Memo To: President Bill Clinton
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: What went wrong?
In your press conference the other day, I noticed that you expressed puzzlement that it took so long for the bombing campaign to bring Slobodan Milosevic to his knees. Your Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, told you it would take three days max and it turned out to be 78. If you really are puzzled, you should ask around, and you will find that Ms. Albright is incompetent at what she does over there in Foggy Bottom. She may be better suited to driving the tank around that Michael Dukakis used in his 1988 campaign. I don't have 20-20 foresight, Mr. President, but even I could see from a distance two years ago that the Lady Diplomat was one of the "Ten Most Dangerous People in the World." Hey, Milosevic did not even make the list. I told my friend, and yours, Jack Kemp, back then that this lady was going to cause a lot of problems for the world, but he said maybe we should give her a chance. Jack is a compassionate conservative. Anyway, now that the dust has settled, several thousand people are dead or maimed, and at least $100 billion in real property has been turned to ash. (Although I see in Monday's NYTimes that the Serbs played that old Russian trick on our NATO commanders, setting out cardboard trucks and tanks for them to blow up from 10,000 feet. Each missile expended cost at least, what, $2 million? And the Serbs still have all their real stuff in caves and places even the Nazis could not find.)
Ask around, Mr. President, and you will begin to realize Ms. Albright is not going to get the Nobel Peace Prize for her diplomatic tour de force at Rambouillet. If I were Jack, I would not stop at calling for her resignation, as he does in the accompanying op-ed in the Sunday Washington Times. Alas, Jack is kinder and gentler than I am, at least lately. I also would have called for the resignation of your Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, who in fact should be named the Poet Laureate of the Library of Congress. His pay also should be docked until he pays for all those missiles he dropped on all those cardboard tanks, when he was not dropping bombs on convoys of Kosovo civilians who were trying to get out of his way. By the way, you might not have had to read Jack's op-ed here, reprinted from the Washington Times. But when he sent it first to the NYTimes, which he knows you read without fail, In their infinite wisdom on what you should read and not read, the Times editors rejected it without comment after sniffing it for a week. Read on, Mr. President.
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June 27, 1999, Sunday, Final Edition
Artfully Woven Web of Deceit
By Jack Kemp
Official Washington and the sleepy "establishment" media are agog over President Clinton's "great victory" in the Balkans. Even the president's critics grant him a stupendous foreign policy success. "Victory," screams the editorial headline of the Weekly Standard, and the editorialist goes on to proclaim, "Slobodan Milosevic's capitulation to U.S. and NATO demands represents a triumph for...President Clinton, and for the small but stalwart group of Republicans...who supported the war from beginning to end." The National Review's senior editor Peter Rodman said on C-Span's "Washington Journal" that it would be "churlish" of Bill Clinton's critics now to criticize the Clinton/ NATO policy in Kosovo after events have proved it right.
"Milosevic's capitulation to NATO demands?" "NATO proved right?" My goodness, what delusions are emanating from inside the Washington Beltway; what fabrications are being perpetrated on the American people. The truth of this war is the exact opposite of the establishment's portrayal. It was an unnecessary, and in my opinion illegal and unconstitutional, war from the beginning. It failed on every score to achieve the goals articulated to justify it, exacerbated the very problems it sought to remedy and created new problems that will plague America and the Balkans for years to come. It was, in short, a debacle, an "international Waco," which no amount of "spinning" by NATO and the media can erase. We could have had the same, or perhaps even a better deal at Rambouillet if we had been willing to, in Winston Churchill's words, "jaw jaw instead of war war!"
President Clinton, spurred on by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in particular, led NATO to start an unprovoked and unjustified war out of pique because the Yugoslavian government, as would any other sovereign nation, refused to consent to two provisions of the Rambouillet proposal that were insisted on by the Atlantic Alliance: (1) that Belgrade allow a foreign military alliance ( NATO) to occupy every square inch of its sovereign territory, billet its forces wherever it desired and receive immunity before the fact against "any claims of any sort" that might arise out of alliance activities (including criminal acts by NATO personnel); and (2) that Belgrade concede to a referendum after three years that would almost certainly have guaranteed independence for Kosovo and thus wrench it out of the Yugoslav Federation.
