by Patrick J. Buchanan – May 28, 1999
Outwitted and defied by a crafty and ruthless Balkan dictator, NATO is now smashing a tiny country to retrieve its lost credibility, and restore a status quo ante that existed before it began this war.
The great issue now dividing the warring parties — Slobodan Milosevic wants UN peace keepers in Kosovo; NATO insists that the “international security force” contain its own troops as well.
Does having our way on this triviality justify an invasion by 100,000 American ground troops? Only wounded pride says yes.
Let us cut a deal and end this wretched war now.
The only winner thus far has been Milosevic, who has earned a niche in Serb mythology for defying the “most successful alliance in history” and “the world’s last superpower,” rather than surrender at gunpoint the sacred cradle of the Serb nation.
The losers? Serbia is smashed; the Kosovo Albanians we went to protect have been murdered and raped, a million or more driven from their homes. The southern Balkans have been destabilized. U.S. relations with Russia and China have been set back years.
But NATO has attained air superiority — above 15,000 feet.
More serious has been the exposure of the alarming disrepair of the armed forces Ronald Reagan bequeathed his nation. Daily, we read of F-16s cannibalized for parts, of U.S. bombers running low on laser-guided munitions, of our 7th Fleet denuded of carriers, of Apaches taking weeks to be deployed, of U.S. “smart” bombs hitting hospitals, trains, buses, jails, refugees and a Chinese embassy that did not appear on the 1994 map U.S. “intelligence” was using.
Yet, says John McCain, we must do whatever is necessary to win, lest we be “perceived by our enemies as an uncertain foe, and by our friends as an unreliable ally.”
Wrong, John. If a war is unwise, unjust, or unwinnable except at exorbitant cost, a statesman’s duty is to end it on the best terms attainable, as Eisenhower did in Korea, DeGaulle did in Algeria, and Gorbachev did in Afghanistan. With the cause for which we went to war — to protect the Kosovars — lost, it is as immoral to smash Serbia, to punish Milosevic, as it would be to persecute the family and destroy the neighborhood of a felon who refused to give up.
Our war is with Milosevic, Mr. Clinton says. Yet, we refuse to target and kill him because U.S. law prohibits it. Instead we smash Serbia. In our rage and exasperation, we have begun to emulate the empire our Founding Fathers overthrew. Is it any wonder the Serb people who once so admired us now so despise us?
How do we extricate ourselves?
The U.S. should make Belgrade an offer: Recognition of its sovereignty over Kosovo, control of its holy places, and a bombing halt. In return, the Serb army will cease ethnic cleansing, withdraw most of its troops, and permit the Kosovars to return. Let Russians and soldiers of NATO nations that did not bomb police the peace. And let us keep all U.S. soldiers out of Kosovo, as any sent into that cauldron of hatred could expect to be shot in the back for what we have done.
The U.S. might then call, as Bismarck did, call for a Congress of Berlin to repartition the Balkans. For giving up part of Kosovo, Serbia could be compensated with Serbian sectors of Bosnia. As for the Kosovo Liberation Army, even with U.S. air power fighting its war, it was routed. We have no interest or stake in a KLA victory.
Finally, as America financed a Marshall Plan for Europe, Europe should finance a Jospin-Schroeder Plan for the Balkans.
This was never America’s war, but a civil and ethnic war in a distant peninsula where Americans have never fought before and no vital U.S. interest was ever at risk. That Mr. Clinton desperately wishes to avoid even a single U.S. casualty so testifies. He and the bellicose little magazines may beat the drums for “humanitarian interventionism,” but Americans are not going to send their sons to die in Wilsonian crusades led by the children of Woodstock.
Kosovo was the wrong war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong enemy. America is not threatened by Serbia. If any nation is a potential threat to the United States, it is that mighty tyranny in Asia that persecutes Christians, robs our nuclear secrets, threatens Taiwan with missiles, and targets out cities with atomic weapons — the nation Mr. Clinton calls our “strategic partner.”
America, with placid neighbors north and south, separated from a blood-soaked Eurasia by two oceans, should heed anew the sage counsel of our greatest men: No permanent alliances, keep out of foreign wars, speak softly, and carry a Big Stick.