by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK -- NATO's deepening military fiasco in Yugoslavia recalls the
description of the brave, but ineptly-led British forces at the Crimean
War battle of the Inkerman: 'an army of lions, led by asses.'
The political and military asses currently leading NATO into its first
defeat are displaying a degree of cowardice and incompetence unseen in
Europe since the 1930's. Unable to win this war without committing ground
troops - which should have been done six weeks ago - NATO keeps hoping its
futile, 'lite' bombing will give it a bloodless victory. Meanwhile, the
alliance is cracking apart as its weak sistere whine for peace at any
price with the Balkan nazis who are burning people alive, running rape
camps, and committing what the UN calls 'near genocide.'
NATO is desperately seeking a face-saving way out of this war. But after
Serb despot Milosevic's monstrous crimes, anything short of total victory
-and his arrest- will be rightly seen as a major political and military
defeat. If mighty NATO is bested by Serbia, a nation of only 7 million
people - the population of New York City - a cascade of so far unforeseen
disasters is likely to ensue:
A million Albanian Kosovar refugees will end up packed into tiny,
crumbling Albania, now a de facto NATO protectorate. They will become the
Palestinians of Europe, and wretched Albania a second Gaza Strip, teeming
with the misery and explosive fury of a people driven from their homes by
Serbia, in this war, is a stand-in for Russia. The Russians have
routinely broken the international embargo on Serbia, secretly supplying
it weapons, military technology, spare parts, oil and gas. Russia is
using Serbia as a tool to expand its influence in the Balkan Peninsula.
The current fool's war presents Moscow with a golden opportunity to
humiliate NATO, exact revenge for the alliance's eastward expansion,
enflame Slav racist nationalism, and begin restoration of Russian
influence and prestige in Eastern Europe.
Russia has backed Serbia since last century in order to open a corridor
from southern Russia, across the Balkans, to the Adriatic and
Mediterranean. Gaining control of Albania's deepwater ports at Durres,
Shkoder, and Vlore has been a prime strategic goal for Russian and
landlocked Serbia. The Soviets established a very important naval base in
the 1950's at the southern Albanian port of Vlore(Valona), known as 'the
Gibraltar of the Adriatic.'
NATO's pleadings with bankrupt Russia to help it out of the current mess
is not only a sign of profound weakness and timidity, it opens the door to
Russian influence in Eastern Europe. After struggling to oust the Russians
for 50 years, NATO is inviting them back in. When Russia again grows
strong and aggressive, Europe will rule the day it made this little Yalta.
Instead of such craven behavior, the west should threaten to cut off all
food and financial aid unless Russia butts out of the Balkans. If
pussyfooting NATO backs out of the war and makes a face- saving deal with
Milosevic, a process now underway, the Serb strongman will finish
'cleansing' Sanjak of Muslims, overthrow the pro-western government of
Montenegro, and drive out Albanian refugees who sought refuge there.
Milosevic will make good his decade-old vow, 'to drive all the Muslims
back to Mecca.'
After a pause, Milosevic's next stage in his campaign to restore a
Serb-ruled Yugoslavia will be to drive NATO troops out of Macedonia and
Bosnia by selective attacks. Having achieved this goal, Milosevic may
then turn on Croatia and defenseless Slovenia.
NATO's failure to oust Serbia's criminal regime will prove a decisive
historical turning point that will send tremors of fear through Eastern
Europe, over which Russia's huge shadow still looms ominously, place the
alliance on the strategic defensive, and embolden Russia to aggressively
reassert its interests in Europe, the Mideast, and Central Asia.
If the Serbs are allowed to get away with crimes against humanity in the
Balkans, other regimes around the world will be tempted to follow their
bloodthirsty example. India may drive the Muslim majority from
strife-torn Kashmir; Israeli right-wingers could make good on threats to
expel Palestinians from the West Bank into the Jordanian desert; Indonesia
to 'cleanse' Timor; Russia to complete its savage repression of Chechnya,
where it already slaughtered 100,000 Muslim civilians in recent years; and
Turkey to adopt a Serb-style solution to its Kurdish problem, or to drive
the Greeks from Cyprus.
The cost of decisive military action to deal with Serbia will be high.
But the cost of a shameful retreat and ultimate defeat will be much
higher. Serbia, a little proxy version of the brutal Soviet Union, will,
ironically, have beaten NATO. Race and religious war will be condoned.
Crimes the west vowed never again to tolerate, will be permitted. Anything
less than a total NATO victory will be a disastrous defeat for the
On this 84th anniversary of the 1915 Armenian genocide, we helplessly
observe a new genocide underway in the Balkans. This bloody century has
evidently taught us nothing.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and
broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 1999 Eric Margolis - All Rights