As the barn door is being closed in Kosovo, propaganda machines all
over the world are being revved up to begin the spins over who won this
misbegotten, non-war war.

As is its wont, the Clinton administration is claiming victory and
touting it through a vast array of cooperative media channels. The
scripted party line is this: The air war succeeded when everyone doubted
it could; we achieved our objectives without taking a single casualty;
Slobodan Milosevic waved the white flag of unconditional surrender and
agreed to all of NATO’s demands; and Bill Clinton redeemed himself
against all odds and won the day.

These claims are mostly pap, approaching the delusional. Those who
spout these absurdities are banking on the engulfing gullibility and
pervasive ignorance of a large contingent of the American people.

There was no unconditional surrender. If there had been, our generals
would have met with President Milosevic face to face, dictated terms,
and hauled him off in chains. Instead, what we have is a negotiated
settlement, achieved through the good offices of Viktor Chernomyrdin of
Russia and President Martii Ahtisaari of Finland.

As to the “success” of the air war, what was proved is that it is
possible for a superpower to bomb a small and defenseless country into
smithereens with 10 weeks of around-the-clock bombing. We only killed a
couple of thousand innocent civilians while demolishing an entire,
albeit small, nation. Break out the champagne — and cigars!

However, the question we need to ask has nothing to do with who is
stronger or has better weapons. The revealing question is this: Who is
better off now than before the bombing began? If we can figure out who
profited in some meaningful way, we will know who should receive a
victory medal and bragging rights.

Are the ethnic Albanians who lived in Kosovo better off now than
before NATO came to their defense? If the undeclared war had an
overriding mission, it was to rescue these people. However, almost all
of the “ethnic cleansing” occurred after the effort to rescue them
began. It is not unfair or inaccurate to state that the air war did not
prevent one rape, one murder or one atrocity in Kosovo.

More than 1 million refugees were driven from their homes. If they
now choose to return, they will return to ashes and rubble.

Under the terms of the peace agreement, Kosovo will not gain its
independence but will remain a part of Yugoslavia. The Kosovo Liberation
Army will be disarmed, and Kosovo will be occupied by NATO and United
Nations troops for years to come.

Since the Kosovars are clear losers, did the Serbs win? Hardly. The
entire infrastructure of their country has been destroyed — roads,
bridges, utilities, factories and government buildings. Schools,
hospitals and homes are without water and electricity. The 10 million
citizens of greater Yugoslavia have been sentenced to years of pain,
disease and poverty. Their economy has sustained blows from which it may
never fully recover.

Clearly, the Serbs are not winners. What of the United States — did
we win a great victory, and are we admired throughout the world for our
courage and compassion?

We now own another international quagmire from which we cannot
extract ourselves. If that is victory, we can claim it. We have arrived
at the same kind of standoff we achieved in Bosnia, where the parties
and factions will be at each other’s throats as soon as we leave.

Although Clinton promised that our troops would be out of Bosnia by
Christmas of 1996, they are still there, at a cost to taxpayers of over
$9 billion and counting.

The ethnic enmities we are dealing with in Yugoslavia date back to
the 14th century. If we intend to stand guard protecting these ancient
enemies from each other until the hatreds dissipate, we will be there
until San Francisco freezes over, or until Jesus returns, whichever
comes first.

In his Memorial Day speech, Bill Clinton pledged that “… to avoid
future Bosnias and future Kosovos, we will learn the lesson of the
Marshall Plan … by working with our European allies to build
prosperity and cooperation in southeastern Europe. …”

Between 1948 and 1951, America sent about $13 billion in food,
machinery and other products to Europe to aid in reconstruction after
World War II. That was the Marshall Plan. The repair of the damage our
moral crusade has inflicted on the Balkans will cost many times more
than that.

Perhaps the greatest price we will pay is to live in a world in which
more nations and people hate, fear, and distrust America than at any
other time in our history.

The advice of Thomas Jefferson sounds better all the time: “Peace,
commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances
with none.”

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