Far from capitulating to these NATO demands, which constituted an unambiguous assault on Yugoslavian sovereignty, Belgrade withstood 79 days of brutal bombing, while the Milosevic government ruthlessly exploited the opportunity to engage in killing and brutality by pillaging and conducting wholesale displacement and deportation of Kosovar Albanians, only a fraction of whom are ever likely to return to their homes. Far from stopping a humanitarian disaster, the NATO bombing provoked one. The Yugoslavian Parliament finally agreed to withdraw most of its troops from Kosovo only after NATO agreed to a peace accord that explicitly reaffirms Yugoslavian sovereignty and conspicuously omits both of the two unacceptable demands from Rambouillet.
Moreover, unlike Rambouillet, this accord will be adopted and implemented under the auspices of the United Nations. The international peacekeeping force called for in the agreement, while comprising troops from NATO countries, will be deployed in Kosovo only, under the auspices of the United Nations, and its actions will be authorized and limited by the U.N. And NATO has agreed wisely to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army.
NATO also claims at least to have salvaged its "credibility" by demonstrating the alliance will carry out even the most imprudently made threats when another sovereign nation refuses to knuckle under to its demands. But such a victory is dubious. The war NATO started in Kosovo -- the first offensive action in its history -- may have harmed the alliance's credibility far more than it helped. What NATO officials perceive as preserving its credibility and demonstrating its resolve, much of the rest of the world sees as bully tactics, leading them to ask whether America one day will, in the words of the New York Times' Abe Rosenthal, "fly over their lands to bomb them into submission for not carrying out our orders." As he went on to say, we should use our brains first and bombs last instead of the other way around.
An objective observer, I think, must conclude that, on paper at least, Mr. Milosevic has achieved, albeit at a very high price, what he sought at Rambouillet, while NATO, far from achieving a great triumph, has suffered an ignominious defeat, causing millions of innocent civilians great suffering in the process. The danger now is that NATO may concede Kosovo to an armed and menacing KLA in an attempt to save face.
The NATO bombing and the killing and destruction it wreaked in Yugoslavia were absolutely unnecessary to achieving the final terms of the current agreement. Even when judged narrowly in terms of the effect on NATO, the adventure was a failure. Since the NATO forces are placed under the auspices of the United Nations in the current peace accord (nowhere in the agreement is NATO mentioned), they will have less authority and flexibility to maintain the peace as they see fit than they would have had under the Rambouillet framework, absent the two unacceptable demands, which Slobodan Milosevic and the Russians were prepared to agree to in March before the bombing began.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said we must stand firm "when our will is tested." Her will is to see an Atlantic alliance that acts out-of-area in humanitarian missions through what Tony Blair and Third Way guru Anthony Giddens call "cosmopolitan interventionism," and woe to the country or individual who challenges their judgment.
This is not the way a defensive alliance should behave, especially in peacetime. This is not the way constitutional democracies should act at any time. In fact, in my judgement, President Clinton compounded the constitutional injury when he flouted the U.S. Senate's treaty-ratification power by helping to rewrite the NATO Charter at the 50th Anniversary meeting in April and then proceeding immediately to implement that rewritten charter in Kosovo without first presenting it to the Senate for ratification.
The Senate, the Greatest Deliberative Body in the World, now stands mute, aware that the president has in broad daylight stolen from it the constitutional power given it by the Founders to advise and consent on treaties with foreign powers. It seems as long as the establishment can rationalize its behavior on the grounds that both political parties silently assent to the evil act, it can be done without fanfare or press commentary.
But through this fog of lies, this culture of deceit that has enveloped our foreign policy, someone must call for truth or consequences. We have had precious little truth out of this war, and therefore I believe its chief architect, Madeleine Albright should resign before the administration's efforts to hijack the peace by implementing its illusions has disastrous consequences. It should make one's hair stand on end to hear the country's top diplomat say, as she did recently, "now, our diplomacy serves to back up our military." Both Mrs. Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen continue to insist NATO will run the show in Kosovo, and we have a standoff with Russia to show for it.
Make no mistake -- if NATO usurps control in Kosovo, even greater chaos and instability will result. If we value our relationship with Russia, if we want to improve our relations with China -- if we truly care about the principles of freedom and democracy that define our way of life -- we must begin to lead the world by example and with diplomacy not by bluster and bombs.
Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America.