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Jewish World Review June 15, 1999 /1 Tamuz 5759

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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America should take pride in honoring its responsibilities --
LET US ALL TAKE A MOMENT to celebrate the end and outcome in Kosovo. Slobodan Milosevic's capitulation realizes every major objective of NATO: The Serbs will be out, NATO will be in, the refugees can come back, and there will be an interim political settlement that allows for the autonomy and self-government of the Kosovars.

These are not the only triumphs. We fought not for territory but for values and moral principles. The forced eviction of an entire ethnic group of nearly a million people is simply unacceptable at the end of the 20th century. Evil must be confronted, not explained away. America, as the leader of the West, had a special responsibility to honor and, if possible, enforce, the conventions, treaties, and institutions, such as the U.N., that flowered in the ashes of World War II.

Kosovo is also a vindication of the allied air forces and the doctrine of limited power for limited ends. The Powell doctrine of overwhelming force was right in the gulf but wrong here: Incremental escalation of precision-guided weapons worked when used long enough. Astonishingly, not a single allied soldier died in combat. The pilots performed superbly and deserve our thanks. We were spared the nightmare of Mogadishu, where we abandoned our humanitarian effort after two American corpses were dragged through the streets. This time, public opinion responded to the TV pictures of the humanitarian catastrophe Milosevic inflicted.

The contained warfare of the Balkans with the president as bomber in chief was widely criticized, but it is a perfect fit with the post-cold-war mood of American geopolitics. Only when clear vital national interests are at risk should we hazard American lives on the ground as we did in the gulf war.

The outcome was hardly predicted by most of the foreign policy and media elites. Only a few, like Sen. John McCain, emerged with real qualities of leadership. The critics were way off in the savagery of their attacks. The president was seen to have failed in his leadership because he would not commit the military means needed to match his political ends, and comparisons were made to the Bay of Pigs. But in the apt phrase of Casey Stengel, "They said it couldn't be done, but that doesn't always work." It turned out the means were adequate to the ends.

A legitimate criticism was the absence of an entry strategy. We did not plan for the exodus, and we were overconfident about the speed and efficacy of the airstrikes launched in March. But this failure grew in part from the need to hold together 19 countries, each of which faced different domestic pressures. But the charge that NATO lacked an exit strategy was never valid. What was the exit strategy from World War II, except victory? NATO itself was formed without an exit strategy, and 50 years later American forces still remain in Europe. Who can know the appropriate exit strategy at the beginning of a conflict?

Right to fight. The NATO alliance was strengthened, not weakened; the U.S.-Russian relationship was not destroyed but consolidated; NATO was right to fight the war, not wrong; the military credibility of the United States was not eroded but enhanced; time was not on the side of Milosevic but on the side of NATO; the damage done to his military was significant, not trifling; and Milosevic was forced to retreat–all this despite the certainties of the naysayers.

Yes, Milosevic, the indicted war criminal, remains. But how long will he survive when the Serbian people realize that they will receive no money for the reconstruction of their country as long as he is in charge?

Of course there has been a price to pay: the accidental deaths in Serbia, the destruction of property, the ordeals of the refugees. There has been no pleasure in bombing Serbia. But how grievous and shameful would it have been to turn aside from murder and expropriation? Kosovo was a triumph of technological superiority, an enhancement of our geopolitical authority, and the culmination of years of extraordinary collaboration in the West. But most of all it was a moral triumph.

JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


06/02/99: The Middle Kingdom shows its antagonistic side
05/11/99: Technology's transforming power is giving a lift to everything
05/04/99: The big game gets bigger
04/30/99: On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
04/21/99: No time to go wobbly
04/13/99: The Evil of two lessers

©1999, Mortimer Zuckerman