Accessibility links

Western Press Review: Press Continues Kosovo Critique

By Don Hill/Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 24 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Using the current lull between active world crises, Western press commentary continues to dissect the Kosovo war and other military interventions.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Kosovo was an incomplete guide to what NATO should be prepared to do

The Los Angeles Times says in an editorial that NATO may have won the war to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo but it left serious questions. Military leaders say international politics and civilian interference delayed the victory, the newspaper says. The editorial says this: "NATO is a coalition of democratic states, and a basic tenet of democracies is that the military must be subordinate to civilian control. That doesn't mean, though, that the judgments of civilian leaders are invariably right."

NATO may have won, the L.A. Times says, but one doesn't wish to win such a victory again. The editorial says: "Air power, directed against fixed targets, won the Kosovo war because air power was the only weapon NATO was willing to wield."

The newspaper contends: "But Yugoslavia's army appears to have escaped largely intact, along with most of its equipment. And Milosevic still rules in Belgrade. At best, victory in Kosovo was an incomplete guide to what NATO should be prepared to do if ever it has to fight again."

TIMES: There is no such thing as immaculate coercion

The Times, London, columnist Simon Jenkins puts it more bluntly. In a commentary headlined "Altitude Sickness," Jenkins writes: "The indiscriminate bombing in the Kosovo conflict was an act of terror." At least in East Timor, he says, the incursion, though confused, is by troops on the ground.

Early in the Kosovo war, the columnist writes, it was evident that the promise of purely military targeting was a lie. Much bombing was aimed at civilian morale and there was even an attempt at what Jenkins terms "aerial assassination" of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and his family. The writer says this: "As so often in history, the logic of war was more potent than its morality."

The Times columnist claims that it wasn't even the bombing that defeated Milosevic, but rather the threat of ground attack. Jenkins writes this: "Bombing may have been the only aggression on which NATO governments could agree, but that does not make it effective."

The commentator writes: "There is no such thing as immaculate coercion. Political bombing is a gesture of state violence." And he concludes: "The moral of Kosovo, as of East Timor, is that regulating other people's business should be done, if at all, with guns, tanks and soldiers, on the ground, properly, courageously and fast."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The obsession with high-tech weapons are producing new military distortions

International affairs columnist Flora Lewis writes in the International Herald Tribune that uncritical acceptance of military statements about the Kosovo and Gulf wars is leading to wrongheaded decisions on future military strategy and expenditures. She contends that the military issued misleading claims to, in her phrase, "enhance the aura of success" while the shooting was under way. But now, she contends, in her words: "There is a continuing need to examine the theses which become the arguments for future military doctrine, spending and planning."

The writer argues as follows: "The obsession with high-tech weapons and dubious conclusions drawn from Kosovo and in the Gulf are producing new military distortions likely to be wastefully expensive and counterproductive."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: The West had better heed this lesson

In Denmark, Copenhagen's daily Berlingske Tidende laments in an editorial that the United Nations' peacemaking force in East Timor has been too slow in establishing order. The editorial says this: "It isn't the first time that the expression too little, too late applies to an operation by the United Nations." The newspaper says that the East Timor humanitarian threat was commonly predicted. In the newspaper's words: "The current tragedy proves that even though the United Nations may be useful in quashing a conflict once it has unraveled, it lacks the foresight of forestalling it."

Berlingske Tidende concludes as follows: "East Timor is but a brick in the future world order where it will be easier for the international community to intervene in a state where there are gross violations of human rights, a civil war, or ethnic cleansing. The West had better heed this lesson."

WASHINGTON POST: The ethnic partition model is a short road to nowhere

Columnist Stephen S. Rosenfield writes in The Washington Post: "It is a sign of impatience masquerading as historical realism that some people are again turning to partition -- the homogenization and separation of ethnic groups -- as a remedy for what ails the Balkans and various other multi-ethnic places."

He says this is undermining support for establishing one state in Bosnia, as is called for in the four-year-old Dayton agreement. It is also affecting the establishment of a single state in Kosovo, which is the peacekeepers' mandate there. The columnist says, however, that the alternative, what he calls "the ethnic partition model" is, in his words, "a short road to nowhere."

What happens, Rosenfield argues, is that forcing minority occupants out of their homes leads to violence -- present or future -- that is just as certain as the violence it seeks to avoid. The columnist argues that what he calls "the restoration of inter-ethnic consensus in battered situations" can be achieved, especially where an outside force can serve as a guarantor of some minimal civility.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: A country can still make the same stupid mistake twice

Sueddeutsche Zeitung commentator Tomas Avenarius writes from Moscow that Russia is wrong to think it can make a NATO-style war pay off in the Caucasus. As the writer puts it: "It may be true that history as such does not repeat itself. But a country can still make the same stupid mistake twice." So far, the writer says, most Dagestanis don't back the Chechen rebels in their territory and most Chechens disapprove of the military adventure being undertaken in Dagestan by Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev.

But Avenarius writes this: "Every bomb dropped over Grozny, every innocent civilian killed and every attack on their elected leader, Aslan Maskhadov, serves to drive the people of Chechnya closer together." The writer observes that Russia cannot condone continued attacks in Dagestan by Basayev's forces. He adds, in his words: "And quite naturally, many suspect that (Basayev's) people were behind the murderous bombings on the Moscow apartment buildings."

The columnist goes on: "But using a recipe along the lines of NATO against Serbia will not solve the problems in the Caucasus region. Through bombing, President Yeltsin will draw together the victims and the troublemakers. This would be in the interest of Basayev, but not of Russia."