By Brian Low
Last week the North Atlantic Treaty Organization started bombing Serbian installations in what is left of the Yugoslav State. This was done in response to myriad atrocities and an unwillingness on the part of the Serbian government to sign on to the us-brokered peace deal granting autonomy to Kosovo. Let’s take a look at the results to date: A few Serbian units have been his, a us jet has been downed, Serbian forces have stepped up the atrocities in Kosovo, and Milosevic’s popularity has been galvanized. So we’re winning, right? Right, as long as you call winning taking a bad situation and making it worse. We’ve really bungled this one.
NATO is in a tight spot with Kosovo. It wants to stop the atrocities and weaken the Serbian military forces. It also wants to ensure that it doesn’t help the Kosovo Liberation Army too much. They’ almost as bad as the Serbs, and if they gain independence through force, it would set and extremely dangerous precedent. NATO hopes that convincing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to grant the Kosovars autonomy within Yugoslavia will diffuse the situation. So how does NATO propose to pull it off?
NATO’s plan (as per normal) is to do it by blowin’ stuff up. It makes me wonder if there is some funky logic out there teaching a cause-effect relationship between dropping bombs and getting what you want. If there is, I have no doubt that it is a prerequisite to becoming a NATO military advisor. Or a us President. Bombing them into the stone age just doesn’t work if they’re prepared to hanker down and ride it out. The North Vietnamese did it. It looks like the Serbians will too.
It looks like the only way to get what we want in Kosovo is to send in ground troops. But Yugoslavia is no Iraq. It has armed forces with an actual command structure. It has up-to-date military technology. It has mountains and forests. It would be tough slogging on the ground there.
Do you remember how eager you were for your last tetanus shot? Well that’s how much the West wants to see its soldiers come home in body bags. It will be a cold day in hell before any western leader starts another European ground way over the Balkans this century. We’re just not prepared to sacrifices what it will take to win in Yugoslavia. We simple won’t send our boys off to die for the sake of a piece of land the size of Prince Edward Island. Heck, we’d rather give them PEI.
So if bombing wasn’t such a hot idea, what were we supposed to do? No on wanted another Rwanda, and rightly so. It no looks like in spite of our efforts, unmitigated genocide may be exactly what we get. So what went wrong? I think our first mistake was shooting off our mouths about NATO air strikes for the last year. We would talk, and then nothing would happen. It seems the only thing NATO likes more than dropping bombs is talking about dropping bombs. Is it any wonder that the Serbs didn’t jump the last time we threatened them? We should have threatened once, and then done it, before the situation got out of hand. Better yet, we shouldn’t have threatened an unsupported bombing campaign at all.
The handling of massive numbers of Kosovar refugees to Albania and Macedonia also should have been better coordinated. These countries are like banana republics without the bananas. Neither is in a position to deal with the number of refugees. As a result, you get situations like last week, when Macedonia closed its border while the Serbs massacred those unable to get out. Or you get Kosovars starving even after they do make it across the border. We should have done more to help the thousands trying to flee Kosovo before it go this bad. If we’re not prepared to stop what’s going on , let’s palliate it, at least.
Sure, there are a lot of reasons to bomb the hell our of the Serbs. Milosevic’s a tyrant, civilians are being killed, and, after all, we just don’t like them much (and that seems to be enough for NATO). But did we really think that everything would magically change as soon as Milosevic lost a few anti-aircraft batteries to cruise missiles? Well, surprise! It didn’t. So now the Kosovars are being slaughtered, no on is prepared to receive them, NATO is in a fight it isn’t prepared to finish, and Milosevic knows it. We’ve upset, and we’ve pulled our big gun, all right. We’re using it to shoot ourselves in the foot.