For the week of May 5, 1999  thru May 11, 1999  

Fight the fight and finish it

The U.S. should engage in an all-out military campaign in Kosovo—or get out and embrace the guilt and the potentially greater consequences of ignoring a mass murderer operating in the center of Europe.

Serbian forces have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Satellite photographs show evidence of mass graves not seen in Europe since World War II. Refugees arrive in border countries every day with new tales of torture, rape and murder of defenseless civilians by the Serbs.

The air war being conducted by the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has failed to avert the ethnic cleansing the war was intended to stop. It has severely damaged Slobodan Milosevic’s ability to wage war, but it has not stopped him.

It has not stopped him because NATO severely underestimated Milosevic’s cruelty and tenacity. At the same time, NATO seriously overestimated the ability of warplanes alone to make Milosevic heel.

If the U.S. learned anything from Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War, it should have learned that if it engages in war, it should engage in war with full conventional resources. It should never voluntarily plan to withhold necessary forces—or people will die.

Even as masses of Albanians died, Idaho Reps. Helen Chenoweth and Mike Simpson were busy wringing their hands, supporting bills calling on President Clinton to withdraw troops, opposing a resolution supporting the NATO air strikes and voting to prevent the president from committing ground forces.

Chenoweth and Simpson are old enough to have learned the lessons of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf.

They’re old enough to remember the nation’s slow slide—first advisors and equipment, then draftees—into the swamp of Vietnam. They’re old enough to remember the hobbles of the undeclared war. They personally observed the body counts offered every day in the news. They know about the consequences of half-way measures.

They know that when the U.S. threw its full force into the Persian Gulf War, it was over in a matter of days. They have not offered any alternative to an American effort in Kosovo short of simply bringing its all-volunteer forces home and letting Milosevic murder every last Albanian in the country.

Milosevic is putting the lie to the idea that "surgical strikes" by warplanes is all it takes to stop a madman. Bombing is time consuming. In the time between bombing runs, Milosevic carries out his ethnic cleansing because there is no one on the ground to stop him.

Yugoslavia’s rickety tanks are no match for the high-tech monsters unleashed by the U.S. in the Persian Gulf War. Had NATO and the U.S. committed ground troops to Yugoslavia, this "war" would have been over by now, and many fewer people would have died.

It’s time for NATO and the U.S. to fight the fight in Kosovo and finish it.


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