NECESSARY as the bombing of Yugoslavia is, it is also tragic. There must be no misunderstanding.
The enemy is not Yugoslavia or Serbia. The United States has no quarrel with Serbian nationality and pride. Serbs are a valiant and much-persecuted people who were the victims of genocide in the 1940s.
The enemy is not even President Slovodan Milosevic's despotic regime. The enemy and the target is Mr. Milosevic's brutal policy of genocide against Albanian people living in Kosovo.
None of the atrocities can be attributed to ethnic hatred, Balkan folkways, the legacy of centuries or similar myths perpetrated by the apologists for ethnic cleansing. Every atrocity that has been reported was conducted by a disciplined military unit acting under chain of command from the Milosevic government in Belgrade.
President Clinton, for all his faults, has stated both the necessity and the limits of the campaign well. The NATO bombing -- with wholehearted participation of the alliance -- is intended to persuade Mr. Milosevic to end the atrocities and to implement the peace plan to which he had agreed.
And, failing that, to stop his war machine in its tracks as it moves to destroy the homes and villages of civilians, which it continued to do yesterday.
NATO has not become the air arm of the Kosovo Liberation Army and opposes the KLA aim of carving independence for Kosovo. NATO does not mean to occupy Kosovo by force and has made no preparation to do so.
Mr. Clinton must be taken at his word, and held to his word, that no U.S. ground troops are headed to combat in Kosovo. The only use of U.S. ground troops that had been planned and that would be right is -- after the conflict -- as a component of a larger international force to police a settlement in Kosovo that had been agreed by the combatants.
President Milosevic, not President Clinton, is the one man who can and must stop the bombing.