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Jewish World Review June 23, 1999 /9 Tamuz 5759

Sam Schulman

Sam Schulman
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Kosovo Reckoning --
THE GODDESS FORTUNA was a late development in the Roman pantheon, becoming popular only in the late decadent phase of the Empire. She seems to be making a comeback. Why, when so much was going so well in the world, would Clinton let Albright lead him into a pointless and terrribly risky war? The wheel of Fortune has turned-a happy world has turned itself upside down. And yet Fortune works in other ways as well, producing comedy as well as tragedy.

What's comic? The notion that NATO has achieved its war aims and silenced its critics. It's now clear that the agreement we signed is not as good as the terms Yugoslavia offered before the war began. With the bombing began the massive dispossession of the Albanian Kosovars, as the UN Commissioner for Refugees and the US State Department recognizes, and the lives of those who survived this completely unnecessary exodus will never be the same. We fought, of course, because we believe that ethnic cleansing is wrong. And now, under the eyes of NATO soldiers, the KLA has already embarked on its own program of ethnic cleansing the Serbs and Gypsies. It turns out that there are good ethnic cleansers and bad ones.

Most comic has been the Russian occupation of the Pristina airport. That the Russians have triumphed may not have been accidental. It transpires, according to a little-noticed report in the Sunday Times, that Clinton's vanity about his victory may well have enabled the Russians to pull off their coup d'terminal. The Sunday Times reported that Clinton's desire to show off the U.S. Marines marching into Pristina side by side with our little European brothers was a crucial mistake.

" the Americans appeared all at sea. More than 2,200 US Marines were still aboard troopships. Some critics blamed the Greeks for not letting the US troops land; others claimed the marines were better placed on the ships than near Skopje, where camps and roads were clogged with troops.

A more likely reason for the delay was that the Americans wanted to be in on the show. "The Americans think that since they carried the ball during the air campaign, they deserve to be among the first units into Kosovo," said one senior diplomat.

Jackson, angered that political considerations were overriding military needs, put back his plans by 24 hours. It gave the Russians just enough time."

Now at the cost of just 200 badly paid soldiers, the Russians are protecting the Serbs, wrangling terms from desperate NATO leaders, and vindicating Charles Krauthammer's prediction on April 28 that they will be the big winners of this war.

Never have so few fought so languidly to achieve so little good and so much evil: a worse result than "appeasement" would have achieved, won at the expense of thousands of unavoidably dead Serbian civilians.

In an oddly impassioned article, which was then echoed (without attribution) by the Times editorial page, New Yorker editor David Remnick took President Clinton to task for reading the wrong books. Robert D. Kaplan's Balkan Shadows, he scolded, and its predecessor Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, erroneously that it was pointless to intervene in a part of the world where ethnic and religious enmities went back centuries. This argument, says Remnick, held Clinton back for years; and once he overcame it, he proved that it was very simple to solve such enmities, provided that enough bombs are dropped on civilians from high enough an altitude. These so-called historic enmities, Remnick suggests, are merely rather primitive peoples acting with typical childishness. A firm hand will soon sort them out.

Now we know that, far from having sorted out primitive ethnic enmities in short order, the NATO forces are about to be confronted with a rainbow of enmities. The KLA makes noises about disarmament-no doubt understanding that in the world of Clinton and Blair, merely agreeing to disarm allows an organization like the IRA actually to keep all its weapons forever. The KLA has embarked on a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Serb minority, and, no doubt, against any dissenters within the Albanian community. The Serb Kosovars are fleeing or settling in for a long violent period of resistance. The Gypsies are regarded by the Albanians as a fifth column to be purged.

My own mind is uncorrupted by reading Balkan Shadows. Rebecca West, whom I have read, did not say that ethnic warfare is endemic to the region-in fact the book is an urgent plea to the constituent nations of Yugoslavia to drop their hatred and unite to defend themselves against a Nazi onslaught. She does say, however, that it is a persistent fault of the west to pick one "pet" among the Yugoslav peoples and decide it is always the victim, while its enemies are always the bullies. Clearly we have done this with the Serbs and Kosovars. And the Albanians are about to prove that they can turn the Serbs and Gypsies into victims if they please.

But for the first time in weeks, some sense of reality may be creeping into the public's mind. In England the pundits declared that anyone who had not wholeheartedly supported Blair's sanctimonious war - like Conservative party leader William Hague-were committing political suicide. But no sooner had this prediction been made then European parliament elections proved a triumph for Hague and a disaster for Blair. And not just in Britain-all over Europe the perpretrators of the Kosovo catastrophe have been punished at the polls-in Germany, Italy, Belgium and Spain particularly. Faced with a NATO "victory," European voters rejected the notion of a great European alliance, with one currency, one military, and one set of bureacrats. Saddest of all, but most apt, the great humanitarian war has claimed its first Nato victims-two Ghurkas who were trying to remove anti-personnel bombs NATO dropped in a schoolyard, while leaving the Yugoslav army and its tanks virtually unscathed. The wheel of Fortune is still spinning.

JWR contributor Sam Schulman is deputy editor of Taki's Top Drawer, appearing in New York Press, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University. You may contact him by clicking here.


06/15/99: A bet on our kids' future
06/08/99: Suddenly Samuel Berger
06/02/99: If Hitchens is not for Podhoretz, than whom shall he be for?
05/25/99: Kosovo's History Lessons
05/18/99: Faintheart
05/11/99: Is Literary Success Overrated?
05/04/99: A Better War
04/27/99: A Sahibs' War
04/21/99: The Two Bills
04/13/99: The Imp and the Ingenue
04/05/99: Col. Blimp is Alive ... and in Washington

©1999, Sam Schulman