Jewish World Review June 2, 1999 /18 Sivan 5759
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In recent weeks, the administration and NATO’s p.r.-sensitivity to civilian damage and death has diminished. When the first errant bombs took out non-military targets—remember the convoy of ethnic Albanians blasted by NATO’s smart bombs?—there was much handwringing by the NATO reps. These days, one of their bombs blows up people with whom Clinton has no quarrel, and NATO’s spin machine pops out a quick utterance of regret: Yeah, yeah, yeah, now let’s get on with it. How quickly everyone becomes desensitized. It’s not merely computer video games and shoot-’em-up flicks that can coarsen and blunt one’s reaction to violence. After two months of daily bombing, the air strikes, even the civilian-killing strikes, are no big deal. They fade from the television news headlines. And when the air campaign intensified last week, what was Clinton doing? He was vacationing in Yulee, FL. What commander-in-chief takes time off in the middle of an intensifying war?
Why didn’t the Republicans squawk about the Draft Dodger lazing in the sun while our fighting men and women are waging war? Perhaps the GOPers were otherwise occupied, demagogically accusing Clinton of passing nuclear secrets to Beijing in return for soft money campaign contributions.
The war in Kosovo is an ugly mess. NATO maintains a bombing crusade that was supposed to last days. The White House claims its only goal is to safely return the Kosovars to Kosovo. But how can that be done without ground troops? National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, in off-the-record briefings with reporters, has been saying that victory can be achieved without forcing Milosevic from power. Yet Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says NATO cannot deal with Milosevic. So will there be a resolution without negotiations? And what Kosovar is going to repatriate if Milosevic is still around? As a further complication, the Kosovo Liberation Army vows it will fight on until it achieves independence—a goal not supported by the United States. So the ending that the Clintonites claim is within reach—a peaceful Kosovo brimming with returned Kosovars and remaining part of Serbia—is an illusion.
(In Congress, there were few complaints, though Rep. Tom Campbell, a California Republican, has been pursuing a lawsuit on these grounds against Clinton.)
In the latest installment of the will-he-or-won’t-he shuffle, news reports last week indicated that Clinton, who once promised no ground troops, was considering sending tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel into Kosovo.
The disingenuousness of Clinton and NATO will not do much to bring peace and democracy to Yugoslavia. A Serbian democracy advocate, whose name was withheld, made this point in a dispatch distributed recently by the Institute on War and Peace Reporting: “To ordinary Serbs, who have by now been under daily attack by an alliance of 19 Western powers for more than two months, the word ‘democracy’ now conjures up images of cruise missiles, death and destruction. This association of democracy with aggression in the minds of most Serbs has also put the republic’s liberals in a difficult position. How, they wonder, can they continue to champion a concept which their countrymen identify with brute force?”
Many Serbs may be blind to the atrocities committed in Kosovo. But they know this is war against them, and they take it more seriously than does Air Marshal Clinton. You would too, if the bombs were falling on your power grid.
Clinton’s original sin in Kosovo was believing he could win a war on the cheap, that he could be a great humanitarian interventionist without bearing the cost of such action. A few planes fly in and out. A few missiles are launched. Won’t require a commitment. It’s like sex with Monica Lewinsky.
But now, two months later, he’s bombing illegally. The refugee experts are worried the Kosovars won’t be able to head home before winter. The Serbian opposition to Milosevic has vanished. Civilian casualties and damage mount. The pressure for grounds troops is increasing.
05/28/99: It’s in The Water