Crisis in Kosovo provokes flood of views


April 10, 1999

President Clinton has tried hard to make a case for intervening in Yugoslavia, arguing that Slobodan Milosevic is a modern Hitler and suggesting that waging an undeclared war against Serbia will help put an end to years of bloodletting in a Balkan civil war fueled by ancient ethnic hatreds. But those arguments are exaggerated and the president's own credibility is now on the line.

As devious, ruthless and power-hungry as he is, Mr. Milosevic is no Hitler. That German leader, and his demented stab at global power, is in a class of his own. Mr. Milosevic is no different from a number of contemporary scoundrel-despots holding sway over hapless nations where other ethnic cleansings are occurring that, for some reason, are undeserving of the president's highly selective moral outrage. Rwanda, for one, comes to mind.

The Hitler analogy is an exaggeration and the policy of ending ethnic conflict by inflicting violence on one side defies logic. Genocide to end genocide? But let's give the president the benefit of the doubt, even if at this point he has given us many reasons to distrust him.

If Mr. Clinton honestly believes that Mr. Milosevic is a Hitler, then he must to eliminate Mr. Milosevic quickly, decisively and completely. The president must throw the whole weight of U.S. military might against this Serbian despot; a modern-day Hitler should be dealt with in no other way.

Therefore, a crucial and revealing test for the president is his willingness to commit ground troops to the battle, however unpopular and unpalatable that might be. If Clinton is unwilling to do this, it will seem that he is again just selling us a bill of goods. That would feed the suspicion that an unspoken, scandal-related agenda is behind these piecemeal bombings, which as yet have only worsened the problem it was supposed to correct -- so far the bloodbath has only increased in direct proportion to the bombings.

At question here is Bill Clinton's integrity as it relates to a very serious foreign policy matter that may involve the sacrifice of American lives. Unfortunately, our president faces this crisis burdened with some unwieldy baggage: Most Americans just don't trust him.

Ray L. Cabigon, Towson

In their arrogance, our leaders reserve the ultimate threat of a land invasion of Serbia, apparently assuming that the NATO armies would surely destroy Serbian resistance in short order.

But the fact is that NATO would be attacking a desperate people in their own homeland, a wild and mountainous place that would thwart our mechanized army. It would be like the disastrous Russian invasion of Finland in 1939. For weeks on end, the Soviets lost a division a day to Finnish ski troops.

Or perhaps a better analogy would be to the British efforts to control colonial America, in which what was then the world's strongest army was utterly defeated by a ragtag army of farmers fighting on their own turf.

Michael Kernan, Baltimore

I had to do a double take after reading your March 26 editorial "The enemy is a policy, not the Serbian people." In that piece, you argue that "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." But I have to ask: Who can take this president at his word? The man is a liar. The man is corrupt. And you say take him at his word?

Bob Valerius, Baltimore

Bombing alone will not win this war in Yugoslavia, just as it did not defeat the Nazis in World War II or the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army in Indochina. To prevail, we will have to put men and women troops on the ground in ever-increasing numbers -- and, to this prospect, I say no.

But the choice on Kosovo is stark and clear: Either go in all-out to win or get out as soon as possible. If we don't make a clear choice, this war will make Vietnam look like a polite garden party.

Blaine Taylor, Towson

The Serbian people today have forgotten their heritage, and they dishonor the memory of their past leaders who sought to bring a disparate land together.

If the Serbian people cannot find a way to reject the regime in Belgrade and, instead, acquiesce in sending their young men to perform the unspeakable atrocities their government orders, they will create implacable enemies with memories as long as those of the Jews, Palestinians and Irish. Endless terrorism will then be Serbia's inheritance.

Thomas Nastoff, Baltimore

In Kosovo, we can win a war in the air, without sacrificing ground troops. Thank you, Mr. President, and the few believers who are standing by you.

Jerry Rothal, Owings Mills

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