Make your own free website on
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 17:26:08 -0400
From: (Jim Jatras)
Subject: Remarks at CATO (5/18)

The following is the text of my remarks at CATO Institute on 5/18/99 
at the conference: "NATO's Balkan War: Finding an Honorable Exit."

* * *

Let me state at the outset that my remarks here today do not represent
any Senate office or member. Rather, I am giving my professional
judgement as a policy analyst and my personal opinion, for both of
which I am solely responsible.

The rationale for U.S. intervention in Kosovo and for assistance to the
Kosovo Liberation Army is easily stated. It goes something like this:

The current crisis in Kosovo is simply the latest episode in the
aggressive drive by extreme Serbian nationalism, orchestrated by
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, to create an ethnically pure
Greater Serbian state. This aggression -- first in Slovenia, then in
Croatia, and then in Bosnia, -- has now come to Kosovo, largely
because the West -- notably NATO -- refused to stand up to him.

Prior to 1989, Kosovo was at peace under an autonomy that allowed
the Albanian people a large degree of self-rule. That status quo was
disturbed by the Serbs by the revocation of Kosovo's autonomy and the
initiation of an apartheid system of ethnic discrimination. Now, after a
decade of oppression by the Serbs, the Albanians of Kosovo are faced
with a pre-planned program of genocide, similar to that committed by
the Serbs in Bosnia. The rise of the KLA is a response to this threat.

The United States and the international community first exhausted the
possibilities for a diplomatic settlement to the crisis, repeatedly
offering the Serbs the opportunity to accept the Rambouillet agreement, a
peaceful solution that would be fair to all parties. But while the
Albanians, including the KLA, chose the path of negotiation and peace,
the Serbs rejected it. Accordingly, NATO had no choice but to move
ahead with a military response, namely air strikes, which in Bosnia
forced the Serbs to the peace table. The campaign is directed against
Milosevic and his security apparatus, not against the Serbian people.

Unfortunately, as the Serbs moved ahead with their pre-planned
program of genocide, the NATO air campaign could not stop the
displacement of hundreds of thousands of Albanians. While air power
may ultimately bring the Serbs to heel, a just and speedy solution
requires a ground component. Some advocate a NATO ground
offensive, but there are concerns about the potential costs. Others
advocate a program of arming and training the KLA -- the victims of
Serbian aggression and genocide -- to liberate their own country. In any
case, to fail to achieve NATO's objectives is completely unacceptable.
International stability would be threatened, and American and NATO
credibility would be destroyed if genocide were allowed to succeed in
the heart of Europe at the dawn of the 21st Century.

That, in a nutshell, is the case. I have tried to paraphrase as closely as
possible the arguments of supporters of the Clinton policy. The trouble
is: hardly any part of the summary justification I just gave is true. Some
parts of it are skewed or exaggerated interpretations of the facts, some
are outright lies. However, as in Bosnia, the Clinton Administration's
Kosovo policy cannot be justified without recasting a frightfully
complex conflict, with plenty of blame to go around, as a caricature: a
morality play in black and white where one side is completely innocent
and the other entirely villainous.

To start with, pre-1989 Kosovo was hardly the fantasyland of ethnic
tolerance the pro-intervention caricature makes it out to be. Under the
1974 Tito constitution, which elevated Kosovo to effective equality with
the federal republics, Kosovo's Albanians exercised virtually complete
control over the provincial administration. Tens, perhaps hundreds, of
thousands of Serbs left during this period in the face of pervasive
discrimination and the authorities' refusal to protect Serbs from ethnic
violence. The result of the shift in the ethnic balance that accelerated
during this period is the main claim ethnic Albanians lay to exclusive
ownership of Kosovo.

