April 10, 1999
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and pictures by the thousands have brought the plight of the Kosovars of Muslim Albanian ethnicity to American shores. These pictures and the stories of rape and mass killings create legitimate outrage in the well-fed populations of the Western powers. They do not square with our happy go-lucky way of life; they upset our stomach in prime time just between the cheese and the apple pie. Those Serbs-the bad guys-deserve swift retribution for their actions, this ethnic cleansing of epic proportion (soon to be rephrased "crimes against humanity"). Oh, and of course, let us not forget that the instigator of all this real suffering, Slobodan Milosevic (a.k.a. "Slobo"), our latest Hitler on the block, should be brought to justice. Go ground troops, go to Belgrade and teach Slobo a lesson or have his own people throw him out of power and hang him on Main Street. Right!
Arguments for this line of actions: We did not provoke the mass of refugees fleeing toward Albania and Macedonia by starting the bombing. It had all been planned by the bad Slobo and would have occurred anyway. We just wanted to stop his planning in its womb. Great results! Since NATO launched its attack on the sovereign nation of Yugoslavia, 300, 400,000 Kosovars -- no one knows, maybe more, maybe less -- have flooded the adjacent borders. "Oh, look how terrible these bad guys (the Serbs) are, look what they are doing to those defenseless people," repeats official newsdom at nausea. This is the Holocaust revisited, we are told, as though Jews and other minorities had been boarded in trains during WWII to be sent to neighboring countries where they could be taken care of by International Relief Agencies with the help of the armies that were bombing Germany at that time. Sure!
Are we serious or what?
The war over the future of Kosovo started in 1991 when, with total disregard for the consequences, the European Union under pressure from Germany, recognized the unilateral declaration of independence by the Croats. It was made inevitable once Bosnia-Herzegovina became independent even though it is now but in name a protectorate of the Western powers. Why? Simple arithmetic: The Croats had a mere 75 pct ethnic majority and won independence with the blessing and fighting help of the Western powers. Same for the Muslim Bosnians who had a 44 pct majority (with 31 pct Serbs and 17 pct Croats). Kosovars of Muslim Albanian descent had a 90 pct majority in Kosovo. It was simply a matter of time for those Kosovars to begin an armed struggle for independence. The K.L.A. did and we now see the results.
Percentage does count. A 5-year old could have done the math!
Anyone with a sane mind or a minimum knowledge of History 101 could have told you that what the Serbs accepted for Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina-under duress from NATO in the later two cases-they would never accept from either Montenegro or Kosovo. In Montenegro, you are talking about access to the Adriatic Sea, an absolute necessity for the Serbs; and in Kosovo you are talking about History (with an upper-case H), about the soul of the nation, about religion and wars over religions for over one thousand years. From 1991 on, the government of Serbia, whatever government-whether it was Mr. Milosevic whom we could do business with during the Dayton Accord or the Milosovic of today whom we depict like another Hitler-knew it would have to get prepared for the K.L.A.
Threatening to bomb the Serbs for the past year or so and arranging the conference in Rambouillet, France, where Serbia was succinctly told that after a period of three years the Kosovars would pretty much have the right to self-determination -- that is, independence -- made little sense except in our baby-boomer Administration. Belgrade knew all along that the die were cast. Washington kept thinking about the stock market and Social Security. Belgrade devised a strategy, as unpleasant it may be for our risk-adverse societies.
Since then we are in a morass. As always, we speak of moral responsibility. We do not like the Serbian solution that we in turn created. We demonize a people, the Serbs, who have been the allies of the Western powers for ages. And we bomb!
Bombing, that is a military intervention, is a way of life for the Western powers. When we are unhappy and the adversary is relatively weak-read Nicaragua, Libya, Lebanon, Granada, Panama, or Iraq -- we just go for it and the official news media will justify everything...as long as there is no body bag (read Vietnam), the adversary has no nuclear weapons (read China, North Korea, Russia), and the stock market keeps soaring.
Meantime, we conveniently ignored the potential Serb response to our high moral values and never planned for refugees. We can spend a couple of billion dollars to use our high-tech weaponry but we have no solution to the refugees. And you believe this. Sorry, this was a question. Do YOU believe this?
Don't you think we could have spent the $2 billion to help the Albanian refugees in the first place? That is, if we understood the consequences of our policies since 1991...
So, where do we stand now? (that is April 10, 1999)
Well, we all know we'll keep bombing for a while and hope that Hitler-Milosevic will help us out of the next stage. The next stage of course is ground troops. We will prevail undoubtedly since the adversary is a small country with 12 million inhabitants. Yet, don't bet on it. We have yet to prevail in Iraq... And look for body bags and yellow ribbons, a favorite of the 5:00 news broadcasts.
We will have managed to balkanize the Balkans in a time when we keep advocating globalization. Interesting concept...
This is about power, folks, and power only. As long as your retirement plan and your stock options are A-OK, follow the guide. You are treated to the pictures of the 300,000 plus Kosovar refugees on TV. Not a pleasant evening show... And you never saw the 300,000 Serb refugees being expelled from Croatia...
Enjoy the ride!