Re: Harold Meyerson's "Why Are We in (or Anyway, Over) Kosovo?" [April 23­29], what, exactly, is the moral basis for the military action? Remember, the bombing campaign was launched as a negotiating tactic to get Milosevic to agree to the Rambouillet accords. Milosevic and his government had agreed to virtually all the elements of that accord (autonomy for the region, the creation of ethnic cantons with self-governance and self-policing, etc.). The two aspects of that treaty Milosevic had not accepted were the presence of NATO troops to enforce the agreement and the provision for a secession vote in three years. There were also lingering, and justifiable, concerns on the part of the Serbs about the Kosovo Liberation Army. The Serbs regard the KLA much as the Israelis regard the PLO -- warily, and rightly so.

Still, these remaining aspects were not insurmountable deal-killers. The treaty could have easily substituted U.N. troops for NATO troops -- an option Milosevic has repeatedly offered to accept since the bombing started. Why the U.N. and not NATO? Because the Serbs regard NATO as aggressively opposed to their interests. Why the dread of NATO? Well, the U.S. is the lead member of NATO, and at the end of the Bosnian war, the U.S. ally Croatia, under the training and direction of the U.S. military and the CIA, committed a massive ethnic cleansing of the Krajina region of that country. In the space of one week, 300,000 Serbs were forced from their homes and sent into permanent exile. Two top members of the Croatian army have since been indicted by the U.N. for war crimes for this particular act. The Serbs have looked at the U.S. and NATO with highly justifiable suspicion since then.

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On the second issue, the secession of Kosovo was not part of U.S. policy in the region. Rather, U.S. policy had been that Kosovo be returned to its autonomous status. The creation of an autonomous region in Kosovo that remains under the constitutional control of Yugoslavia is not unprecedented. Look at Montenegro.

When the Serbs would not budge on these two points, the Clinton administration decided to bomb Milosevic to get him to budge. It is critical that we remember this. The bombing campaign was started not to stop horrible ethnic cleansing or mass slaughter, which did not exist at that point in Kosovo.

NATO has laid waste much of the industrial and economic capacity of Yugoslavia, in addition to accidentally killing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of innocent civilians with its bombing campaign. For what? What have we genuinely accomplished? Nothing but the expansion of suffering.

Meyerson suggests that if Europe wants us to "go in," we should follow their lead. Let's be honest here. Europe has done nothing in leadership terms in the Balkans since 1989, when communism began to fall. The decision to bomb came largely from U.S. policy. And the visitors to Milosevic in the final days prior to the bombing were largely U.S. diplomats, warning him to agree or face the consequences. Virtually all of the sorties have been conducted by the U.S. The Serbs know that they are fighting America and just about nobody else.

Meyerson should drop the illusion that this is a European enterprise that we are supporting. This is an American enterprise that Europe is supporting. And if we "go in," it's going to be American 19-year-olds who get shot and killed.

--David Raether




Harold Meyerson neglects to consider the events of the last 10 years in Yugoslavia, and the role played by the U.S. and Germany in the breakup of that federation, favoring Slovenia and Croatia and aiming to weaken Serbia. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs were ethnically cleansed from Krajina by Croatia's Tudjman, every bit as much a fascist butcher as Milosevic, who came to power riding the wave of Serbian resentment against the West.

As for the "left" supporting intervention, it's a bit of a misnomer to characterize Waters, Wellstone and Bonior as progressives -- Meyerson might have included in the bunch a figure of fun like the self-styled socialist Bernie Sanders. These ineffectual folks are rallying around Clinton after narrow political calculation.

The propriety of the intervention in Kosovo is contradicted by its very form -- air bombings. Ethnic cleansing can only be stopped by protecting the victims on the ground. The way to do it was to seek from the U.N. a mandate empowering NATO to send an expeditionary force to the region. But of course, that would have entailed U.S. casualties, something to be avoided at all costs, because in this country public opinion reverses itself as soon as a drop of American blood is spilled.

On the other hand, bombing Serbia back to the Stone Age, in the myopic view of U.S. policymakers, has several advantages: It reminds the world that "what the U.S. says, goes," to quote George Bush; paves the way to huge â defense-budget increases; and beckons to potential investors via a mini­Marshall Plan for reconstruction in the region, as Clinton recently suggested.

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