At the same time, Albanian demands mounted that the province be
detached from Serbia and given republic status within the Yugoslav
federation; republic status, if granted, would, in theory, have allowed
Kosovo the legal right to declare its independence from Yugoslavia.
One of the ironies of the present Kosovo crisis is that Milosevic began
his rise to power in Serbia in large part because of the oppressive
character of pre-1989 Albanian rule in Kosovo, symbolized by the
famous 1987 rally where he promised the local Serbs: "Nobody will
beat you again." In short, rather than Milosevic being the cause of the
Kosovo crisis, it would be as correct to say that intolerant Albanian
nationalism in Kosovo is largely the cause of Milosevic's attainment of

Second, in 1989 Kosovo's autonomy was not revoked but was
downgraded -- at the federal level at Milosevic's initiative -- to what it
had been before 1974. Many Albanians refused to accept Belgrade's
reassertion of authority and large numbers were fired from their state
jobs. The resulting standoff -- of boycott and the creation of alternative
institutions on the Albanian side and of increasingly severe police
repression on the Serbian side -- continued for most of the 1990s.
Again, the political problem in Kosovo -- up until the bombing began --
has always been: how much autonomy will the Kosovo Albanians settle
for? When I hear now that autonomy is not enough and that only
independence will suffice, I can't help but think of Turkish Kurdistan
where not only have the Kurds never been offered any kind of
autonomy but even suggesting there ought to be autonomy will land you
in jail. But of course we don't bomb Turkey over the Kurds; on the
contrary, as a NATO member Turkey is one of the countries helping to
bomb the Serbs.

Third, while after 1989 there was a tense stand-off in Kosovo, what we
did not have was open warfare. That was the result not of any 
pre-planned Serbian program of "ethnic cleansing" but of the KLA's
deliberate -- and I would say classic -- strategy to turn a political
confrontation into a military confrontation. Attacks directed against not
only Serbian police and officials but Serbian civilians and insufficiently
militant Albanians were undoubtedly, and accurately, calculated to
trigger a massive and largely indiscriminate response by Serbian forces.
The growing cycle of violence, in turn, further radicalized Kosovo's
Albanians and led to the possibility of NATO military involvement,
which, I submit, based on the Bosnia precedent, was the KLA's real goal
rather than any realistic expectation of victory on the battlefield. In
every respect, it has been a stunningly successful strategy.

Fourth, the Clinton Administration's claim that NATO resorted to force
only after diplomacy failed is a flat lie. As I pointed out in a paper
issued by the Policy Committee in August of last year, the military
planning for intervention was largely in place at that time, and all that
was lacking was a suitable pretext. The Holbrooke-Milosevic agreement
of October 1998 -- to which the KLA was not a party -- mandated a
partial Serb withdrawal, during which the KLA occupied roughly half of
Kosovo and cleansed dozens of villages of their Serb inhabitants. Any
reaction on the Serb side, however, risked NATO bombing.

Finally, the Rambouillet process cannot be considered a negotiation 
under any normal definition of the word: A bunch of lawyers at the State
Department write up a 90-page document and then push it in front of the
parties and say: "Sign it. And if you (one of the parties) sign it and he
(the other party) doesn't -- then we'll bomb him." And of course, when
they said that, Secretary Albright and the State Department knew that
one of the parties would not -- and could not -- sign the agreement.
Why? Because -- as has received far too little attention from our
supposedly inquisitive media -- it provided for NATO occupation of not
just Kosovo but of all of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) under
Paragraph 8 of Appendix B:

"8. NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels,
aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded
access throughout the FRY [i.e., the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia],
including associated airspace and territorial waters. This shall include,
but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and
utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training,

I have it on good authority that one senior Administration official told
media at Rambouillet (under embargo) "We intentionally set the bar too
high for the Serbs to comply. They need some bombing, and that's what
they are going to get." In short, Rambouillet was just Albright's charade
to get to where we are now: a bombing campaign. Their big mistake
was, they thought their splendid little war would have been over long
before now. It's all happened just as they planned, except the last part:
Milosevic has refused to run up the white flag.

