethnic society or to American preachments about 
multinationalism. Indeed, the ideal of multiethnic harmony will be even less 
plausible and more remote after we complete the current phase of bombing. 
While it does imply that we shall have to jettison illusory goals of these 
past eight years, to do so holds out the possibility that we shall be able 
to extricate ourselves and leave conditions that are reasonably stable.  
The Serbs in Bosnia can join with Serbia. The Croats could join with 
Croatia. The rump Bosnian state around Sarajevo should enjoy Western support 
and protection. Milosevic would have something to show the Serb population 
as a limited step toward Greater Serbia -- and it would compensate in part 
for the loss of part of Kosovo, which might go to Albania. In reaching this 
outcome, Russia would have a critical role to play, a place in the sun, and 
our relations with Primakov would be substantially restored.  
Unless it coincides with the national interest, moral indignation is rearely 
a sound guide to policy. We should be guided less by indignation and more by 

The writer is a former secretary of defense and director of central 

Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company  

Bombs Away  
By Michael Kelly 

Wednesday, March 31, 1999; Page A29  
The most revealing glimpse of the Clinton administration's thinking, such as 
it is, about Kosovo occurred earlier this month in a private meeting between 
the Italian prime minister and the president. As reported by The Post, 
Massimo D'Alema asked Bill Clinton a simple question about the contemplated 
NATO bombing of Serbia: What would the United States do if Slobodan 
Milosevic did not back down under bombing, and instead increased his 
assaults on the Kosovar Albanians?  

The president was stumped by the question. He did not answer, but turned 
inquiringly to his national security adviser, Samuel R. Berger. Berger 
hesitated, and then replied: "We will continue the bombing."  
The Post does not report whether the Italian prime minister at this point 
ran shrieking from the room, but it would have been understandable if he 
had. It must have been disconcerting to discover that the leader of the 
world's sole superpower was about to launch a war without a plan that 
extended beyond next Sunday's talk shows, or without a thought to one of 
bombing's most likely consequences.  

The NATO air campaign against Serbia began on March 24. By March 29, the 
resultant Serb ground campaign against the Kosovar Albanians had forced at 
least 130,000 of them to take refuge in Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia. 
Serbian troops were continuing their systematic campaign against the ethnic 
Albanian population, reportedly bombarding and torching entire villages, 
executing civilian leaders, detaining men of fighting age and sending women 
and children into exile.  

This is not the result that Bill Clinton and his merry band of deep thinkers 
expected. In his March 24 speech to the nation explaining his decision to 
bomb, the president said: "We act to protect thousands of innocent people in 
Kosovo from a mounting military offensive." Whoops-a-daisy.  
Administration officials now are doing what comes naturally to them in these 
moments of embarrassment. They are dissembling. Asked on Monday about news 
reports of a wave of executions of Albanian Kosovars, White House press 
secretary Joe Lockhart said: "We knew he was going to do this." We knew he 
was going to do this? We knew that, if we bombed Serbia, Milosevic would 
respond with a massive killing and cleansing campaign against the very 
population we were going to war to protect?  

If so, then the president and his advisers are guilty of criminal 
irresponsibility. For the United States made no serious efforts to prepare 
for what Lockhart says we knew was coming, a wave of killing and "cleansing" 
U.S. officials now compare to genocide. The president ordered up the bombing 
without any strategy to protect the Albanian Kosovars from resultant attack, 
without sufficient ground strength in the region to even think about 
countering the Serb ground offensive, without even an adequate refugee-aid 
plan in place.  

But of course Lockhart is, in the proud tradition of Clinton mouthpieces, 
merely uttering what sounds good in the moment. Others are too. Secretary of 
State Madeleine Albright, who has spent too much time in the company of her 
boss, went on the Sunday talks to suggest that the Serbian army offensive 
against the Kosovar Albanians had been underway before the NATO bombing 
campaign and would have intensified as it did whether or not NATO had 
bombed. "I think that it is just simply an upside-down argument to think 
that NATO or we have made this get worse," Albright said. "To say that this 
has now backfired is just dead wrong."  

To hear a secretary of state mouth such patent nonsense is embarrassing, and 
frightening. Do these people have any idea what they are doing beyond 
bombing their way through another day? Did they really start a war without a 
strategy for coping with the most obvious consequences?  

No, and yes. The American strategy in Kosovo, such as it is, is rooted in a 
series of remarkably careless assumptions: (1) to insist upon a peace accord 
that required Milosevic to accept foreign troops on Serb soil and to place 
Kosovo, the historical and cultural heart of Serbia, on a path to 
independence; (2) to think that Milosevic would swiftly back down in the 
face of, or under the punishment of, bombing; (3) to believe that, if 
necessary, we could pull an Iraq -- declare the bad man's military to be 
"degraded" and go home; (4) to promise at the outset that no American ground 
assault was forthcoming, thus giving Milosevic reason to think that he could 
wait out the bombing -- and that he might as well take the opportunity to 
get a spot of ethnic spring cleansing done.  

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal.  
Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company  

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