NATO’s war on Yugoslavia has failed catastrophically. The crimes against humanity that the alliance hoped to forestall continue to be visited upon the Albanian Kosovars. The war intensifies without moral, strategic or legal justification. It is time to halt the bombing and negotiate an end to the debacle.
If there was ever a compelling moral sanction for this war, it was to end the mass displacement, plunder, rape and murder of the Albanian Kosovars. But the morality of the cause was mocked by the incoherence of the response. The Administration’s bombing of the Serbian people, with whom President Clinton says we have no quarrel, has done nothing to help the Kosovars, whom the President seeks to defend. The human calamity continues, made more brutal by the bloodlust roused by NATO’s bombing. Now the bombing serves only as retribution, and as the civilian casualties mount, “surgical” bombing is again exposed as an oxymoron. It was a “smart” bomb that missed Yugoslavia and hit Bulgaria. It was a smart bomb that took out a bus in Kosovo. The Administration has now dispatched B-52s for missions with “dumb” bombs. But reducing Serbia to rubble will not defend the Kosovars; it will only claim the lives of more innocents to camouflage the failure of NATO’s strategy.
The strategic failure was driven not by military necessity but by political calculation. The President sensibly assumed that we wouldn’t accept the loss of American lives to save the Kosovars. He disastrously assumed that Slobodan Milosevic would fold after a few days of bombing. When Milosevic chose instead to escalate attacks on the Kosovars, the President intensified the bombing, leaving the victims to their fate. But if we are not prepared to defend the Kosovars with American lives, what moral right have we to make war on the Serbs? In the gulf between ends and means lies the slaughter and displacement of nearly a million Kosovars.
Had there been a national debate before this war, its moral and strategic incoherence might have been exposed. The Framers of the Constitution gave Congress the power to declare war. In the fateful decision to turn from peace to war, they wanted deliberation and collective wisdom, not secrecy and dispatch.
The Administration has admitted that it did not seek prior Congressional authorization for the bombing because it probably could not have gotten it. But presidential usurpation was abetted by Congress’s abdication of its war-making power. On April 28 Congress demonstrated the partisan irresponsibility that has made it worthy of contempt. In breathtaking sequence, Congress, propelled by the Republican leadership’s loathing for President Clinton, voted not to declare war, not to withdraw, against sending in troops and against endorsing the air war, even as it prepared to send billions to pay for whatever goes on. Shamefully, the Democratic leadership abandoned its position that wars must be authorized by Congress. Only forty-five members of the Democratic caucus stood up against their leaders to vote for a Republican-backed resolution demanding Congressional approval before the introduction of “ground elements” into Yugoslavia. The Senate was no better; with the leaders of both parties agreed, it voted 78-22 to table John McCain’s resolution authorizing ground forces after an insultingly short debate. The result is that the air war is now being waged in defiance of the Constitution and of Congress, as Representatives Tom Campbell, Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur argue in a lawsuit they recently filed.