As of this writing, NATO is continuing with Operation Allied Force even though Serbia’s offensive against Kosovar Albanians is seemingly unaffected. It is obvious to observers across the political spectrum, expect the president, that the air war as it is being fought will not achieve any meaningful results. It will not save the Kosovars from being brutalized by Serbian forces. It will not stop more mass graves.
And most importantly, it will not rid the world of the real culprit, Slobodan Milosevic.
Ever since World War II, the United States has been either unwilling or unable to decisively win wars. It seems that Americans forgot all the lessons of that war when it approached conflicts in Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. The United States and its allies did not defeat Hitler and Tojo with timidity and self-imposed restraints.
If we learned anything from WWII, it was that overwhelming force, early on, is the only way to ensure victory. It was obvious at the time that allowing the brutal regimes in Berlin and Tokyo to survive the war was not an option.
This lesson was forgotten first when China entered the Korea conflict, and again when the United States poured 500,000 American troops into Vietnam with neither the inclination nor moral courage to win. The Gulf War saw the United States decimate the Iraqi government and war machine, but Saddam was left to fight another day.
Last year, we saw the United States and Great Britain launch a brief attack against Iraq for continuing to violate its obligations. They declared victory and went home. Now, not only is Saddam in control of Iraq, but he is free of U.N. weapons inspectors and, thanks to President Clinton’s seven-year war on the military budget, not threatened by any immediate attacks.
Today in Yugoslavia, the United States is bombing factories and oil depots, but the Serbian army continues to eradicate the Albanians in Kosovo. We have failed to target any senior Serbian leadership. Milosevic, though much vilified by President Clinton, sleeps comfortably in his bed knowing that our commander in chief does not have the spine to fight the man who most deserves it.
American troops should not be sent around the world on missions that are clearly not in our national interest. But the stability of Europe and putting an end to the meticulously-planned genocide of the Kosovars is clearly in our interest. Our interests will not be served by simply threatening the introduction of U.S.-led, NATO ground troops. Milosevic and his forces have been allowed to commit far too many crimes to simply force another Faustian bargain that Serbia will soon violate.
To win this war, Serbia must be threatened directly. NATO forces should not be placed in Albania to invade Kosovo; they should be placed in the latest NATO member – Hungary. From Hungary NATO troops can sweep down directly to Belgrade and threaten the heart of Milosevic’s brutal regime. The terrain is perfect for our armored forces – unlike the rugged terrain in Kosovo and southern Serbia that have given NATO aircraft so much trouble.
Admittedly it may be difficult for a draft-dodger to look brave men and women in eyes and send some of them off to their deaths, but if U.S. leadership is to mean anything, then that is exactly what President Clinton must do.
It is time to shed our debilitating Vietnam-syndrome that has consistently undermined the United States from defending its vital interests. The United States has never sought war and it has done everything in its power to avoid war. But if we are to fight, we must fight to win.
-The writer is a senior majoring in political science.