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Western Press Review: Press Trumpets Sound The Charge

  • Don Hill



Prague, 2 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A growing number of press voices in the United States and Britain were calling this morning for introducing ground forces into Kosovo. The sentiment was far from unanimous, though.

ECONOMIST: The West's error was to will the end but not the means

Three articles in the current Economist describe the issues as grave and far-reaching, and raise the question of ground troops. The Economist says: "The West's error was to will the end but not the means. Now it must find the means. Failure will not just ensure a continuation of the brutality in Kosovo; it will ensure that despots everywhere take heart [that] NATO is not serious."

ECONOMIST: NATO countries have put themselves outside the law

In a companion article, the British magazine says: "One day humanitarian intervention may be accepted as legal, say the optimists. If NATO's action in Kosovo succeeds, it may be seen as a first step in that direction. But right now, NATO countries -- albeit with the best of motives -- have put themselves, like Mr. Milosevic, outside the law."

ECONOMIST: Bombs haven't been pursuasive yet

In a third commentary, the Economist asks: "So will the infantry have to go in? Such an operation, it is said, might need more than 100,000 men. They would have to go into Kosovo by the one road -- along a mountain gorge -- that leads into the province from Macedonia. Of corse, bombs may yet persuade [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic to let some sort of international force enter Kosovo peacefully. But it hasn't happened yet."

CHICAGO TRIBUNE: If the international community fails to act, it will be complicit in genocide

In a commentary published in today's Chicago Tribune, Ohio Northern University law professor Julie Mertus says the answer is obvious. She writes: "The international community will have genocide on its hands if it does not send ground troops into Kosovo. Immediately. It doesn't matter where these troops come from but they must be sent." She adds: "Public opinion in Serbia has turned against NATO and the United States, but most Serbs still do not support war in Kosovo. Despite media depictions of pro-Milosevic rallies, most Serbs are not willing to die for Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands of men of fighting age have left the country or gone into hiding. The international community is deserting not only the Albanians of Kosovo, but Serbs who do not support the war. There is blood on our hands. If we fail to act, we will be complicit in genocide."

WASHINGTON POST: The introduction of NATO ground forces is required

In a commentary published today by The Washington Post, Boston University history professor Robert Dallek and Stephen Solarz, former member of Congress and vice chairman of the International Crisis Group, present a "case for ground forces." They write: "Whatever damage the air campaign has done to the Serbian military, it has failed to stop President Slobodan Milosevic's marauding militias from a genocidal assault against a largely defenseless Kosovar population. Stopping the systematic slaughter of innocent civilians underway in Kosovo -- while it is still possible to save a substantial number of lives -- will require the introduction of NATO ground forces." The writers add: "Not just the fate of the 2 million Kosovars hangs in the balance. The future of NATO also is at stake. If the allies fail in their effort to stop Serbian atrocities in Kosovo, NATO's credibility will be destroyed and the utility of the alliance will be undermined. And America's capacity for effective leadership elsewhere in the world will be diminished greatly."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: There was no other military opption than NATO's air operations

Short of urging ground forces, another substantial group of commentators counsels perseverence. Air Chief Marshal Sir Patrick Hine, joint commander of British Forces during the Gulf war, in a commentary in The Daily Telegraph, rebuts critics who say that NATO's bombing hasn't worked. It soon will, he says. He writes also: "I strongly support NATO's air operations against Yugoslavia. There was no other military opption, given the circumstances."

NEW YORK TIMES: The war seems to require great patience and a high tolerance for uncertainty

Likewise, The New York Times calls for patience and tenacity. The Times editorializes: "As the setbacks mount in Kosovo, including the capture of three U.S. servicemen, it has become clear that this conflict will not produce another lightning military victory for the United States. For a superpower lately grown accustomed to swift, decisive and relatively bloodless military ventures abroad, the war in Kosovo seems likely to require great patience and a high tolerance for uncertainty."

ATLANTA CONSTITUTION: Clinton should announce that U.S. troops are being mobilized for use if necessary

Whether or not ground forces go to Kosovo, U.S. President Bill Clinton erred in showing his hand to the opposition by vowing publicly that they would not, the Atlanta Constitution says in an editorial. The newspaper says: "White House and NATO officials profess to be shocked that Serb forces have reacted to the bombing campaign by increasing the ferocity of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Every day now, Serb troops are driving out tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians and committing genocidal horrors that we won't fully appreciate until the gun smoke clears and the mass graves are uncovered."

The editorial continues: "The only sure way to intervene in such a nightmare would be to have ground troops ready to roll, a step that Clinton had ruled out from the beginning." The paper concludes: "So now what? Clinton should announce as soon as possible that U.S. troops are being mobilized for use if necessary, and he should make that case to the American people. "

INFORMATION: The refugee crisis is a ticking bomb

Copenhagen's daily Information, in an editorial today, laments that the bombing seems to have exacerbated rather than eased the Kosovar tragedy. The paper offers no solution but hope. It says in part: "NATO's bombardments were supposed to stop the spiraling barbarism. But in fact [they've] motivated the Serb forces to increase their brutality. This is the logic of the war and it would be hypocritical to deny it. We can only hope that the war will force Milosevic to respect human rights, and that the suffering will -- despite everything else -- lead to a permanent settlement for the Balkans. We can hope that it will not lead to new barbarism. But the refugee crisis is a ticking bomb under the legitimacy upon which NATO is so much dependent."

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