Disciples of Genghis Khan


February 22, 1993|By JEANE KIRKPATRICK

The most striking aspect of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was its extreme and gratuitous brutality -- gratuitous because so much of the torture, rape and murder of civilians was unnecessary to Kuwait's conquest. The same excessive violence has characterized the Serbian attack on Bosnians, Muslims and Croatians during the last year.

Both of these military operations have more closely resembled sadistic orgies than the rational, disciplined use of force characteristic of modern military organizations. Both have shown no more regard for the laws of war than the laws of civilization.

This unbounded appetite for conquest and violence defines these leaders and these regimes. It is clear from the nature of Saddam Hussein's attacks on Iran, on Kuwait, on Kurds and on Shiites that he is a man who not only desires to govern, he needs to make war. He not only desires power, he desires destruction.

And it is clear from Slobodan Milosevic's campaigns against peaceable people in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo that he is motivated not merely by nationalism but by fanaticism, and by ambition that has become a lust for violence.

These leaders have engaged in a pursuit of total power that obliterates those whom they conquer. They have conducted a special kind of politics and war, a kind of politics that was articulated by the Mongol conqueror, Genghis Khan:

''A man's highest job in life is to break his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all the things that have been theirs, to hear the weeping of those who cherished them, to take their horses between his knees and to press in his arms the most desirable of their women.''

Obviously, such an appetite for power is dangerous to all those who have the misfortune to encounter it. It is dangerous not only because the men and their associates rape, murder and steal, it is dangerous because it reminds other imperfectly civilized men of these forbidden pursuits and potential gratifications.

That is one important reason that such men and such violence must not be permitted to succeed. There is another equally important reason that men such as Mr. Hussein and Mr. Milosevic must be contained. It is because they cannot contain themselves.

Saddam Hussein cannot accept limits on his power -- except under extreme duress. This is why he systematically murders loyal lieutenants on whose skills he becomes dependent. It is why again and again he defies and provokes U.N. inspectors who arrive to monitor the terms of armistice.

But his withdrawal in the face of Desert Storm demonstrated that he is not legally insane. He can respond to overwhelming force or the threat of force if it is credible enough.

George Bush developed credibility. But thus far no one has stopped Mr. Milosevic and his Serbian allies from their violent binge. By now they have no reason to suppose anyone will. The European Community and the United Nations have demanded an end to ''ethnic cleansing'' and an end to attacks on civilians. They have demanded cooperation by all parties in permitting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Sarajevo and other parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They have called for a no-fly zone.

But ''ethnic cleansing'' has continued and the no-fly zone has not been enforced. Humanitarian assistance has not been permitted to reach starving Bosnians.

And, proving that Mr. Milosevic's ''Greater Serbia'' is as large as his ambition, Serbian repression of the population of Kosovo is under way. More than 200,000 have already fled from this land Mr. Milosevic claims for Serbia.

Such men do not negotiate ''political'' solutions. They just go on expanding their power until they encounter an overwhelming counterforce. That being the case, what should the United States do?

First, deliver humanitarian assistance, by force if necessary.

Second, enforce the no-fly ban over Bosnia and end the heavy shelling of civilians.

Third, secure the immediate release of Bosnians and Croatians held in concentration camps.

Fourth, demand the right of refugees to return to their homes. Restore to former owners the property seized by force during ''ethnic cleansing.''

If it is deemed feasible, new resolutions could be passed by the U.N. Security Council, specifically authorizing the use of all necessary means. If not, help could be offered under the U.N. Charter's Article 51, which states the rights of self-defense and collective self-defense. Then and only then might it make sense to introduce U.N. peacekeepers into the region.

Until then, determination, clarity and sharply focused air power should prove more useful.

I am advocating for Bosnia what President Clinton advocated when he was a candidate. Mr. Clinton should re-read his old speeches. They recognized that, like Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic and his friends are very dangerous, but not insane. If the price of aggression is high enough, they will cease aggression.

Jeane Kirkpatrick writes a syndicated column.

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