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Jewish World Review July 5, 2001 / 14 Tamuz, 5761

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
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Western blundering, Macedonian disaster -- LEAVE it to NATO to turn a problem into a crisis. Two years ago, America spurred ethnic Albanian separatism by kicking Serbian forces out of Kosovo. Today NATO is fomenting civil war in Macedonia by its maladroit intervention.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. In 1999, the West proclaimed its determination to promote democracy, halt ethnic cleansing, and create stability. For that reason, NATO ignored 350 years of international law and launched an unprovoked war against Yugoslavia, a nation which had neither attacked nor threatened any member of the alliance. The consequences have been ugly.

NATO proved to be no friend of democracy. Yugoslav demagogue Slobodan Milosevic manipulated anti-Western feeling to strengthen his hold on power. Only by choosing Vojislav Kostunica, a moderate nationalist critical of NATO's aggression, and keeping in the background pro-Western figures subsidized by the U.S., such as Zoran Djindjic, did the opposition triumph in elections last year.

Now the democrats are splitting apart under western pressure for Milosevic's extradition to the Hague to face justice at the hands of nations which themselves violated international law in attacking Yugoslavia. NATO's war sparked two rounds of ethnic cleansing. First, Belgrade responded to the West's attack by intensifying military operations and displacing hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian civilians. The U.S. then shamelessly used the consequences of its own actions to justify its assault.

Although most of the ethnic Albanians have returned, they quickly forced out a quarter of a million ethnic Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and even non-Albanian Muslims. NATO did little more than watch.

Stability has been the greatest victim of Western blundering. When NATO effectively provided the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) with an air force, it backed the most destabilizing force in the region.

Instead of gratefully accepting the West's muddled plan for an autonomous Kosovo within Serbia, the KLA continued to press for independence.

Kosovo is notable primarily for its crime and violence, as the KLA rules by night. The KLA has also transmuted into the Liberation Army of Presovo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac, now active in Serbia outside of Kosovo.

To combat the guerrillas, who were operating with impunity, NATO was forced to invite Serbian forces back into the buffer zone imposed after the 1999 war.

Even more disastrous is Macedonia, where one-third of the population is ethnic Albanian. The newly minted National Liberation Army has initiated an increasingly virulent armed struggle, which threatens to engulf the entire country.

Although there is no difference in principle between Albanian separatists in Kosovo and in Macedonia, this time NATO came down on the side of the Slav-dominated government.

The West's operating principle has always been anti-Serb rather than pro-human rights. Yet the government in Skopje is learning that friendship with NATO is of dubious value. European officials have been streaming into the country demanding restraint, criticizing the security forces, urging negotiations, and pressing cease fires.

As part of the latest agreement pushed by the West, NATO forces, including 81 Americans, escorted armed guerrillas from a village where they had been under attack by Macedonian army units. Nationalist riots then swept the capital of Skopje, as Slavic crowds chanted: "Albanians to the gas chambers."

President Boris Trajkovski called for calm while his rival, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, maneuvered against him. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski denounced NATO for protecting "terrorists."

As the government teetered, its room for maneuver, and negotiation, narrowed substantially. Yet some analysts, such as Mark Palmer, former U.S. ambassador to Hungary, would thrust NATO into the vortex - a "robust" military force to back an unambiguous "demand" that the guerrillas disband and the government withdraw its military to its barracks.

Even the Bush administration has indicated support for using 3,000 to 5,000 allied soldiers to help enforce any political settlement. In Bosnia, three warring groups, Croats, Muslims and Serbs, live together in an artificial state held together only through Western military occupation.

NATO forces could be there for generations. In Kosovo, Western soldiers have calmly stood by as Albanians did what Serbs were supposedly bombed for doing - committing ethnic cleansing. Only a permanent foreign garrison will stop Kosovo from becoming independent. In Macedonia, NATO would face another endless occupation on behalf of another fragile client.

Even if peace is found, it is unlikely to be more stable than those in Bosnia and Kosovo. Especially given the antagonism now felt by the Slavic majority against NATO. Indeed, peace seems far more distant after the alliance's maladroit aid to armed rebels in the midst of a guerrilla conflict.

President George W. Bush entered office voicing skepticism of the Clinton administration's humanitarian war-mongering. Unless the president adopts a quick policy U-turn, the Balkans tar baby will become his own, with disastrous consequences for his administration and America.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2000, Copley News Service