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Jewish World Review April 14, 1999 /28 Nissan 5759

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg
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War Day by day

(JWR) ---- (
THIS IS THE HARDEST PART, the waiting. Day after day. To see if all aircraft have returned safely. To hear if any have been confirmed lost. To wonder about the fate of the pilots. To watch refugees clog European roads again. To ask why this most foreseeable aspect of 20th-century war -- the tyrant's second front against civilians -- was not foreseen and forestalled. To pray, to do what one can and to go on.

Yes, this will be the hardest part. Remember the days leading up to the Gulf War in '91 -- the debates, the dueling predictions of victory and defeat, the rallying cries and dire warnings? Back then, some of the senators couldn't give a speech without invoking body bags. Only as the war went from imminent to triumphant did the fence-straddlers wax enthusiastic. By the end, they had out-jingoed the jingoes. (No politician ever deserted his country in its hour of victory.) Public opinion in this country is as volatile as the stock market, and the politicians tend to mirror the polls.

Yes, the hardest part will be the wait. This war will be won only by that least American of virtues: patience. Remember the month-long bombing campaign that preceded the 100-hour dash to triumph across Kuwait? Patience had begun to wear thin day after day. Americans wondered what all this was accomplishing. Every day there was the uncertainty, and the same question:

When will the ground war be launched?

This president has assured all in hearing that it won't be. That was Mistake No. 1. Such assurances assure the enemy most of all. Saddam Hussein was ready to sacrifice endless Iraqis to hold on to Kuwait; why should Slobodan Milosevic pull out of Kosovo if he knows the Yanks aren't coming, the Yanks aren't coming, over there?

One waits for the daily report not just on the air war, but from the home front. Every public opinion poll arrives like a war bulletin. Will the American public hold?

Now that he's not being impeached, this president's popularity is bound to erode. (Don't ask me to explain that, it's just the way it works.) And with every downed plane, every lost flier, the president's ratings will grow shakier.

What worries now is not whether a fickle, mercurial public will begin to lose heart -- it will -- but whether a poll-driven president and commander-in-chief will. Bill Clinton keeps urging us to stay the course. Despite a few dips in public support, the American people will hold -- but will their president? Clausewitz said the ultimate object of war was not to occupy the enemy's territory, or even to destroy his army, but to break his will.

There is a familiar, Vietnam-era whiff of an old, discredited concept in the air. Call it limited, graduated, finely calibrated war. In other words, sure, slow, agonizing defeat. The idea is to bomb the enemy to the negotiating table, not into surrender. Diplomacy becomes all carrot, not much stick.

Madeleine Albright, secretary of state and vacillation, keeps saying that Slobodan Milosevic can end this war any time, that all he has to do is pick up the phone. How long before the Allies' terms begin to soften? They should be hardening instead.

It should be made clear to Serbia's little fuehrer that the longer he holds out, the more he will lose -- and not just from airstrikes. Even now, American aid, supplies and ever heavier weapons should be flowing to the Albanian partisans so they can harass Serbian forces, regular and irregular, in Kosovo.

Why are the Serbian irregulars, that is, storm troopers, wearing those black balaclavas if they're not committing atrocities? Something tells me those masks aren't just cold-weather gear.

The lawyers and investigators should already be preparing the war crimes trials of those who have again ignited this Balkan powder keg, chief among them one Slobodan Milosevic. His record is no secret; he doesn't even wear a black balaclava. The carnage in Bosnia is probably his greatest achievement to date, and now he proposes to repeat it in Kosovo. And he will -- unless the West shows more determination than it did year after year in vivisected Bosnia.

Allied infantry, armor, artillery, and the support for them -- yes, ground forces -- should be on the way to staging bases now. Forces that never have to be used can be the most effective -- if there is no doubt that they will be used if necessary. Comrade Milosevic needs to be sent an unmistakable message: The longer this war goes on, the more he and Serbia will pay for the eventual settlement. Else, what incentive does he have to make peace?

There should already be talk in Western capitals of recognizing an independent and therefore Albanian Kosovo. Yugoslavia has already lost Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia under Herr Milosevic's disastrous -- and criminal -- leadership. Kosovo is next, and after that, Montenegro?

Serbia's dictator needs to be reminded that once the dogs of war are loosed, there is no telling into how many pieces they may tear his country. Instead, Western leaders sound as if they're pleading with him to pick up the phone. Just the way Washington used to beg North Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh to come to the negotiating table -- so we could offer him additional inducements. Of course the war dragged on.

The one command-and-control center in Serbia that has been marked off-limits to Allied bombers is Slobodan Milosevic's military headquarters in Belgrade. There you have the first lesson in How to Lose a War: Adopt Marquess of Queensberry rules against a tyrant who recognizes no rules at all.

Wesley Clark, NATO's commanding general, struck the right tone when he explained the object of this air war: "We are going to systematically and progressively attack ... disrupt ... degrade ... (ITAL) devastate(UNITAL)'' Serbian forces, said the general. "Ultimately, unless President Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community, we are going to destroy these forces and their facilities and support. In that respect, the operation will be just as long and difficult as President Milosevic requires it to be.''

Day after wearing day, General Clark's message will need to be brought home, and not just by the Allies' planes, ships and missiles. But by Western diplomats, politicians and public opinion. That will be the hardest part.


04/12/99: Just a few questions
04/06/99: The problem with the Left
04/05/99: The problem with the Right
03/30/99: But can he convince himself?
03/26/99: Short bursts
03/24/99: Once more into the quagmire
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