PERHAPS THE MOST REVEALING FACT about the Clinton Administration’s war in the Balkans is that, in the midst of the attacks, the President submitted a budget to Congress calling for a decrease in defense spending. Indeed, on March 23, the day before the U.S.-NATO bombing of Serbia began, Clinton told a labor union audience "if the American people don’t know anything [else] about me . . . they know that I don’t like to use military force."
It seems perfectly fitting that such a president is presiding over a military campaign crippled by its refusal to deploy the ground forces necessary to achieve its objectives. It is further apt that his national security advisor is Sandy Berger, who launched his own political career as an anti-war activist in the McGovern presidential campaign under the slogan "Bring America Home."
It was actually in the McGovern anti-war campaign that the two leaders of our current military engagement met and formed their political alliance. In the seven years they have been in charge of the nation's security, they have authorized over 28 deployments of America's military forces. To put this into historical perspective, that is an eighteen-fold increase over the frequency of military deployments (ten) ordered by seven American presidents during the 45 years of the Cold War between 1945 and 1990.
Some of the Clinton deployments have been of the "wag-the-dog" type in Afghanistan and the Sudan (now officially admitted to have been a "mistake"). Some have been attempted intimidation-by-air-strikes against Iraq, or the failed attempt to restore democracy to Haiti. But most have been for so-called "humanitarian purposes," including hurricane, famine, flood, and riot relief.
The current Serbian adventure is justified by Clinton mainly on humanitarian grounds. "When we see slaughter or ethnic cleansing abroad," the President announced three weeks after launching the Balkan raids, "we should remember that we defeat these things by teaching and by practicing a different way of life, and by reacting vigorously when they occur within our own midst. That's what this is about."
The phrase "when they occur within our own midst" was obviously inserted to justify this "humanitarian" response to Milosevic's killing of 2,000 ethnic Albanians (the toll before the NATO attack), as opposed to the slaughter of more than one million Tutsis in Rwanda—an atrocity the Administration studiously ignores. NATO's air attacks have been described by England's Tony Blair as "the first progressive war." Presumably, this is because the objectives of the war, as described by its authors, are not explicitly self-interested. Perhaps Blair forgot about Woodrow Wilson, the reluctant liberal warrior who justified his own European intervention as "a war to make the world safe for democracy."
Remembering Wilson can be a sobering exercise. In an attempt to redeem the bloodshed of World War I by insisting on self-determination for the subjects of the conquered Austro-Hungarian empire, Wilson helped destroy the Balkan peace the Habsburgs and their empire had secured. In redrawing the map of Central Europe, Wilson therefore sowed the seeds of the current conflict.
Lack of clarity about national purpose, discomfort with military means, and utopian expectations for the postwar future are all hallmarks of the soft-headed leftism which informs the political views of both the Clinton White House and its principal NATO allies (with the exception of the French). Ironically, these are the same political views that led us into the last American quagmire, also under a Democratic president, in Vietnam. Again, we are intruding into a civil war, again we are applying "coercive diplomacy" ineffectively, trying to bring a nationalist adversary to the negotiating table. As in Vietnam, gradual escalation and reliance on air power has only strengthened the adversary's resolve, in the present instance solidifying Serbians behind a man who is—however cynical and ruthless—their elected leader.
At this point, the only remaining difference between the two wars (and it is a crucial one) is that the Clinton Administration has not had the political spine to introduce ground forces into the Balkans. More than a month into the bombing, the Yugoslav military is still "80 percent intact" according to Pentagon sources quoted in the New York Times, while the only military whose capability has actually been degraded has been that of the United States.
As a result of Clinton's military exercises, America's global mission is now increasingly compromised by shortages in ordnance, equipment, and personnel. (The Pentagon, for example, has already asked Congress for $51 million to convert its stock of existing cruise missiles with nuclear warheads to conventional ones, in order to make up the deficit the war has created.)
Suppose, however, that Clinton and his progressive NATO allies suddenly acquired the political resolve they now lack, and prosecuted the war with vigor—as some conservatives have advocated. Suppose the White House were to go to Congress and ask for an actual declaration of war and the taxes necessary to support it. Suppose 200,000 troops were dispatched to the Balkans to conduct a land war against Serbian nationalism fighting for its very existence (that Vietnam parallel again). Suppose the nineteen nations running the NATO war were ready to embrace this escalation. Suppose the American public, footing most of the bill, was prepared for the long invasion and campaign, and for the casualties necessary to defeat Serbia's forces, something 33 Axis divisions failed to accomplish during a five-year campaign in World War II. Suppose we won. What then?
