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Jewish World Review /March 4, 1999 /16 Adar, 5759

Don Feder

Don Feder Starship Clinton orbits Kosovo

(JWR) --- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com) In A History of the Twentieth Century, Vol. 1 (1900-1933)" Martin Gilbert covers of few of the antecedents of Balkans' mayhem.

During the century's first decade, driven by promises of more local autonomy from the ruling Ottoman Empire, Macedonia's rival factions engaged in what's come to be known as ethnic cleansing.

Greeks and Bulgarians burned each other's villages to the ground. Serbs and Albanians got it on. In a two-month period in 1906, more than 400 were killed.

Ninety years later, the struggle has shifted to neighboring Kosovo, a province of Serbia with a predominantly Albanian Moslem population. Despite the alleged peace talks scheduled to resume on March 15, this week saw renewed carnage -- kidnappings and assassinations by the Kosovo Liberation Army and a Serb military offensive.

Obsessed with the Balkans (which Turks, Austrians and Marshal Tito all in their turn failed to pacify), Clinton and NATO have determined to end the year-long conflict in Kosovo.

Both sides are coerced (the Serbs with talk of air strikes) to accept a 3-year interim accord, including limited autonomy, that no one wants. Ethnic Albanian Kovars demand independence. Serbia is determined to retain the province.

To oversee the arrangement, NATO would provide 28,000 troops, including 4,000 Americans. Our military even has a name for the proposed plunge into a black hole -- Operation Joint Guardian.

Bill Clinton assures us that he would never deploy U.S. forces in Kosovo without a clear "exit strategy."

Would that be anything like the exit strategy in Bosnia, where our presence was supposed to last a year? Four years later, almost 7,000 U.S. troops are still on the ground.

They and the other 25,000 NATO personnel are all that keeps bloody hell from breaking loose. Other than separating the warring factions, Western intervention in Bosnia has achieved nothing.

Bosnia isn't Clinton's only interventionist triumph. In Port-au-Prince this week, gunmen shot and killed a Haitian senator, the third lawmaker murdered since 1996. So much for the democracy we supposedly restored to Haiti in 1993.

Haiti remains what it was before the Marines landed -- a desperately poor country on the verge of anarchy.

A stalemate between its president and parliament has lasted 18 months. The legislature has prevented the appointment of a prime minister and approval of a budget. In January, President Rene Preval decided he could govern without it and dissolved the parliament.

In the meantime, as a Newsday story relates, "vigilante death squads roam the capital with hand-scribbled hit lists and rusting machetes."

If Clinton failed with a nation that's an easy commute to Miami, where the factions are at least united by a common nationality, how can he expect to succeed in the Kosovo, where opponents are divided by religion, ethnicity and rivers of spilled blood?

Speaking to the press on Feb. 24, Clinton declared, "The United States does have a direct interest in whether there is instability in the Balkans." And the last time there was stability in the Balkans was?

We are told that continued fighting in Kosovo could spill over into Macedonia, which could conceivably draw in Greece and Turkey (both NATO allies), which might lead directly to armageddon.

It's equally plausible that Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic will cross the Adriatic Sea and attack Italy, cutting off our source of designer clothes, or the KLA will hook up with Osama bin Laden and the Islamic Jihad for a combined assault on Saudi oil fields.

Every senseless commitment of U.S. troops abroad further erodes our capacity to respond to real threats to our vital interests in the Middle East or Asia.

North Korea's ballistic missiles could menace us by the year 2000. China continues to export missile technology to the most thuggish Third World states. Still, Clinton can't find the funds for a missile defense system.

According to Gary Schmitt, writing in the Feb. 15 Weekly Standard, the administration's fiscal 2000 defense budget will leave the Army underfunded by $2.5 billion (the Navy and Air Force $3 billion short) to meet current requirements. But Clinton has any amount of money for the Balkans.

These are the voyages of the Starship Clinton, whose 8-year mission is to inject U.S. forces into bloody ethnic conflicts in which the United States has no conceivable security interest, putting our soldiers needlessly at risk and undermining our ability to respond to genuine threats.

It boldly goes where no administration has gone before --- for good reason.


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©1998, Boston Herald; distributed by Creators Syndicate, Inc.