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Why Are We in (or Anyway, Over) Kosovo? 

A case for intervention

Wednesday, Apr 21 1999
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Page 3 of 3

The third objection to U.S. intervention is its selectivity: We haven’t intervened, either sufficiently or at all, on behalf of victimized peoples in Rwanda, East Timor, Tibet, Kurdistan — why, suddenly, in Kosovo? But this is a double standard that cuts both ways. Those who argue that the administration should do or have done more for Rwanda, East Timor, Tibet and Kurdistan are hardly in a position to oppose the administration when it finally does intervene on behalf of a suppressed people. They can argue that the form of intervention is questionable or disastrous, but they can’t reasonably argue against the propriety of intervention, not in the same breath that they scold Clinton for turning his back on Tibetans and other subjugated nations.

At the fringe of the anti-war opposition, there are those so determined to see the intervention as an extension of the American empire and nothing else that every other factor fades from view. In his article on the Z Web site, Chomsky manages to produce a 1,500-word tour d’horizon of American perfidy that doesn’t actually make it to Yugoslavia: The article doesn’t mention Milosevic even once. A more stacked debating technique is hard to imagine. One could, I suppose, have composed an airtight case against intervention in World War II by omitting any mention of Hitler and Nazism.

The Kosovo intervention has not only divided the left in general, but the left-wing editors at the Weekly in particular (a phrase — left-wing editors at the Weekly — that many readers will doubtless consider redundant). I want to make it clear that in both the above analysis and the following prescriptions, I speak for myself only.

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Europe, I believe, has not merely a right but a fundamental humanitarian and strategic obligation to stop an outbreak of ethnic cleansing in its midst; and any plan to stop Milosevic absent a use of force is pure chimera. For historic reasons that cannot be wished away, the sole vehicle available in 1999 for European military intervention is NATO: If Europe goes in, we must go in, too (and disproportionately, since in the international division of labor of the past 50 years, Europe rebuilt itself, and a strong civilian economy, while we built an arms machine). The only plausible policy goal, at this dismal point in the conflict, is to create some cordon sanitaire, some designated protected zone within Kosovo to which Kosovar Albanians can return and live in peace. The only way to create such a zone, I’m afraid, is with NATO ground troops (and surely not with the Kosovo Liberation Army, which is every bit as brutal and fascistic as the Serbs). Territory is not retaken from the air alone.

Kosovo is not Vietnam; neither is it the Holocaust. If you want an American analogy, it is more like the Trail of Tears, the forcible and bloody expulsion of Native American tribes from the Southeast to the distant, arid West. Murder is not the primary goal of Serbian policy, as it was for the Nazis; it is merely an important part of a campaign of mass terror designed to drive Muslims out of a land the Serbs now covet. That is evil enough to merit our intervention.

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