Republican uncertainty concerning foreign policy is a reflection of
our society’s failure to reorient itself as to international issues in a
post-Cold War world. Democrats would be experiencing similar
uncertainty, but for the fact that their party leader is currently
serving as president, and they must reflexively support him at all costs
– including at the cost of deep reflection about the proper U.S.
foreign policy role.
During the Cold War, foreign-policy issues were conceptually less
difficult (at least for Republicans). There were two military
superpowers in the world; one constitutionally committed to the
worldwide expansion of communism. In those days, our national interests
always seemed to coincide with our humanitarian concerns — containing
the expansion of tyrannical communism by definition was humane and
unquestionably in our national interests.
Many are asserting that the horrible atrocities committed by Slobodan
Milosevic against the Kosovar Albanians are reason enough to compel U.
S. military intervention, presumably regardless of all other
considerations. They say that we cannot permit genocide to occur in the
heart of Europe.
Even certain conservative editorialists argue that our intervention
was morally mandatory and that all Republicans opposed to U.S.
intervention are America First isolationists. This absolutely is not the
Many Republicans opposed to the bombings are not isolationists or
America “Firsters.” America Firsters were opposed to the Gulf War
intervention, a cause overwhelmingly supported by other Republicans.
Those who would morph into Pat Buchanan every Republican who has serious
misgivings about this operation are following the liberal lead of
accusing everyone who disagrees with their policies as being heartless
and uncompassionate (not that Pat is uncompassionate, but that is their
The situation in Kosovo is very complex and doesn’t readily lend
itself to black-and-white solutions. There is no question that Serbian
dictator Milosevic is an evil man engaging in the ethnic cleansing
(including murder and displacement from the nation) of Kosovar
Albanians. So on one side we have an unmitigated bad guy.
But the cause around which he is flaming the nationalistic fervor of
his Serbian people is not so clearly evil. Kosovo is not a sovereign
nation, but a province of Serbia, one of Yugoslavia’s two remaining
republics. Kosovo is not just another piece of contiguous real estate.
It is the spiritual heart of Serbia, of which the Serbians believe they
have been wrongfully deprived for almost all of the past 600 years. The
point is that absent the atrocities, it would be difficult to deny that
Serbia has every right to take the necessary steps to retain the
important Kosovo province within its domain.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the other side,
apart from the innocent civilians, does not have clean hands. The
Kosovar Liberation Army is reputedly financed by Iranian drug money.
Moreover, we ultimately decided to begin the bombing because
Milosevic would not agree to the negotiated peace agreement, which
involved autonomy but not independence for the Kosovars.
Most experts acknowledge that in order for NATO to exert sufficient
force to win it will have to cripple Serbia’s military forces, which
would likely lead to her impotence to prevent Kosovo from achieving
total independence — a result not desired by NATO. NATO doesn’t favor
complete independence, believing that it would destabilize the region
and set a contagious precedent for ethnic insurgencies throughout
Europe. So, in other words, if we do what it takes to win, we lose.
There is no question that our humanity makes it difficult to sit idly
by as we observe the slaughter of innocents anywhere in the world. But
humanitarian reasons alone cannot possibly justify intervention in every
case. Otherwise as a nation, we have a great deal of explaining to do to
the victims in Rwanda and elsewhere.
If our foreign-policy decisions cannot be wholly guided by our
national interests, they must at least be qualified by them. We cannot
pursue every humane mission in the world, irrespective of the
consequences to our nation. What if, for example, this Kosovar operation
depleted our military resources to the point that Saddam could pursue
the unfettered development of nuclear weaponry? This would immediately
turn a humane cause into one with gravely inhumane consequences.
The end of the Cold War and our nearly surreal, antiseptic victory in
the Gulf War may be fueling an American arrogance of perceived
invincibility and moral superiority. We would be well advised to
disassociate our military might from our moral calculations. Just
because we can intervene doesn’t always mean we should.
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