Woven Web of Deceit
Official Washington and the sleepy "establishment" media are agog over President Clinton's "great victory" in the Balkans. Even the president's critics grant him a stupendous foreign policy success. "Victory," screams the editorial headline of the Weekly Standard, and the editorialist goes on to proclaim, "Slobodan Milosevic's capitulation to U.S. and NATO demands represents a triumph for...President Clinton, and for the small but stalwart group of Republicans...who supported the war from beginning to end." The National Review's senior editor Peter Rodman said on C-Span's "Washington Journal" that it would be "churlish" of Bill Clinton's critics now to criticize the Clinton/ NATO policy in Kosovo after events have proved it right.
"Milosevic's capitulation to NATO demands?" "NATO proved right?" My goodness, what delusions are emanating from inside the Washington Beltway; what fabrications are being perpetrated on the American people. The truth of this war is the exact opposite of the establishment's portrayal. It was an unnecessary, and in my opinion illegal and unconstitutional, war from the beginning. It failed on every score to achieve the goals articulated to justify it, exacerbated the very problems it sought to remedy and created new problems that will plague America and the Balkans for years to come. It was, in short, a debacle, an "international Waco," which no amount of "spinning" by NATO and the media can erase. We could have had the same, or perhaps even a better deal at Rambouillet if we had been willing to, in Winston Churchill's words, "jaw jaw instead of war war!"
President Clinton, spurred on by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in particular, led NATO to start an unprovoked and unjustified war out of pique because the Yugoslavian government, as would any other sovereign nation, refused to consent to two provisions of the Rambouillet proposal that were insisted on by the Atlantic Alliance: (1) that Belgrade allow a foreign military alliance (NATO) to occupy every square inch of its sovereign territory, billet its forces wherever it desired and receive immunity before the fact against "any claims of any sort" that might arise out of alliance activities (including criminal acts by NATO personnel); and (2) that Belgrade concede to a referendum after three years that would almost certainly have guaranteed independence for Kosovo and thus wrench it out of the Yugoslav Federation.
Far from capitulating to these NATO demands, which constituted an unambiguous assault on Yugoslavian sovereignty, Belgrade withstood 79 days of brutal bombing, while the Milosevic government ruthlessly exploited the opportunity to engage in killing and brutality by pillaging and conducting wholesale displacement and deportation of Kosovar Albanians, only a fraction of whom are ever likely to return to their homes. Far from stopping a humanitarian disaster, the NATO bombing provoked one. The Yugoslavian Parliament finally agreed to withdraw most of its troops from Kosovo only after NATO agreed to a peace accord that explicitly reaffirms Yugoslavian sovereignty and conspicuously omits both of the two unacceptable demands from Rambouillet.
Moreover, unlike Rambouillet, this accord will be adopted and implemented under the auspices of the United Nations. The international peacekeeping force called for in the agreement, while comprising troops from NATO countries, will be deployed in Kosovo only, under the auspices of the United Nations, and its actions will be authorized and limited by the U.N. And NATO has agreed wisely to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army.
NATO also claims at least to have salvaged its "credibility" by demonstrating the alliance will carry out even the most imprudently made threats when another sovereign nation refuses to knuckle under to its demands. But such a victory is dubious. The war NATO started in Kosovo- the first offensive action in its history-may have harmed the alliance's credibility far more than it helped. What NATO officials perceive as preserving its credibility and demonstrating its resolve, much of the rest of the world sees as bully tactics, leading them to ask whether America one day will, in the words of the New York Times' Abe Rosenthal, "fly over their lands to bomb them into submission for not carrying out our orders." As he went on to say, we should use our brains first and bombs last instead of the other way around.
An objective observer, I think, must conclude that, on paper at least, Mr. Milosevic has achieved, albeit at a very high price, what he sought at Rambouillet, while NATO, far from achieving a great triumph, has suffered an ignominious defeat, causing millions of innocent civilians great suffering in the process. The danger now is that NATO may concede Kosovo to an armed and menacing KLA in an attempt to save face.
The NATO bombing and the killing and destruction it wreaked in Yugoslavia were absolutely unnecessary to achieving the final terms of the current agreement. Even when judged narrowly in terms of the effect on NATO, the adventure was a failure. Since the NATO forces are placed under the auspices of the United Nations in the current peace accord (nowhere in the agreement is NATO mentioned), they will have less authority and flexibility to maintain the peace as they see fit than they would have had under the Rambouillet framework, absent the two unacceptable demands, which Slobodan Milosevic and the Russians were prepared to agree to in March before the bombing began.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said we must stand firm "when our will is tested." Her will is to see an Atlantic alliance that acts out-of-area in humanitarian missions through what Tony Blair and Third Way guru Anthony Giddens call "cosmopolitan interventionism," and woe to the country or individual who challenges their judgment.
This is not the way a defensive alliance should behave, especially in peacetime. This is not the way constitutional democracies should act at any time. In fact, in my judgement, President Clinton compounded the constitutional injury when he flouted the U.S. Senate's treaty-ratification power by helping to rewrite the NATO Charter at the 50th Anniversary meeting in April and then proceeding immediately to implement that rewritten charter in Kosovo without first presenting it to the Senate for ratification.
The Senate, the Greatest Deliberative Body in the World, now stands mute, aware that the president has in broad daylight stolen from it the constitutional power given it by the Founders to advise and consent on treaties with foreign powers. It seems as long as the establishment can rationalize its behavior on the grounds that both political parties silently assent to the evil act, it can be done without fanfare or press commentary.
But through this fog of lies, this culture of deceit that has enveloped our foreign policy, someone must call for truth or consequences. We have had precious little truth out of this war, and therefore I believe its chief architect, Madeleine Albright should resign before the administration's efforts to hijack the peace by implementing its illusions has disastrous consequences. It should make one's hair stand on end to hear the country's top diplomat say, as she did recently, "now, our diplomacy serves to back up our military." Both Mrs. Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen continue to insist NATO will run the show in Kosovo, and we have a standoff with Russia to show for it.
Make no mistake-if NATO usurps control in Kosovo, even greater chaos and instability will result. If we value our relationship with Russia, if we want to improve our relations with China-if we truly care about the principles of freedom and democracy that define our way of life-we must begin to lead the world by example and with diplomacy not by bluster and bombs.
Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America.