Jewish World Review August 8, 2001 / 19 Menachem-Av, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- WHILE visiting Kosovo, President George W. Bush committed the United States to garrison duty for years to come. In setting exit criteria which may never be achieved, he acted like Madeleine Albright in drag.
The president owes an apology for his campaign criticism to his predecessor. Candidate George Bush presented himself as something different. He called for a new humility in foreign policy and his soon-to-be National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, suggested turning Balkans policing over to the Europeans.
But the president now represents the Albright State Department at its most unrealistic.
He'd like to bring them home, he told the troops, "but there's still a lot of work to be done." A lot indeed.
"Our goal is to hasten the day when peace is self-sustaining, when local, democratically elected authorities can assume full responsibility and when NATO forces can go home."
That day may never come. While he said "the stationing of our forces here should not be indefinite," it can be nothing else when the exit criteria are not likely to be achieved until the Second Coming.
In 1995, President Bill Clinton deployed troops in Bosnia to police the so-called Dayton Accord. The goal was to bind three warring peoples together in an artificial nation. It would take one year, the president promised. But, as the deadline loomed, boiling hatred continued to divide Croat, Muslim and Serb. Bosnia existed as a state only in the minds of Western officials.
So a mere 10 days after he was safely re-elected in 1996, Clinton announced that U.S. forces would stay another 18 months to rebuild "the fabric of Bosnia's economic and political life." As that deadline approached, he announced another extension, in order to "intensify our civilian and economic engagement" and maintain "an atmosphere of confidence."
The troops remain. America's time in Kosovo will be even longer and more dangerous. Islamic nationalism seems satisfied with Bosnia's "independence;" most Croatians appear satiated after kicking out upward of a quarter million Serbs from the Krajina region. Serbian nationalist ambitions have been largely defeated. Which leaves ethnic Albanianism as the most aggressive nationalistic force in the region.
Ethnic Albanians dominate Albania and Kosovo. They also populate portions of Serbia north of Kosovo and the western sections of Macedonia. The Kosovo Liberation Army has transmuted itself into guerrilla forces active in both.
Western officials justified their aggressive war against Serbia as a means to prevent ethnic cleansing and preserve a multi-ethnic Kosovo. That goal was never realistic: The hatreds are too strong and the West's stomach for conflict too weak to impose the authoritarian rule necessary to protect a sizable population of non-Albanians.
Even worse, the allied solution for Kosovo - autonomy within Serbia - is not accepted by either side. Serbs believe that sovereignty means control. The Albanians, having been lent America's air force in their fight for independence, see no reason to stop now. At best, the West will be able to maintain a sullen occupation as the KLA rules by night.
Even now, reports R. Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post, the Western allies "fear provoking ethnic Albanian militants, including some political leaders, who might turn on the 36,200 troops in the NATO-led peacekeeping force."
At worst, Albanians will come to see the West as much as a barrier to their freedom as was Serbia. Then Albanians may use their guns on their one-time liberators. Moreover, Albanian ambitions in Macedonia are not likely to be satisfied by a cease-fire and compromise cobbled together under Western pressure.
Some ethnic-Albanians simply desire better protection of minority rights. But others, including many in Kosovo, want a Greater Albania. If Western forces intervene, they inevitably will be caught in the middle. Hard enough will be "patrolling the border and cutting off the arms flow," as promised by President Bush. Worse would be garrisoning Macedonia to oversee a peace, with yet another anti-Western riot and, worse, only one angry crowd away.
In the name of being the essential power, Uncle Sam has allowed himself to be sucked into defending largely European interests at the periphery of the continent. For a time, the Bush administration seemed ready to break with the hubris and sanctimony which characterized the Clinton foreign policy. But the "adults" working for Bush apparently are neither more realistic nor more mature than their predecessors.
Washington's policy in the Balkans has been a dismal failure. It has entangled the United States in several distant civil wars and demonstrated American hypocrisy in its treatment of other, far worse, humanitarian crises around the globe. For eight years, these mistakes belonged to President Clinton. But when President Bush spoke at Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, he made them his
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