web posted July 12, 1999
All hail the empire...
Exactly why Yugoslavian leader Sloboban Milosevic agreed to NATO's conditions may never be known though reliable sources believe he finally realized that the alliance could keep dropping 2 000 lb. bombs for as long as it wanted. From all accounts, though, the nation's army had largely withstood the eleven week bombing campaign with reasonably minimal losses considering their absolute lack of air power to respond.
Whatever Milosevic's reasoning was, U.S. President Bill Clinton may yet again consider himself the luckiest man in American history. Sooner or later the decision would had to have been made to send in ground troops, a choice which would have undoubtedly led to a protracted and bloody ground war for all involved. Milosevic, however, spared Clinton that bloodshed and capitulated.
Although he may be lucky, Clinton hardly sounded like the jubilant winner one would have expected on June 10, blandly stating that NATO had "achieved victory for a safer world" in Kosovo.
"Unnecessary conflict has been brought to a just and honorable conclusion," he said later that night in an address to the American people.
Milosevic, on the other hand, positively glowed, stating that "we demonstrated our army cannot be defeated" and "we did not give up the province of Kosovo."
Perhaps Milosevic was being a bit grandiose, but he has more reason to cheer than Clinton who presumably can claim victory. And it was a victory of sorts. The NATO alliance only suffered causalities during training missions outside of the conflict area and managed to force the Serb army out of Kosovo with air power alone, the first time history such a feat has been managed.
But while the troops themselves may have cause to toss back a few Budweisers when they come back home -- whenever that happens -- the world in general is a far more dangerous place then it was several weeks ago, and it has nothing to do with Serbs and Kosovars but the precedents set by NATO and politicians.
NATO may have won the war, but the west will find that it will be an incredibly expensive peace to maintain. The "peace keeping" troops sent into to Kosovo will be there for a very long time -- considering the Orthodox Serbs and the area's Muslims have merely been at each other's throats for about half a millennium -- and running the place is going to be an expensive proposition, not to mention any aid which may go to Yugoslavia itself for the horrendous damage it suffered from the bombing.
"NATO estimates its bombs killed 5 000 and wounded an additional 10 000. Serbia lies in rubble, about 500 000 have lost their jobs, and wages have been officially reduced to 1 000 dinars ($60) a month. There are no sources of revenue to pay out pensions or army salaries. To repair shattered rail lines, bombed-out roads and sunken bridges alone will cost about $1 billion. The country's four largest industrial sites are totally destroyed; nine more are severely damaged. Two oil refineries went up in black acrid smoke, along with most of the fuel-storage facilities, leaving Serbia having to import high-priced refined fuel," wrote Time magazine after the deal was reached, also quoting a Belgrade economist that it could take the nation 41 years to return to its pre-war state.
NATO's second problem will be the kind of peace they may have to enforce. While the Serb army may be leaving the province in order, will 50 000 NATO troops be enough to contain the Kosovo Liberation Army? A group described as a Marxist, drug and gun running terrorist organization will hardly be looking to resettle peacefully and there already been reprisals against Serb villagers. While Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is confident that the KLA will accept a deal which promises self-rule but does not give them independence or even the future referendum promised at Rambouillet, the fact of the matter is that the group is reasonably well armed and will take independence if it isn't granted to them. Nature abhors a vacuum and KLA guerrillas have begun streaming out of the hills.
That can also only mean a three way shooting war with peace keepers square in the middle of it. Clinton may have avoided the image of American soldiers returning in body bags during a bloody ground war, but his nation may yet see some Marines fall as the two sides resume their grudge match.
Although it was NATO which was doing the heavy lifting, it was the west's politicians which may have done the most damage. The most important of which may have been in the subtle change in what NATO stands for thanks to the orders of its political leaders. The organization was originally set up as a defensive organization to counter the Eastern Block and its charter stated that fact. NATO could only take action if one of its own was attacked. Offensive wars were prohibited and in 1983 the organization took special pains to issue a declaration to emphasize the fact in case the Warsaw Pact missed it.
It's quite obvious and plain that politicians forced NATO to break its own rules when it began raining destruction on Yugoslavia and thereby launching a war, more specifically, an offensive war. That sets up future scenarios which sees politicians flex their muscle by using NATO to intervene when and where they want to. By attacking Yugoslavia, the nations of NATO have all but declared that they may use force wherever they feel is justified, even if using that force is in contravention of their own rules.
More dangerous in my opinion, is the effect this war has had on the linchpin of NATO, the United States. By fighting this war, Bill Clinton may have turned his nation finally and inexorably towards a state which can no longer be called a republic, even in parody. If I could only blame him I would, but the Republican controlled Congress deserves almost as much anger as he does. While Clinton may have usurped Congress' power to declare wars, it was Congress which refused to cut off funding for the campaign after 60 days, which they are legally obligated to if the president doesn't ask for a formal declaration of war. Instead they decided to sidestep the issue and the 61st day of bombing saw the United States fight a completely illegal war without a peep of protest from the American public.
web posted May 31, 1999
Rivers and streams
This month marks the end of three years on the web and the beginning of a fourth for Enter Stage Right. It also ends our monthly schedule and our move to a weekly. I get tired of this some days.
For all the countless hours that I and people like me (Quackgrass Press, Real Mensch, SpinTech, Right Magazine) put into these kind of ventures, it seems that little gets accomplished in the end. I sometimes feel like we're modern day King Canutes trying to stop the relentless tide while the natives look at us with bemused ambivalence.
The problem with wars of revolutionary character is that if people don't share your beliefs -- or aren't willing to act on theirs -- then we are like Canutes.
It doesn't have to be that way though. You don't have to become a raving militant to ceaselessly promote the conservative agenda. Even the smallest actions can add up to something big. The only problem is that it takes a lot of little actions before change can come about.
You don't have to become a candidate for a political party, but you can vote.
You may not be a writer, but almost anyone can write a decent letter to the editor.
Not much of an agitator? You can still debate your friends and co-workers about the issues of the day. All you need are the facts.
If you can't write legislation, why not learn about the bills currently being introduced? Write in support -- or disagreement -- about what your elected officials are doing now.
Think you can't make a difference by yourself? There is an ancient Chinese saying which goes "The rivers and streams are deep because they absorb the waters of small streams." It worked for Mao Tse Tung -- he quoted it often -- and it will work for you. Acting in concert, the littlest actions can have the biggest results.
That's why I started writing Enter Stage Right as a newspaper column over five years ago and why the web version came to life in June 1996. ESR may not be the National Review or the Weekly Standard, but it is reaching you right now, isn't it? If we can inspire one person to do one thing in furtherance of their political beliefs then we've achieved our message.
Prove me right. Do something based on a story in this issue. It doesn't matter what story, whether its Glover's piece on the draft or Reilly's thoughts on Ralph Nader and his jihad against Microsoft. Join a group or write a letter or join a protest. Just do something.
On a personal note, I'd like to congratulate Brian and Susan Martin on their marriage on May 29, 1999. The bride held a special significance for me since she's my younger sister. Happiness and prosperity to you both!
Thanks for reading,
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
ESR writer honored again!
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Previously we've received the honor for Steve Martinovich's piece on Elia Kazan and the furor over his Academy Award in March.
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