After reading it all, from Chomsky's delightful clarity to Redmond's bizarre assertion that the E.U. is holding American guns to American heads with the threat they will find something to do with their money other than buy Treasuries, it occurs to me that Kosovo is a typical Clinton decision. It is incomplete, incremental and completely political.
Serbia has the one well-equipped army in Europe that has shown a tendency towards non-U.S.-approved adventurism. They are also the one active military state in Europe that has strong ties with Russia. Serbia also made the dreadful mistake of *embarrassing* the U.S. (meaning administration officials) by not towing the line in Bosnia, at Dayton or at Rombouillet. The Serbs also had the misfortune of being involved in a high-visibility conflict just as the impeachment mess came to an end.
Therefore, the decision to flex NATO/U.S. muscle and insure total air superiority over Serbia while undermining their ability to launch a large-scale offensive was simple. It reminds the Russians and the Europeans the U.S. is their military master. It reminds the Europeans that we are their bulwark against Russia and large-scale conflict generally. It reminds less enthusiastic Clinton-Blair-Schroederites that finance capitalism requires their cooperation and homogeneity. It reminds the Russians that their days of adventurism are over and they cannot leverage their nuclear arsenal politically. It reminds all the Slavic states that they cannot leverage the Russian nuclear arsenal politically. That arsenal insures only Russian domestic defense and a Russian place at the nuclear grown-ups (as if) table where we sit at the head. Most importantly, the conflict gets Monica Lewinsky off the top five news items and makes congressional criticism of Clinton look like childish carping in the face of the "real" and "important" "business of the American people". Moreover, it saves the faces of Albright, etc.. who laid down a ridiculous line and were rebuffed. After all, these people will have to find new jobs in a couple years.
As for the Albanians, who the hell cares? They're Albanians, after all. They are unrepentant white trash, Mafiosi, drug-runners and Moslems who live in a state of anarchy. The violins playing for their sad plight are not loud in Washington. As for Serbia, Milosovic was a *Commie*, for God's sake, which means that he has been asking for it from approximately day one. Getting to the idea it might be politic to bomb Slobo' boys is not exactly a stretch for a draft-dodging President whose policy of bending over for the Red Mandarins of the P.R.C. has netted him nothing but scandal. For that matter the whole lot of these Balkan people were commies at one time or another so they had better develop some media-friendly characteristics fast if they want to avoid getting stepped on. Sarajevo is something sympathetic, it's a nice city that had an Olympic games. Of course people getting butchered always plays well. The problem is that for a victim to work, you need a villain. Enter the Serbs once more.
As for the rightness of the thing, the morality, that has nothing to do with the NATO/U.S. decision. For us it is left to consider whether we want to start sorting out the claims and counter-claims of Balkan injustice. It may be possible. You have to think that the Albanians, if only because they are Moslems, have been getting the short end of the stick. Rooting for the creation of a Greater Albania is hard to swallow, however. I wouldn't give you a euro and a half for the Albania we have now. I'm sure the Kosovars are nice people and they would certainly seem to deserve the chance to control their own political destiny, but they are not easy people to love. Their present political institutions seem to rely a bit too heavily on clan loyalties and AK-47's for my taste. The Serbian people are nice too, but they could really drop the 600-year-old grudges, if you ask me. World War Two has also been over for some time now. If Daimler Benz can buy Chrysler, Serbs might at least acknowledge that all Croats are not *currently* in the Nazi party. It might be pointed out to Balkan peoples that French and German speakers live in Switzerland, French and Flemish in Belgium and Canadians are somehow able to deal with the threat of autonomous republics without resorting to heavy violence. I'm sure Balkan people do not lack the capacity for civil society, but they certainly seem to have a dulled instinct for it. Surely they understand that these ethnic issues have been fanned to flames by political grifters for several centuries. For how long are they content to be made chumps? If nothing else good comes out of this, and that seems likely, at least they all might start hating the United States in unison.
I'm not sad to see the Serbs with fewer tanks and a less effective air force. I pray no more civilian lives will be lost and ideally no military ones either. I understand that while it might have been inevitable that air strikes spurred the Serbs on to greater violence, the Albanian Kosovars did not actually launch the air strikes and it is both unreasonable and criminal to drive Albanian civilians from their Kosovo homes because of what the U.S. is doing. By the same token, if the Serbs had real reason to fear the KLA would come in heavy behind the air strikes, they would have been irresponsible not to prepare against it. Preparation and ethnic cleansing are not the same thing by a long shot, but a little of both is probably going on. Unfortunately the character of the rest of what's going on is unknown and doesn't matter. The ill will has been distilled and every two-bit political operator of Albanian and Serb descent has an issue to use.
Chomsky's "first do no harm" admonishment seems the reasonable course here. It seems unlikely we can do any real good. Yet, one is extremely uneasy about the possibility of a well-armed army going against a sparsely defended rural population. Visions of Guatemala are inevitable. It would be reasonable to diminish the practical lethality of the army if, in fact, that is possible. It might be reasonable to arm the other side, but that has terrible possibilities as well. Ultimately the solution will be found with mass action. Our cruise missiles will do nothing to encourage that action or make it more effective but we are really not trying to do that. This bombing is a half-hearted, half-baked, thoroughly corrupted attempt to stop a massacre. This attempt will probably start a long, nasty war that no one will win. It should be stopped before more people get hurt by it. The only things that will stop this madness are democracy, civil society and a lot more money in the hands of regular people. They're the only things that ever work.
It should be noted by those who demand the bombing be stopped that this position implies accepting an inevitable Albanian reprisal and the subsequent conflict. Once diplomacy failed, it failed, and it cannot be re-started until people are thinking beyond their own bloodlust. Picking heroes and villains now will exacerbate the situation. The only answer is blanket condemnation of the warring parties.