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May 4, 1999

NATO's Intentions and the Balkans War Costs

by Jay Higginbotham

NATO’s intentions to prevent or lessen atrocities in Kosovo are assuredly admirable, even noble. Civilized societies cannot stand idly by while a people, any people, are abused, persecuted or murdered. Action in the Balkans by an outside agency was, without doubt, sorely needed. But what kind of action? Was bombing truly our only alternative? Even more important, what do such desperate actions bode for the future? Even if Milosevic were to yield tomorrow, what will likely be the long-term effects?

First, by launching airstrikes, we have crushed all political resistance to Milosevic throughout Yugoslavia. In one night we shattered a decade’s labor by liberal and conservative forces alike to build democratic opposition within Milosevic’s domain.

Secondly, bombing as a solution has heightened the dangers of nationalism, both in Yugoslavia and the world, spurring riots and demonstrations throughout Europe and Asia.

Thirdly, the problems already besetting the very people we were supposed to be rescuing have been exacerbated. NATO’s bombs uprooted and scattered hundreds of towns and villages, creating a climate more easily permitting vengeance on thousands of innocent victims.

In addition to the havoc wreaked on Kosovo and Serbia, the bombings have led to monstrous burdens on Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. As an example of the pressure, imagine America being one of the poorest countries in the New World with forty million refugees in Mexico clamoring to cross our borders into Texas.

Moreover, the bombings scattered peace monitors in the region and severely limited western news coverage of events. As a result of the assaults, many more innocent people (women, children and the elderly) are suffering hunger and mutilation. Serbian Christians, as well as Muslims, are dying too, lest we forget, despite our noblest intentions.

Further, the bombings are rapidly destroying the infrastructure of both Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Who will bear the costs of rebuilding the fabrics of these societies? Until such restructuring, the Balkans will see no return to normality.

In addition to offending large numbers of the world’s people by our apparent eagerness to use weapons of mass destruction, a frightful example has once again been set for national leaders beset by difficult problems. The world simply cannot continue to settle difference in this manner, however formidable such disputes may appear. If, as in this instance, when faced by a petty thug like Milosevic, we cannot be more creative than resorting to such weapons and techniques as we should reserve for a bona fide genocidist, such as Adolf Hitler, we shall continue to push human society toward extinction.


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