Do Clinton and his NATO allies plan to restore the Habsburg Monarchy and bring back the Austro-Hungarian empire to administer the peace? Or are the United States and NATO going to administer this European backwater themselves, tying down vital military and political resources for the next decade in the hopes that the warring parties can learn to do what they have not been able to do except under a common monarch or a Communist dictator—live in peace?
Nor should we forget that our "friends" in the Balkans, the Albanian Kosovars, are now dominated by the Kosovo Liberation Army which can only be strengthened in a ground war. The KLA is a military-terrorist force led by Muslim radicals and Marxist-Leninists, linked to the Albanian mafia and the international heroin trade, and inspired by political visions of a "Greater Albania" carved out of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece. Is this the pot we want to stir?
The only practical way to avoid the nightmare of a Balkan land war and post-war occupation is to drop the Wilsonian pretense that we can be a savior of the Balkans, or even of the Kosovar Albanians. We need to redefine our objectives to conform to a clear, practical national interest. In these circumstances, such an interest would be to end the war as quickly as possible, and to seek a partition of Kosovo that can form the basis for a stable status quo and, with it, the possibility of a more permanent peace. Instead of reigning terror on the civilian populace of Belgrade in the hope of forcing their government to surrender, we can salve our humanitarian consciences (and save a lot of money) by using our resources to relocate the refugees and help the bordering states resettle them. There will be two objections to this perspective, one from the right and one from the left. Some conservatives claim that the credibility of America and NATO have been put on the line, and thus there is "no alternative" to military victory. "If you're in it, you have to win it," as Sen. McCain has said. On the other hand, the left claims that "human rights" is itself an American national interest, while accepting a partition of Kosovo that does not provide for the return of all the refugees would be to ratify the "ethnic cleansing" that has taken place.
As far as NATO's credibility is concerned, until its intrusion into the Balkans, NATO was a purely defensive alliance. From its inception until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the NATO alliance worked because its focus was to provide a defense for the sovereignty of its member states against a clearly defined military threat. Though the United States itself was not directly threatened with invasion, it had a vital interest in preserving the independence of Western Europe and denying its industrial wealth and resources to the Soviet adversary. This coherence of purpose and convergence of national interests is why the alliance made sense for us. We were defending our allies against attack in order to defend ourselves. No such rationale justifies the NATO action in the Balkans today. Without any national discussion and without an act of Congress, we have been led by the Clintonites into a new NATO, which is radically different from the old, and whose problems are far greater and far more disturbing. The very action that NATO has undertaken in the Balkans—an aggression against a sovereign nation over its internal affairs—constitutes a radical redefinition of NATO's purpose and undermines the very logic that made it work, however problematically, in the past. As Mark Helprin put it, "NATO has gone to war to compel a sovereign state to forfeit a portion of its territory. This is what NATO was formed to oppose."
This formal redefinition of NATO's role was announced in a new declaration of purpose signed by the nineteen nations who now make up NATO, at its recent 50th anniversary summit in Washington. The unprecedented war in the Balkans, along with NATO's new self-understanding, are the work of a group of political leaders whose views are quite different from (even opposed to) the views of the men who led NATO in the years of its Cold War success. In fact, most of the principal leaders of the present NATO alliance—Clinton, Solana, Blair, Schroeder and D'Alema—have long been members of the political left. During the Cold War, they were either supporters of the Soviet side (D'Alema was a Communist), or active anti-war protesters or backers of the nuclear-freeze movement which opposed the efforts of the NATO leaders at the time and the Reagan Administration to preserve nuclear parity (and thus military parity) with the Warsaw Pact. That they are the architects of a "progressive" war of aggression in the Balkans, and a newly conceived NATO is hardly reassuring. Indeed, if the present war has demonstrated anything at all, it is that the NATO alliance in its newly conceived form has already become a serious liability for the United States. At the 50th Anniversary Summit, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana explained NATO’s re-conception in the following way: "We are moving into a system of international relations in which human rights, rights to minorities every day, are much more important, and more important even than sovereignty." In other words, NATO is no longer an alliance to defend its members against aggression. It is more like a white man’s UN.
