Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Kosovo, by the time late March arrived and the bombing started, presented no good option for us.

And now, in nearly every instance, those options have grown worse.

We began the bombing to avert a humanitarian disaster.

That humanitarian disaster has not only proceeded in the last six weeks, it has been orchestrated beautifully by Milosevic, despite the efforts of NATO and the U.S. military.

We began the air campaign without a key ingredient which would have made it more plausible as an instrument of persuasion, i.e. a credible threat to use ground forces if the air campaign wouldn't work.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who knows a little bit about war and the effectiveness of an air campaign (while Bill Clinton was enjoying the fresh air on the campus at Oxford and protesting the Vietnam War, McCain was rotting in a North Vietnamese POW camp after his plane was shot down) noted in a recent magazine article that the decision to announce in advance that you aren't going to use that which would probably be a prerequisite for success is "the most unusual decision in the history of warfare."

Whether or not NATO can change its mind, whether or not NATO can hold together if the United States decides to change its mind is difficult to say. On the other hand, when NATO says it is contemplating bombing into the summer, it is far from clear that NATO, which has been wrong about nearly everything in this campaign, is right when it assumes that Italy will be content to be NATO's aircraft carrier for months at a time, and that all of the other members of the alliance will remain similarly steadfast.

Washington Post columnist George Will said it best during a recent visit in Vermillion. "What Milosevic has done is he has changed the subject," Will told reporters at a press conference. "The subject is no longer the war, the main subject is the refugee crisis that he has exported to the neighboring countries."

Those "neighboring countries" can no longer deal with that crisis. Four hundred Kosovo Albanian refugees arrived at Fort Dix, NJ on Wednesday. Four hundred more are expected to arrive there on Friday. They are to be taken in by private families.

Among the interesting questions that we now have to contemplate is this: The United States military, in justifying its $270 billion budget, said that amount is needed and sufficient for the United States to be prepared to fight two major theatre conflicts simultaneously.

Yet, we have seen in this case that its airlift capacity is taxed to the breaking point by the task of bringing both helicopters and tents into presnt regions of European conflict.

"I suggest that we are living in an extraordinarily dangerous moment," Will said at the press conference. "If the irrational and inscrutable government of North Korea would choose this time to go lunging over the 38th parallel, we would have a major disaster on our hands."

Will offers a scenario for ending the Kosovo crisis. He recalled that in 1994, Clinton made "empty demands, statements, and pronouncements regarding the North Korean nuclear program.

"In order to get him off the hook on which he impaled himself," Will added, "he dispatched Jimmy Carter to broker a face-saving surrender for the United States. In February 1998, the president made similar, empty bellicose threats with regard to Iraq and the arms inspectors."

Once again, Will said, the president had to rely on someone else to broker a face-saving surrender for the United States. But immediately after that, Sandy Berger, the national security advisor, promptly issued another empty threat, saying unless the arms inspectors are allowed to go where they want when they want, there will be a serious use of force.

By the end of 1998, the arms inspectors were expelled from Iraq.

"So we have a pattern here," Will said, "a pattern of empty threats on the part of the president and his people and then the problem becomes how to get him off the hook. I assume that the Russians will be brought into this."

Will made that statement April 20. It's as if he had a crystal ball.

For on Monday of this week, Clinton said he was "quite encouraged" by the involvement of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin in peacemaking diplomacy.

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