by Eric Margolis © 1998 Eric Margolis
`No second Bosnia,' solemnly chorus NATO leaders, as they watch Serb forces in Kosova use tanks, gunships and heavy artillery to ethnically cleanse 100,000 Albanians. `We won't tolerate it.'
Like Bosnia, the west again calls on victims of Serb savagery to `be reasonable,' and negotiate with their tormentors. Translation: Albanians, don't disturb us, or the status quo. Please die quietly.'
US envoy Richard Holbrooke, who colluded with Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic to sell out Bosnia, seems to be repeating similar double-dealing in Kosova. Again, Washington turns to Milosevic, creator of the Balkan bloodbath, as its silent partner. `He can deliver,' assures realpolitik-meister Holbrooke.
Yesterday, NATO Secretary General Xavier Solana proclaimed independence for Kosova 's Albanians - 92% of population - would NOT be tolerated. This now makes NATO, which has been threatening to punish Serbia, a de facto ally of Milosevic! NATO and Milosevic have identical strategy: keep Kosova under Serb rule.
Completing this fiesta of duplicity and hypocrisy, Canada and France sanctimoniously announced they would agree to military action to stop the slaughter in Kosova ONLY if authorized by the UN Security Council. Both alliance weak sisters are clearly counting on Russia, Serbia's ally, to veto any resolution calling for force.
France is historically pro-Serb. Canada pretends to be part of NATO, but has resorted to smary subterfuges to avoid, or delay, any actual military action in Kosova. Ottawa is repeating its disgraceful behavior in Bosnia, when it single- handedly vetoed air attacks by NATO - which could have saved tens of thousands civilian lives - preposterously claiming armed intervention would `endanger' peacekeeping. Canada got peace, all right, a peace of the dead.
More dj vu. As divided NATO debates military strikes, critics assert stopping ethnic cleansing in Kosova will require `hundreds of thousands of troops.' Serb anti-aircraft defenses are deadly; Serbs will fight ferociously; you can't fight in mountains. You can't win a war from the air!
We heard exactly the same nonsense in Bosnia. Remember claims by pro-Serb general, Lewis Mackenzie, that stopping the war in Bosnia would require hundreds of thousands of troops? Warnings Bosnia would become Vietnam II?
It took only a few days of precision air strikes to stop the Serbs, and end their massacres. The same applies to Kosova. If NATO really wants to stop war and ethnic cleansing, then it should:
If Serbia still refuses to halt the Kosova slaughter: shut Serbia's sole egress to the sea through Montenegro; cut off its oil; bomb power plants, as in Iraq; destroy key rail and road bridges.
- Destroy Serb's 70's vintage Soviet AA missile systems and radars using cluster-warhead Tomahawk land-attack missiles, showers of HARM anti-radiation misisiles, jamming and information warfare to wreck enemy computer systems. The F-117 Stealth fighter is designed for this job. Use it.
- Take out Serb communications networks and command headquaretrs(C3). Destruction of Serb communications in Bosnia proved decisive.
- Attack all major concentrations of armor, artillery, armored vehicles, and their logistic trains, using wide-area cluster munitions and ATACMS and MLRS rocket batteries firing from northern Albania. They proved devastating against Iraqi vehicles and guns in the Gulf War. Destroy
- Use missile and air strikes to cripple Serbia's 150-warplane air force, all but 15 of which are obsolete, and to crater runways.
NATO does not lack targets, or ways of forcing Serbia into civilized behavior - only the political will, and courage.
Milosevic is a brilliant man - until it comes to his murderous, self-serving nationalism. He has played on NATO's using Mao's strategy: `the enemy advances, we retreat; he retreats, we advance.' But he can't retreat too far over Kosova: as a dictator, his prestige - and thus power - are at stake.
Defeat in Kosova would mean the end of Milosevic and his Yugo-nazis. NATO should think hard about this.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]