Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 2, 2001/ 9 Nissan, 5761

Charles Krauthammer

Ch. Krauthammer
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Conflict to quagmire -- THERE are two ways to look at war. One school sees it as a temporary emergency, the result of bad people taking control of important countries and wreaking havoc. The other tends to see conflict as endemic, ingrained in human nature and the perpetual striving of peoples for power and dominion.

Liberals, with their belief in the perfectibility of human nature, tend to believe the first. Dour conservatives tend to share Ambrose Bierce's definition of peace as "a period of cheating between two periods of fighting." The liberal view borrows its prestige from a pretty major example, World War II. The problem, however, is that the Clinton administration deployed the idea indiscriminately to any place it wanted to intervene.

It was this logic that got us into Haiti, for example. Some evil generals, it was explained, were doing terrible things to the country. Our goal was to get rid of them, restore democracy and fix things up. So we invaded, sent the bad guys into exile and brought back the "democratically elected president," Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Six years later, Aristide held a sham election, sent his thugs to physically attack the opposition and had his senate call for the arrest of the head of the opposition alliance. Haiti remains the impoverished, murderous dictatorship it was when our troops arrived.

A more serious example -- at least we could get out of Haiti with no one noticing -- is the Balkans. The Clinton rationale for deploying our military in Bosnia and then Kosovo hinged on the notion that Serbia, misled by its nasty ruler, Slobodan Milosevic, was the root cause of Balkan instability. "The source of the problem," explained Clinton the day before beginning the bombing campaign in Kosovo, "has been that the leader of Serbia has tried to dominate the former Yugoslavia by starting wars in Croatia and Bosnia in the last decade, and stripping from Kosovo . . . self-government."

Well, we have just run a fairly good historical experiment: We are rid of Milosevic. Serbia is run by democrats. And yet the Balkans are on the verge of another explosion.

Macedonia, the single most peaceful ex-Yugoslav republic, is now in an incipient civil war. From NATO-liberated Kosovo, guerrillas have attacked Macedonia, ostensibly in the name of civil rights but clearly in the hope of detaching its Albanian-populated region to Kosovo and a Greater Albania.

The pity is that this was all utterly predictable. "An independent Albanian Kosovo will surely seek to incorporate the neighboring Albanian minorities -- mostly in Macedonia," wrote Henry Kissinger in February 1999. Other realists, such as National Interest editor Owen Harries, expressed similar objections. I wrote (Feb. 26, 1999) that "NATO intervention . . . would sever Kosovo from Serbian control and lead inevitably to an irredentist Kosovar state, unstable and unviable and forced to either join or take over pieces of neighboring countries."

The Albanians did not wait for their Kosovar state. They have already struck. And peaceful Macedonia, some of whose soldiers went into battle this week in sneakers, is a poor candidate to fight a deadly counterinsurgency. This conflict was never caused by one country or one man. Yugoslavia, after an interlude of quiet imposed by totalitarian repression and fear of the Soviet Union, has reverted to its centuries-old state of convulsive ethnic and religious conflict.

What to do?

Unfortunately, getting out is not an option. Even though the original commitment was folly, once a superpower makes a commitment to Balkan stability, its very presence creates a new national interest -- credibility -- where there was none there to begin with.

We have two options: deputize and "Vietnamize."

(1) Deputize the Europeans to do the dirty work. NATO has just announced that a British-Scandinavian unit in Kosovo will deploy near the Macedonian border. This makes sense. While we're stuck with peacekeeping because of our previous commitment, an escalation to counterinsurgency is absurd. It is the Europeans' front line, not ours. They ought to man it.

(2) In Vietnam, we tried to get out by getting the locals to replace our soldiers. In this case, ironically, the locals are Serbs. We've already "Vietnamized" one part of the conflict by allowing Serbs to return to a border region that had become a center of activity for the Albanian guerrillas. Macedonia is a harder case, but in the end it may be Serbia that will guarantee the security of Slavs in Macedonia.

There is little more that we can do about this quagmire. But it should be a lesson the next time a president comes to the American people and asks for intervention in a local war, on the grounds that if we could only get rid of the bad guys, peace and light will reign. Sometimes that is true; most times it is not.

Comment on Charles Krauthammer's column by clicking here.


03/26/01: McCain's costly crusade
03/19/01: Keepers of the JFK copyright
03/12/01: The trouble with trials
03/05/01: Clinton haters? It's the pardons, stupid
01/26/01: How Israel will survive
01/20/01: Forget conspiracies on power, air problems
01/12/01: Meet Barak's legacy
01/22/01:Tale Of Two Presidents
01/22/01: Disqualified by His Religion?
01/15/01: Middle East madness
12/29/00: Bush's to-do list
12/22/00: Bipartisan blather
12/18/00: Defenders of the Law
12/08/00: Myths of chad
11/27/00: No more rule rewrites
11/17/00: Not by hand
11/13/00: Democracy and Legitimacy
11/06/00: Why Bush will win
10/30/00: Realities of war
10/23/00: Arafat's strategy
10/16/00: The Sleepwalkers
10/06/00: Arafat's War
10/02/00: Slanted to the Left
09/25/00: A Political Lite-Year
09/18/00: Barak's Last Chip
09/11/00: When Liberals Get Religion
09/05/00: Humbled by the Hayden
08/28/00: Man for All Seasons
08/14/00:... Back to the Future
07/31/00: The WWII Memorial: Inadequate and Out of Place
07/19/00: Camp David: Finality
07/12/00: The Oslo Interlude
07/10/00: Buchanan's Gift To Bush
07/03/00: Hafez Assad's Mourners
06/19/00: Hafez Assad's Mourners
06/12/00: Missile Defense Destiny
06/05/00: Let Peacekeeping Rest in Peace
05/30/00: Bush On Track
05/22/00: A Palestinian 'Peace'
05/15/00: Motherhood Missed
05/08/00: Regis Rules!
04/28/00: The Picture
04/24/00: Beware a Clinton Arms Deal
04/17/00: Cold War Kid
04/10/00: Our Russian payload
04/03/00: The Path to Putin
03/27/00: Red Cross Snub
03/20/00: A Nation of Oil Addicts
03/13/00: McCain in 2004
03/06/00: McCain off course
02/28/00: Profile in Courage
02/16/00: Europe's Austria Hypocrisy
02/14/00: A Winner? Yes
02/07/00: Politics in a Golden Age
01/31/00: Why Elian Should Stay
01/21/00: A Network Sellout . . .
01/14/00: Screwball Psychologizing
01/07/00: Desperately Seeking a legacy: Peace of the Anti-Semites
12/10/99: Born to Run
12/03/99: Keep Bubba home --- and his mouth shut
11/29/99: Not for Moi, Thanks
11/19/99: Where's the 2000 Buzz?
11/12/99: Reluctant Cold Warriors
11/08/99: Federalism's New Friends
10/29/99: The Phony Battle Against 'Isolationism'
10/25/99: Still With the Soul Of a Candidate
10/18/99: Nixon On the Couch
10/11/99: Slouching Toward The Center

© 2000, Washington Post Co.