There are principled differences within the progressive community about the war in Yugoslavia, including the use of ground troops. With the following, we offer another perspective in an effort to insure that such views are given fair voice.–The Editors
Wars always bring unintended consequences. This bungled war has brought a host of calamities. Worst among them is that Slobodan Milosevic has won another round in his decadelong campaign of ethnic cleansing. President Clinton’s inept response has been an air war in which any deaths of our combatants are deemed unacceptable, while the deaths of Serbian or Kosovar noncombatants are labeled “collateral damage.” Clinton is on a slippery slope; it is wrong to pursue a just war with unjust means. But it would also be wrong to heed the siren song of appeasement by settling for anything short of the expulsion of all Serbian troops and police from Kosovo.
In the long run, an effective response to wars of ethnic cleansing will require Americans to build down our bloated, cold war-era national security state and build up internationalist mechanisms like a standing UN army and an international criminal court. In the meantime, the plight of a million victims of ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe will serve as a painful reminder that US unilateralism has again failed to measure up to US ideals.
Nevertheless, it would be a colossal mistake if those of us who are searching for a foreign policy based on human rights were to oppose the idea of a truly international intervention in Kosovo. Paul Berman wrote more than four years ago in the context of Bosnia and Rwanda, “We who used to be the party of anti-intervention (because we were anti-imperialists) should now become, in the case of various dictators and genocidal situations, the party of intervention (because we are democrats).”
Here, then, is a principled position on Kosovo: End the bombing, and send in the ground troops. It is a coherent position, tactically, morally and politically. Such diverse and often contentious intellects as Stanley Hoffmann, Susan Sontag, Robert Dallek, Michael Ignatieff and Leon Wieseltier have all endorsed the notion that Milosevic cannot be stopped without a ground invasion of Kosovo. As Hoffmann concluded in the May 20 New York Review of Books, “If one believes that the heart of the issue is the toleration–or not–of genocide and of murderous forms of ethnic cleansing, and the establishment of a clear norm of international law against such acts committed either across or within borders, the choice for the first option [ground troops], demanding and dangerous as it is, seems to me the right one.”
So how should this be done? The key is international law. Ground troops should be authorized by Congress and the United Nations. Milosevic should be indicted as a war criminal by the UN-sanctioned International Criminal Tribunal. (The currently indicted Bosnian Serb war criminals–particularly Gen. Ratko Mladic and the Serb leader Radovan Karadzic–should be immediately arrested by NATO troops.) The United States should announce the mobilization of a multinational invasion force of 250,000 troops. These troops should be positioned as rapidly as possible in Albania and elsewhere within NATO Europe. Over the next few months, President Clinton could go before the American people and Congress to make a coherent case for a declaration of war against Serbia.