Not surprisingly, the French attending the Summit wanted to require UN approval in every future case of NATO military action in behalf of "human rights." According to the text of NATO declaration, the UN Security Council "has the primary responsibility for maintenance of international peace." But the declaration does not say that NATO needs UN approval for such action. So in the middle of the vagueness about "human rights" is a muddle about authority. If nothing else, this dramatically exposes the slippery slope down which the Clinton Administration has already taken the nation, without so much as a congressional hiccup. We need to begin negotiations with the Serbian regime with whom we are presently at war and arrange our exit from the Balkan quagmire, under as face-saving conditions as possible. This will mean accepting a partition of Kosovo that will, of necessity, ratify a significant portion of the status quo but will also create the possibility of peace and stability in the region. The objection that this is also a ratification of "ethnic cleansing" is readily answered by many historical precedents, which have seemed unobjectionable in the past. For example, when the Indian subcontinent became independent from Britain, a million people were killed in communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. The solution was the partition of the subcontinent, the creation of a new Muslim state (Pakistan) and the transfer of millions of Muslims and Hindus to their respective "cleansed" zones.
Similarly, after the Second World War, tens of thousands of Germans were relocated to East Germany from what is now western Poland, where they had lived for centuries. We can salve remaining concerns in the Balkans by devoting resources now used to destroy (mainly empty) buildings in Yugoslavia to relocate the displaced ethnic Albanians and resettle them in an "Albanian" partition of Kosovo.
Once having terminated this futile conflict, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions. Is there a way to restore American military credibility? After seven years of Clinton’s military and foreign policies, how much credibility does America even have left? In the Iraqi theater, Clinton has allowed the Gulf War coalition to disintegrate, and the only result he has unquestionably achieved through his ineffective military strikes in Iraq is to destroy UNSCOM and the systematic inspection of Saddam’s nuclear, chemical, and biological warfare arsenal, which was the only concrete result of the Gulf War. What possible credibility would additionally be at stake in a face-saving surrender to Milosevic, that has not already been squandered in the multiple surrenders to Saddam?
This is the first president and the first national-security apparatus that owes its power and authority to illegal campaign funds supplied by the intelligence services and military command of a foreign power. A brewing scandal which the current war has kept from public view is the massive theft by Clinton’s Chinese funders of America’s most advanced missile and nuclear-weapons technologies. The same Chinese dictatorship, whose "good will" Clinton is still currying, is also the supplier of its stolen missile technologies to terrorist and adversary regimes in North Korea and Iran. And in an ironic but telling footnote to these Clinton fiascoes, the Chinese dictatorship, along with its North Korean client, is one of the few allies to rally around Milosevic and the Serbs.
We need to begin a national dialogue on America’s postwar role as a military superpower, in an ever-shrinking international environment. We need to face the reality that seven years of this Democratic Administration have made the world a far more dangerous place. We need to think now about re-arming our military and restoring our global prowess. Fear of American power, not NATO or the UN, as progressives like the President apparently still need to learn, is the principal guarantor of the peace. If American power is degraded or abused, not only is America endangered, but the international order as well.
To restore the credibility of American power that has been squandered, and shore up America’s security, we need to build the anti-missile-defense system that has been irresponsibly delayed for six and a half years by the Clinton security team; we need to restock the weapons systems that Clinton’s wag-the-dog exercises have dangerously depleted; we need to restore the forces he has irresponsibly diminished an end the manpower shortage his policies have created (to cite one example, the Navy currently has 22,000 empty slots in its 327 ship fleet). We need to adequately fund our military research effort and increase the military budget by at least the $80 billion the military is asking over the next five years, and probably much more.
Congress should also think about re-instituting some form of a military draft. This would relieve some of the present economic burden of recruiting personnel. More importantly, it should serve to focus the American public’s attention on the seriousness of foreign policy and the importance of the role of the commander-in-chief (which its recent complacency over the presidential character suggests is a lesson that needs to be re-learned). The re-institution of the draft, hopefully, will shock Americans into the realization that the new feminist order in the military, implemented by the Clinton Administration without public debate, means that they or their daughters are now draftable, and will be called to duty whenever a crisis calls for ground forces. Perhaps, as a result, a new realism will assert itself about the role of women in combat, and end the demoralizing impact of double standards now rampant in the armed services, which have had a serious impact on retention and morale. The current Chief of Army Intelligence, to take one glaring example, is a female who was jumped over eighteen generals her senior in experience and skills.
But above all, we need to redefine our national-security interests and take a hard look at our NATO commitment. In the current war, many conservatives are concerned to win, even with defective leadership, because "we are stuck with Clinton for another year and a half." But why dig the hole deeper? Why not press for a solution that cuts our national losses? Why not use what is but another military defeat under the Clinton leadership to begin a debate that is long overdue?