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Opposing Viewpoints: NATO AIRstrikes

By Chris Jackson and Mary Fan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 25, 1999
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By Chris Jackson

Last night, the skies above the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were lit up by explosions when NATO aircraft and cruise missiles struck military targets in response to continued attacks by the Yugoslav army against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

After months of hollow threats, NATO was finally pushed to the breaking point last week, and ordered yesterday's attack.

It's about time it did.

Since 1989, Slobodan Milosevic has been pursuing a policy of Serbian ethnocentrism which tore Yugoslavia apart and left over 250,000 people dead. The Yugoslav president has seemingly forgotten the harsh lessons his people learned in World War II, when they were victims of Nazi atrocities, as he becomes a modern-day Hitler in his own right.

The Serbian policies of "ethnic cleansing" in Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo have left thousands of people displaced. The refugee problem in the Balkans is approaching nightmare status for neighboring countries such as Albania and Macedonia.

UN investigators found conclusive evidence that Serbian police massacred over 40 unarmed civilians earlier this year, and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Milosevic's forces are committing crimes against humanity, and with every diplomatic effort rebuffed, it has become clear the NATO air strikes were the only solution.

Men like Milosevic and Saddam Hussein only understand force. They don't back down any other way.

The United States and its allies had no choice but to bomb. Yes, innocent people will likely be killed. And it won't stop the fighting as fast as Congress would like it to. But it will give the Serbs a taste of their own medicine.

The world is a cruel, unforgiving place, and occasionally people have to be reminded of that. To stop this campaign of terror, NATO has to use its force. Like it or not, the U.S. and its allies are responsible for policing Europe.

There are two key reasons for doing this, and one is strategic, despite the claims of some that what happens in the Balkans means little to America. The Kosovo Nightmare Scenario, drawn up by the Defense Department, starts with a major Serbian crackdown on the Albanians in Kosovo. This has already happened.

Next up, Albania and Macedonia are drawn into the war. This in turn causes Greece and Bulgaria to move their forces into position to protect their minorities in those two countries. Something goes wrong, and Turkey comes in on the side of the Albanians, attacking its old nemesis Greece and splitting NATO.

Russia, in turn, would likely move against Turkey to protect its old ally Bulgaria. That in turn could force NATO to move against Russia, which in any sense could be called World War III.

All of that is theoretical, true, but there is perhaps a more compelling reason. It's the moral reason.

In 1945 the world said never again. In 1992 the world broke its promise in Bosnia. No one can make up for the sins of the past, we can only focus on our actions in the present. It's time to stop having regrets about our inability to act.

Innocent civilians are being murdered by the Yugoslav army. Entire villages are being burned to the ground. Over 60,000 people have been displaced in the past five days, 400,000 overall.

What the Serbs are doing is wrong. Not wrong in a political sense, but in a purely moral sense everyone can agree upon.

No one wanted it to end this way, but now that the attack has begun, it is time to support the decision. It is time to eliminate the Serbs' ability to make war, to threaten their neighbors and destabilize an entire region.

Milosevic forced this to happen, and now he has to pay the consequences.

Using force was the last option, but NATO had no choice but to do it. Now all we can do is pray for the men and women being sent into harm's way, and hope that for once in his life, Milosevic listens to reason.

Otherwise, phase two of the NATO attack should be his removal. Let's not repeat the mistake President Bush made with Saddam.

By Mary Fan

Believing becomes easy when our planes first go streaking against the enemy.

An ancient understanding takes over. Folks knot around their warriors and their media chroniclers, be they in parades or on television. In the newsroom, you see the sports writers and the news people, the arts clan and the editors all gathered gravely around the small TV.

There is a sudden flurry of same-sounding stories in the newspapers of any town with a nearby base, which in the big brave West is most any town you come across.

They all lead with a line like this: Duty calls for Maj. Nancy KilKain and her husband and children know it.

The accompanying photo is pure, unconscious propagandist poetry surpassing Stephen Crane in his day: Nancy, maybe holding her kid, silhouetted against a line of jets leading into the setting sun.

Suddenly, the once hotly-debated question of whether to interfere in another peoples' history seems clear.

It becomes easy to jump on the savior bandwagon. To mix our love for our warriors with unquestioning acquiescence to the battle. To buy the easy comparisons of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic with that stain on humankind, Adolf Hitler. To buy the truncated histories given by our war leaders like, ironically, President Bill Clifton, who paint the Serbians as aggressors against ethnic Albanians as if in those peoples' long histories, the flip side of the oppression had never been.

In truth, there is no wholly right side. Not one of the two warring peoples are without the stains in their memories of ethnic hatred for the enmity between Serbians and Albanians is an ancestral blood memory.

Still, big bluff America and our NATO allies, who have not breathed and been bred in this understanding, would trot in and slap labels, slap right and wrong and impose our limited understanding. In so doing, we would strip the people of this little patch of Europe of the right to forge their history.

It would not be the first time. Throughout the history of the "powderkeg" Balkans, the people there have been denied just this chance, overshadowed as they are by powers jousting for position. The entrance of the NATO alliance into this Yugoslavian affair again is just another in a long line of interference, of patronage on the part of greater powers choosing sides between the ethnic groups.

It is just this historical, forced playing to outside patronage that has prolonged and deepened the ethnic hatred between the two peoples. Compare their situation and hatred with the Hutu and Tutsi of Rwanda. Again, these are people of a region whose enmity began to become thoroughly entrenched when an "enlightened" European colonizing power took the side of one ethnic group over another.

Examine the lessons of these incursions. Has any understanding been reached? Any peace?

The answer is clear and so is the reason. No nation nor people can order another's history and understanding simply by showering more might into the fray. A people's history is their own. They cannot master it unless it is made by their autonomous actions.

Imagine if Britain or Japan had intervened when America was torn bloody in the throes of its own Civil War. Imagine if these outside nations, with values and historical understandings different from ours, had administered our post-Civil War Reconstruction and laid the path for our future. Where would we be? A once-colonized people at best, two factions permanently split by deep hatreds more likely.

Clearly there is no formula for the enlightenment that America and the NATO nations have achieved except a slow internal struggle untainted, uncircumvented by outside agents.

It is Yugoslavia's great misfortune that the NATO nations cannot see this facile truth, though it is a cornerstone of their internal liberal philosophies. And more than Yugoslavia's misfortune, it is that of every nation lavishing weaponry and citizenry in the vain hope that the Serbians might learn right from this show of might.

For peace is an understanding that comes only in the morning after the blood finally dries. Never will that morning come when outside powers and peoples keep supplying more blood.