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Jewish World Review June 18, 1999 /4 Tamuz, 5759

Larry Elder

Larry Elder
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"Victory" in Kosovo --

"I can report to the American people that we have achieved a victory for a safe world, for our democratic values and for a stronger America." -- President Bill Clinton, June 10, 1999

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a man many liken to Adolf Hitler, remains in power. A 30,000-strong peacekeeping force must stay in Yugoslavia indefinitely, lest the fighting resume. The "ethnic cleansing" that prompted our intervention accelerated once the bombs started dropping, leaving some 800,000 ethnic Albanians homeless outside Kosovo, with another half a million to 800,000 displaced from their homes within Kosovo. The Kosovo Liberation Army, ordered to "demilitarize" as part of the "peace process" now feels double-crossed.

Experts place the price tag on the war in Yugoslavia at $4 billion and counting, with estimates ranging from $30 billion to $100 billion necessary to rebuild the country. And many experts say that Milosevic agreed to a peace deal very similar to terms rejected by America before NATO air strikes.

Victory in Kosovo? Let's consider what we celebrate: that outside nations can, for humanitarian purposes, intervene in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. And, despite the president's blather about the Balkans, World War I and World War II, America went to Kosovo to save it, not to advance any legitimate national security interest. A recent Newsweek article put it bluntly: "Despite his rhetoric, Clinton knew that Kosovo was almost exclusively a humanitarian mission."

In Rwanda, more than 800,000 people have died, yet the world took little action. Hundreds of thousands have died in ethnic and religious conflicts in Indonesia, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Burundi and others.

To this, some say, "You're right. We should have done something about those places as well." Oh. So, now we take this newly established principle one step further. In order to advance humanitarian purposes, to secure our "democratic values," not only should we intervene, but we must do so.

But why restrict humanitarian intervention to places experiencing "ethnic cleansing"? Surely, nations violate our "democratic values" in other ways.

In China, state policy limits one child per family. Should a woman get pregnant a second time, she must undergo an abortion and can be prosecuted criminally. And in some Third World countries, women undergo clitoridectomies to prevent them from committing the "sin" of sexual enjoyment. A South American native tribe practices abortion by jumping on a pregnant woman's back as she lies on her stomach. And, in parts of Africa and the Middle East, including Mauritania, Sudan, Libya, Chad and Saudi Arabia, the practice of slavery continues. Air strikes, anyone?

To this argument, some respond, "Well, simply because you can't solve all problems does not mean you should not try to help if possible." Define "possible." Is it a matter of money? Logistics? The stature and race of the aggrieved? (You know, Kosovars vs. Rwandans.)

What's more, many in the international community consider America a violator of human rights! Well, Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, said, "More than half the population of the world now regards the U.S. as the single greatest threat to their own countries." And because some American states support the death penalty, Amnesty International calls America a human rights violator. Its secretary general said, "Human rights violations in the United States are persistent, widespread and appear to disproportionately affect people of racial or ethnic minority backgrounds." Should the world assemble a military force?

Will we someday see the Rev. Louis Farrakhan address the United Nations? From the podium, will Farrakhan denounce America for failing to pay reparations for centuries of slavery and demand that the world intervene on "humanitarian grounds"?

What about a native American tribal leader condemning this country for decimating native Americans and robbing them of their land and culture? Surely, this leader tells the United Nations, the world cannot stand idly by and watch an unjust America demean and demoralize his people.

You see the problems. Define "humanitarian crisis." Who makes the call? What will we do when other nations condemn us for violating human rights? Will we accept a committee, commission or "peacekeeping force" on our soil to promote "international values"?

Even as the military downsizes, the president commits forces to more missions than did Ronald Reagan and George Bush combined. Some day, someone must explain why American sons and daughters are dying on foreign soil. Not to prevent the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction, or because some dictator invaded an important and strategic ally. No, Americans will die because an internal conflict somewhere on the globe violated our sense of "democratic values."

"Victory" in Kosovo? They say winners write history. Hold the pen.

JWR contributor Larry Elder reads all of his mail. Let him know what you think by clicking here.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate