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Hate to reply to my own posting, but consider this an amendment. Here goes:

3/27/99

Afterthoughts:

The Battle of Kosovo lost by the Serbs to the Turks in 1389, cost them 600 years of enslavement and subordination that they are trying to put behind them today.

Their military leader was Prince Lazar, sanctified in Serb memory for leading a risky attack against Ottoman Turk invaders, saying, "It is better to die in battle than to live in shame." He was annihilated.

Milosevic has had more than one chance to avoid his risky challenge to superior NATO forces. Yet he persists. Why?

Two columnists suggest the reasons, along with some choice comments I've selected:

Rob Morse, San Francisco Examiner writes:

"Never go to war in a place you can't find on a map."

"Never go to war with a country whose national holiday celebrates a defeat suffered in 1389. These are people ready to take some punishment."

"Our national holiday is the Oscars, and we can barely remember who won last year."

"Never start a war without clear objectives."

"Never start a war you don't plan on winning."

"Never promise everybody, including your enemy, that you won't send in ground troops."

"Maybe Milosevic will be cowed by cruise missiles the way his forebears never were by invading Turkish, Austro-Hungarians, and Nazi armies.

"Air raids raise national cohesiveness."

"Aircraft never won a war."

"The word 'Inefficient' doesn't do justice to the B-2 mission, especially since the strategic aim was to stop a bunch of thugs in camouflage uniforms from shooting up peasants' homes with mortars and AK-47s."

"The Serb army is acting like beasts already. What better way to get back at Clinton than to kill those he's trying to protect?"

"You can't stop a massacre with a B-52."

"Serbia is a country that has borne grudges for 600 years. It was a Serbian nationalist who ignited the First World War and in the Second World War hundreds of thousands of Nazi troops were tied down by guerillas.

We don't have any idea what we're getting into. We certainly have no idea how to get out."

"War is a recurring show on CNN, with stock footage of aircraft and ships, and bright lights in a green sky. Like everything else in this country, it's mass entertainment."

"Don't the Serbs know this is supposed to be a media war?"

"Sometime in the future, somewhere in Serbia, there will be a memorial to the Battle of 1999. The only question is whether the Serbs will celebrate it as a victory
or a defeat."

"I hope the war is short enough so we'll forget even faster than usual."

Morse's web address is www.examiner.com.

Along similar lines, Blaine Harden of the New York Times, writing from Belgrade (3/27/99) in an article headlined, "A Military Loss by Yugoslav Forces Could Be
Political Plus for Milosevic:"

"Whispers about a face-saving Serbian loss to the world's most powerful military alliance began here long before NATO bombs started to fall on Yugoslavia."

The article goes on to describe that Kosovo is 90% ethnic Albanian, poor, undeveloped, and ungovernable anyway, so it would be no big loss as a practical matter, but it is the root of Serbian nationalism, and be regarded as the death-blow to Serbian nationhood, which makes all the difference.

No Serbian leader can afford, therefore, to surrender Kosovo. Losing it to superior forces, a la Prince Lazar, is a different story. "It sometimes looks like America and Europe are doing all things to support Milosevic," according to a 31-year-old rock musician in Belgrade. "After the bombing and the loss of Kosovo, he will be [even] stronger."

"If it [Kosovo] is lost, we keep the right to reconquer it, even 100 years from now," a Serbian official was quoted as saying. "If we give it away, it is lost forever."

"Milosevic burned his bridges with the Albanians in 1989 when he ended the autonomy they were given by Tito in 1974," according to another observer, a writer.

Hardin reports that in "1989 Milosevic played his first nationalist card in Kosove by stripping ethnic Albanians of political rights and tapping into long simmering
rage among hardline Serbs who resented the Albanians political power in Tito's Yugoslavia. He elbowed aside his communist superiors in Belgrade and skyrocketed to power in Serbia. He probably could have made a deal with political leaders in Kosovo, who at the time were pacifists. Those pacifists, however, lost popular power last year to leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army whose members were fed up with go-slow policies that bought little but Serbian repression. Those leaders won wide-spread support among Albanians by vowing to fight for independence."

Latest reports have it that the Serbs are committing a bloodbath of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo right now. A commentator on the tube has just mentioned that air
power alone ain't gonna do it; expect ground troops to be ordered in soon.

My own view is that this U.S.-NATO attack will either avert WWIII or ignite it. Negative signs are that individual Russians are volunteering to go to Serbia to fight for their "brothers." Positive signs are that these are civilians. Yeltsin is holding back, despite the rhetoric. Too broke and dependent on the West to join in, perhaps, unlike in WWI, when they did.

On the issue of invading a country to stop it from mistreating, massacring, its own citizens, various commentators note that previously this was a breach of international law, but that since WWII, this has been changing. The trend seems to be that it will be recognized as lawful and proper (hence not chargeable as
war-crime, later) when done in the interests of justice, essentially.

My guess?

Ground troops go in under a NATO banner. Milosevic wins by losing, just as Saddam has kept an even stronger grip on power after losing, simply by declaring victory to his true-believing followers. The troops stay for as long as necessary, which could be for a long time.

Why does the U.S. get involved in doing this? Where there's little or no oil interest?

Because it seems we are speaking, and acting, for a larger principle, even larger than honoring commitments to avoid the loss of respect, power, and prestige that comes from backing away from commitments, which only invites more incursions to test our will.

The larger principle is a humanitarian principle that is an essential component to the Western Civilization in which we find ourselves the current leader, whether we all like it or not. It holds that nations may not wipe out ethnic groups within their territory. The term, since WWII, is genocide. We've learned not to tolerate it, even when we look the other way for as long as we can. Ultimately we may
just do something about it, however long it takes. It takes time to paste together these coalitions, and they tend to come unglued. I support the doing of it. Had we done it to Hitler, we might have been spared the Holocaust.

At least we're trying. What sense does it make to be the world's superpower, and allied with the European Community, another power in its own right, if genocide
in their back yard cannot be stamped out.

I applaud the effort. I hope it works
without igniting the tinderbox, to use the word Clinton used in his message to Congress, a word used earlier to describe the Balkans on the eve of WWI, according to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, last nite.

-rs




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