The truth: Kosovo and Al Gore

More than a week after the first air strikes against Yugoslavia began, I am still struggling to understand the point of the bombing and cruise missile attacks.

Don't get me wrong. I think assisting a group of people to become independent is a noble goal and protecting them against attack even nobler. But try as I might, I still do not understand why NATO -- or more accurately Bill Clinton -- chose Yugoslavia as the first place to flex its missile in Europe.

Yugoslavia is a sovereign nation. While I don't hold that to be protection from being bombed, since I believe any nation that kills its own citizens no longer deserves protection under the international rule of law, it isn't our business. Neither side is particularly praiseworthy. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is little more than a terrorist organization (until recently the KLA was listed by the U.S. Justice Department as a Marxist terrorist organization) while the present Yugoslav government are collectivists intent on enforcing some Slavic identity on a province. But if Chinese brutality in Tibet, Indonesian killings in East Timor or Turkish aggression against Kurds isn't enough for Bill Clinton to get involved in, then I have to wonder why we decided to bomb now. Are Kosovars worth more than Tibetans, Timorians and Kurds?

More importantly, I think that the continual bombing of Iraq has proved that a motivated enemy (or in Iraq's case, motivated leader) doesn't respond to bombings. Knocking out air defences and shooting down warplanes is fine, but unless a nation is prepared to put soldiers on the ground, it's all for naught. Military force is being used with no payback. Serbia (and Iraq) will not change their ways and all the 2000 lb bombs or cruise missiles in America's arsenal won't change that.

I see no compelling NATO interests in Kosovo and no reason to bomb Yugoslavia. As Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov said just before the bombings began, the only thing that may happen is a further destabilization of the Balkins. Those 2000 lb bombs may set off a yet larger one involving Yugoslavia, Albania, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Russia, Romania, Bosnia and Croatia...among others. Things will rapidly fall apart if that secret plan the Russians hinted at to place 22 000 NATO troops into Kosovo turns out to be true and could spark a regional conflict of the likes not seen since the Second World War.

Perhaps most importantly, the peace accord is misnamed. It is a blueprint not for peace, but for independence. It mandates a three-year stint of autonomy for Kosovo, and afterwards "the will of the people" will decide its political future. Since Kosovo is 90 per cent Albanian, it is assured that independence will result. A result that the Serbs will simply not accept.

Rather than plainly admit that the accord leads to independence, the Clinton Administration paints the accord as something it is not, turning NATO not into the west's air force, but the KLA's. Pick a side if you must, but at least do it openly.

My unofficial motto is that the most expensive thing in the world is regret. Once you miss an opportunity, the only thing you can do afterwards is kick yourself. The Republicans can kick themselves at will after missing a golden opportunity to look good at the expense of a man who may be the next President of the United States.

Doubtless you heard that Vice President Al Gore claimed to have took "the initiative creating the Internet," a wildly half-witted statement that only a vice president could make. A Dan Quayle-sized blunder, if you will.

The remark of course opened him up to fierce ridicule, with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott responding that he had been responsible for inventing the paper clip, while Senator John McCain joked that the only thing that sustained him during his brutal time in a Vietnam prisoner of war camp was "[t]he thought that some day I would come home and invent the Internet."

Of course, it's not the first time that Al Gore has made statements which he would later regret. Remember his claim that he inspired tough-guy hero in Erich Segal's novel Love Story? Segal denied it, saying that Gore's Harvard roommate, actor Tommy Lee Jones, was the role model. Or how about the time that Gore described himself as a humble hog farmer who as a youth used to "plow a steep hillside with a team of mules," when in fact at that time he was attending private schools in Washington, D.C.

Not that he didn't have his defenders either. Newsweek contributor Eleanor Clift, who never saw a pro-Gore statement she didn't like, said on the McLaughlin Group, "And by the way, Al Gore did coin the phrase 'information superhighway.' Let's give him credit for that!"

But Clift got it wrong too. It was her own publication that in 1983 predicted fiber-optic technology would lead to an "information superhighway" -- years before Gore ever used the term in public. Publications were using the term "data highway" as far back as 1975, before Gore entered Congress.

The biggest mistake wasn't made by Clift or even Gore, it was the Republicans who erred. Instead of firing off humorous but hardly substantive press releases, they might have criticized Gore's top-down regulatory view of the world. If you read Gore's speeches from a decade ago, you'll find only visions of a technological future dominated by government and federal research grants.

They could demonstrated that they are friendly to Silicon Valley and high tech in general with issues like tax policies and encryption, whereas the White House has adopted a frightening anti-privacy and anti-liberty stance in regards to the Internet. They didn't, however, choosing instead to make like David Letterman.

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Yes, the look has changed...again

Just two months after I swore that ESR would never again change its index page...well, yes, it has changed again. Editor-at-Large Steve Lendt didn't like the look of the index page (at first...but he warmed up to it) because he said it moved ESR further away from the "magazine" look.

Yeah, yeah, I agreed...grudgingly.

I also decided to change it because of usability concerns and because small sans serif fonts look like hell on Macintosh systems. Arial/Helvetica text is difficult to read for prolonged periods of time so I switched to the Times Roman family of fonts to avoid those problems on the index and sub-pages.

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