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Clinton, Albright lit Kosovo's fire
by Don Feder

Sunday, April 4, 1999

President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright set the stage for the catastrophe in Kosovo. If there were a Nobel Prize for ineptitude in diplomacy, they would be its joint recipients.

Doing a bad imitation of Vito Corleone at Rambouillet, Albright told the Serbs she would have either their signatures or their brains on the peace accord. The deal they were told to accept, or else, involved immediate autonomy for Kosovo and a three-year transition toward unspecified goals, supervised by NATO troops. It didn't take a genius to see that the transition would be to independence.

That's fine for ethnic Albanians, 90 percent of the population, but tough luck for Serbs, who consider the land the cradle of Serbian nationalism and their Orthodox faith (it contains more than 500 monasteries and other monuments) - a combination of
Philadelphia and Canterbury.

Knowing that he would eventually be forced to accept a settlement (possibly partition), Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic decided to create a Serbian enclave he can hold. This involves an eviction (nearly a third of the province's population) that the
West calls ``ethnic cleansing.''

Interesting how the media coins a phrase that's repeated by rote. Even worse is the segue from ethnic cleansing to genocide - verbal overkill bordering on absurdity. If forcible population transfers are cruel and unfair, cruelty and unfairness are nothing new. During the fighting in Bosnia, Croat forces drove an estimated 300,000 Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. The aged and  infirm who couldn't move were shot.

There were no expressions of international outrage over this ethnic sanitation, let alone cruise missiles and stealth bombers.

When India and Pakistan gained their independence in 1948, Muslims and Hindus each tidied up their respective territories, with 10 million pushed across borders. After the establishment of Israel, 950,000 Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Arab

Like the Serbs, Turkey is fighting a war against terrorist secessionists. Since 1992, the Turkish army has razed more than 3,000 Kurdish villages, to deny guerrillas a base of support. In the process, hundreds of thousands have been left homeless. Turkey is a NATO member.

Prior to Milosevic's major deployment in Kosovo, the Kosovo Liberation Army ``encouraged'' Serbs in the province to relocate.

Serbian police and government officials were assassinated (this was also intended to provoke Belgrade), villagers were kidnapped and murdered - about what you'd xpect from a cutthroat gang tied to both terrorist kingpin Osama bin Laden and
Albanian crime syndicates.

A March 4 article in The New York Times mentions the village of Velika Hoca, where five Serbian women said their homes were invaded one night last July and 16 men were marched away at gunpoint never to return.

None of this justifies the expulsion of ethnic Albanians (Belgrade says they're fleeing NATO bombing), but why selective reprisals from the West? Why bomb a people who have done us no harm and were our allies in two world wars? How far will
Clinton go to keep the burgeoning Chinese spy scandal off the front pages?

I never thought of myself as an isolationist. Unlike our president, I supported every Cold War intervention from Asia to Central America. Soviet communism was at war with us, and we were forced to defend ourselves on distant fronts. Likewise, I supported the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein with the region's oil wealth, armed with nuclear and biological weapons, would have ignited the Middle East.

But Serbia? There is no logic here.

There is no international Serbian conspiracy, no Serb sponsorship of subversion and insurrection. Serb panzers will not roll across Europe in pursuit of a continental empire. Serbia seeks only to keep what was its from time immemorial. While America should try to contain or punish tyrants through diplomatic isolation and sanctions, the decision to intervene militarily cannot be based on altruism. Humanitarian rescue missions will inevitably lead to the overextension of American power.

The military will be so exhausted by doing social work with bombs and troops that resources won't be there to defend the United States when our vital interests are at stake. (Cruise missiles and laser-targeted bombs don't come in Cracker Jack
boxes.) When China confronts us in Asia, we can tell our allies there that we spent all of our missiles in the Balkans.

Kosovo was an avoidable tragedy. Clinton and Albright should toast marshmallows over the flames. They lit the fire.

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