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Jewish World Review March 24, 1999 /7 Nissan 5759

Paul Greenberg

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Once more into the quagmire

(JWR) ---- (
D-Day, the sixth of June, 1944.

Suppose the Normandy invasion had been limited to air strikes, and those kept getting called off.

Suppose that when the bombing raids were finally ordered, the times and places were widely published in the American press.

Suppose the number of Allied troops to be used in the assault was strictly limited, and their mission confined to policing the area.

Suppose any assault on the enemy's reserves, on its capital, on its homeland had been ruled out from the first.

Suppose, every time an invasion was scheduled, it was postponed in favor of sending still another emissary to Berlin to sue for peace.

Suppose that every time the Western democracies offered the brutal dictator most responsible for all this suffering and death a new, more generous settlement -- instead of settling his hash. Suppose, instead of a war crimes trial, he got still more concessions.

Suppose there had been no Eastern Front in 1944? Suppose that, on the contrary, the Russians were taking our aid but doing everything they could to confound American efforts?

Suppose that public opinion back home was deeply divided, and even more confused, about the purpose and strategy of this war?

Suppose that Congress was willing to authorize the use of American forces in Europe only after a peace agreement had been signed, and then leading senators demanded that the troops be withdrawn by a date certain -- whether they had accomplished their mission or not.

Suppose it was never certain what their mission had been in the first place.

Suppose all that, and you pretty well understand what this administration is up to in Kosovo, if anything.

It sounds like Bosnia all over again: a lot of milling about while a county is vivisected, its people decimated and tens of thousands of refugees sent packing.

Say, how did that war end, anyway? After years of carnage, this administration finally armed the principal victims, the Croats and Bosnians (though Bill Clinton lied about that, too) and then supported them with devastating air strikes against Serbian targets. The war ended within days, even though it took much longer to formalize the peace at the negotiating table.

Why not do the same in Kosovo? Arm the Albanian Kosovars and provide them with air support. Suddenly the Serbs might be all for peace, just as they were in Bosnia when given no choice. Or would that be unspeakably direct, and save too many lives?

The Serbs are certainly not the only ones who have committed atrocities in this unending and mutual slaughter. Blame for the worst outbreak of violence on the European continent since the Second World War can be widely shared. Much of it belongs to those Western ‘‘leaders'' who still think they can appease Slobodan Milosevic, with his dream of a Greater Serbia built on the subjugation of other peoples.

Britain's Margaret Thatcher saw this coming years ago, and tried to warn us. Instead, the West has vacillated, swerving from apathy to force and back again. Washington hasn't acted so much as reacted; it hasn't followed a policy so much as thrown a series of intermittent fits. Unless this little fuehrer in Belgrade is finally and decisively stopped, the bloodshed will go on in the Balkans and spread beyond. Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro ... they already begin to feel the shock waves.

The chimera that has haunted American policymakers since Korea, and that burgeoned into a nigh-endless nightmare in Vietnam, is back. It's called limited war -- war that can be controlled, calibrated, and conducted according to ‘‘rules of engagement.'' Call it a Goldilocks war -- not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Such wars can be conducted only in the minds of theorists and bureaucrats, not in the field. For war has a logic and momentum of its own.

Americans were supposed to have learned better by the time of the Gulf War, and it looked as if we had. There weren't going to be any more Vietnams, remember? And now a commander-in-chief who never even showed up for his ROTC course has reinstated the doctrine of limited war, which has a way of leading to unlimited discouragement.

It is explained that another round of bombing may be the least unsatisfactory of the choices facing this country and its allies in Kosovo. How's that for a stirring reason to go to war? Not peace or justice or keeping Europe, the home of world wars, from boiling over again. It sounds as if we're drifting into war, not waging it. Our aim seems as murky as our strategy.

An American general named MacArthur said it: In war there is no substitute for victory.

If another American general by the name of Grant had adopted the fitful tactics of this administration, I might be writing this column in Little Rock, Ark., C.S.A.


03/17/99: Big time in Little Rock
03/15/99: Our own Roger Taney
03/09/99: A different ‘Waterfront’
03/05/99: Law and disorder
2/26/99: King Richard's revenge
2/25/99: Open season on the fetus, and a good word for the pagans
2/23/99: It never ends: Here comes the judge
2/19/99: After the storm: Going through the debris
2/17/99: Where's the closure?
2/12/99: Hussein the Hashemite: The wiliest player on the board
2/09/99: The social security game
2/04/99: Our own Inspector Clouseau
2/01/99: Night scene, night thoughts
1/28/99: The decay of the art of lying
1/26/99: Impeachment: Short subjects
1/22/99: Bounce, glitz and tedium: The State of the Disunion
1/20/99: Destructive engagement: How to encourage tyranny
1/18/99: Martin Luther King: The radical as conservative?
1/11/99: Why America is apathetic about Bill's date with destiny
1/06/99:The year of Moronica
1/04/99: Clinton’s janitorial crew of two
12/29/98:The Senate will be on trial, too
12/29/98:A look down the avenue
12/22/98: The surreal impeachment
12/17/98: Another moment of truth approaches
12/15/98: The President's defenders: witnesses for the prosecution
12/10/98:The latest miracle cure: CensurePlus
12/03/98: Sentences at an airport Sentences at an airport
12/03/98: Games lawyers play
12/01/98: Ms. Magoo strikes again, or: Janet Reno and the law
11/26/98: The most American holiday
11/23/98: Same game, another round
11/18/98: Guide to the perplexed
11/09/98: A vote for apathy
11/03/98: Global village goes Clintonesque
11/02/98: Farewell to all that
10/30/98: New budget, same swollen government
10/26/98: Of life on the old plantation -- and death in the Middle East
10/22/98: Starr Wars (CONT'D)
10/19/98:Another retreat: weakness invites aggression
10/16/98: Profile in courage
10/14/98: A new voice out of Arkansas
10/09/98: Gerald Ford, Mr. Fix-It?
10/07/98: Impeachment Journal: Dept. of Doublespeak
10/01/98: The new tradition
9/25/98: Mr. President, PLEASE don't resign
9/23/98: The demolition of meaning
9/18/98: So help us G-d; The nature of the crisis
9/17/98: First impressions: on reading the Starr Report
9/15/98: George Wallace: All the South in one man
9/10/98: Here comes the judge
9/07/98: Toward impeachment
9/03/98: The politics of impeachment
9/01/98: The eagle can still soar
8/28/98: Boris Yeltsin's mind: a riddle pickled in an enigma
8/26/98: Clinton agonistes, or: Twisting in the wind
8/25/98: The rise of the English murder
8/24/98: Confess and attack: Slick comes semi-clean
8/19/98: Little Rock perspectives
8/14/98: Department of deja vu
8/12/98: The French would understand
8/10/98: A fable: The Rat in the Corner
8/07/98: Welcome to the roaring 90s
8/06/98: No surprises dept. -- promotion denied
8/03/98: Quotes of and for the week: take your pick
7/29/98: A subpoena for the president:
so what else is new?
7/27/98: Forget about Bubba, it's time to investigate Reno
7/23/98: Ghosts on the roof, 1998
7/21/98: The new elegance
7/16/98: In defense of manners
7/13/98: Another day, another delay: what's missing from the scandal news
7/9/98:The language-wars continue
7/7/98:The new Detente
7/2/98: Bubba in Beijing: history does occur twice
6/30/98: Hurry back, Mr. President -- to freedom
6/24/98: When Clinton follows Quayle's lead
6/22/98: Independence Day, 2002
6/18/98: Adventures in poli-speke

©1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate