Land War in Kosovo?

Evacuation to Guam, Guantánamo, Germany, or Turkey provides no solution to the Kosovo refugee problem. The only acceptable solution for the refugees is to go back to their homes (those homes that survive), provided with security in which to rebuild their lives. As the Italian and French governments said, in refusing to take the refugees, their resettlement abroad means collaboration in Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. His fait accompli is ratified. Nor is NATO’s crisis solved by turning troops to relief efforts. The vocation of an army is to kill, not do social work.

The only solution to the crisis is a NATO victory that makes the refugees’ return possible. It is useless to talk now about a cease-fire or about resumed negotiations. New negotiations with President Milosevic at this point would concede NATO’s defeat. Kosovo’s partition would be a defeat. Enclaves inside Kosovo for the refugees also mean NATO’s defeat.

If there is not a NATO victory over Serbia there will no longer be a NATO. But no victory now is imaginable without a land campaign. The debate over intervention is no longer a dispute over means to an end. It is a debate over abandoning NATO and the American claim to international leadership.

If the United States vetoes a land intervention, which is supported by a majority of French and British opinion, the United States can forget about NATO. Events since March 24 have already greatly weakened confidence in NATO-assured collective security in Europe, or anywhere else.

Polls conducted April 1-2 in Britain found 66 percent support for British participation in a NATO ground attack on Serbian forces—up 19 percent in a single week. Only 27 percent of the respondents were opposed to this (7 percent were undecided). A poll taken April 3 in France found 58 percent support for ground intervention. In a separate French poll, 55 percent of the respondents favored French ground intervention even without NATO.

The French government, however, remains silent on land intervention. Tony Blair has said that Europe must see this affair through to its end, even if the United States does not; yet on Sunday, April 4, his foreign secretary, Robin Cook, ruled out ground action and Blair said “a NATO invasion force is not an alternative, because it would take weeks to assemble, during which time the emptying of Kosovo would continue.” Shortly before that, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana was made to withdraw remarks favoring a refugee “protection force.”

Pressure against intervention presumably is coming from Washington. Congressional opposition is very strong, although Newsweek says 54 percent of the American public would now send troops “to help bring peace.” Washington policymakers still see Kosovo through the distorting glass of the American presidential campaign.

This moral isolation is by now characteristic of Washington, and is potentially lethal for American national interests. The refugees’ fate and the question of a land campaign are handled by the White House and Congress (and much of the press) with regard to what any…

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