Fifth, nobody can doubt there are serious atrocities being committed in
Kosovo by Milosevic's forces -- though the extent and specifics of the
reports that the media (as in Bosnia) treats as established fact are open
to question and have been characterized by Agence France Presse (4/31)
as on occasion being "confused, contradictory, and sometimes plain

For the Administration and NATO, however, it does not appear to
detract from their propaganda value that "reports coming from NATO
and US officials appear often as little more than regurgitation of
unconfirmed information from the" KLA. I have in mind, for example,
the report for a time being peddled by Jamie Rubin, among others, that
some 100,000 Albanian men had been herded into the Pristina sports
stadium -- until a reporter actually went to the stadium and found it

At the same time, we should not doubt that a lot more civilians -- both
Serb and Albanian -- are being killed by NATO than we are willing to
admit as the air strikes are increasingly directed against what are
euphemistically called "infrastructure" -- i.e., civilian -- targets. Some
Albanian refugees say they are fleeing the Serbs, others NATO's bombs.

The Clinton Administration has vainly tried to claim that all the
bloodshed since March 24 has been Milosevic's fault, insisting that the
offensive would have taken place even if NATO had not bombed, but I
find that argument unconvincing.

After the failure of the Rambouillet talks and the breakdown of the
October 1998 Milosevic-Holbrooke agreement, a Serb action against the
KLA may have been unavoidable -- and no doubt it would have been
conducted with the same light touch used by the Turks against the PKK
or by the Sri Lankans against the Tamil Tigers, who, like the KLA, do
not play by Marquis of Queensberry rules. But a full-scale drive to push
out all or most ethnic Albanians and unleash a demographic bomb
against NATO staging areas in Albania and Macedonia may not have

Sixth, because of how the Administration's decision to bomb has turned
Kosovo from a crisis into a disaster, we no longer have a Kosovo policy
-- we have a KLA policy. As documented in a paper released by the
Policy Committee on March 31, the Clinton Administration has
elevated to virtually unchallenged status as the legitimate representative
of the Kosovo Albanian people a terrorist group about which there are
very serious questions as to its criminal activities -- particularly with
regard to the drug trade -- and as to radical Islamic influences, including
Osama bin Ladin and the Iranians.

Advocates of U.S. assistance to the KLA, such as the Heritage
Foundation, point out that based on the experience of aiding the
mujahedin in Afghanistan, we can use our help as a leverage for
"reforming" the KLA's behavior. However, I would ask which radical
group of any description -- either in Afghanistan (where we could at
least claim the vicissitudes of the Cold War justified the risks), or the
Izetbegovic regime in Bosnia, or, on the same principle, the Castro
regime in Cuba or the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, or the PLO -- has ever
genuinely abandoned its radical birthright for a mess of American

Seventh, advocates of aid to the KLA suggest that it be contingent on
guarantees that that organization not attack civilians and not pursue a
greater Albania beyond Kosovo. Given the pre-1989 history of Kosovo
and the KLA's behavior to date, the first suggestion is laughable. As for
the second, I submit for your consideration a map from the webpage of
the Albanian American Civic League (, a pro-KLA
group in the United States. It visually represents the areas claimed by
the KLA, including not only Kosovo but other areas of southern Serbia,
parts of Montenegro and Macedonia (including their capitals), and parts
of Greece.

When I first saw this map -- which the webmaster has made
considerably harder to print since I first referenced it in my paper -- it
struck a recollection of something I had seen before. It occurred to me
that it is quite similar to one I have (printed by the State Department in
1947) of interim territorial arrangements during World War II. I can
understand that there is an element of hyperbole in critics' calling
NATO's air campaign "Nazi," but I fail to see what interest the United
States has in helping to restore the Nazi-imposed borders of 1943 or
how this helps preserve European stability.

Eighth, the Clinton claim that we are hitting Milosevic and not the
Serbian people is just cruel mockery. Politically, this bombing has
solidified his position as he never could have done on his own. The
Clinton Administration repeatedly rebuffed initiatives by the Serbian
opposition for support against Milosevic, most recently by a direct
meeting with Madeleine Albright by the Serbian Orthodox bishop of
Kosovo, His Grace ARTEMIJE, in which he appealed for an initiative
that would have strengthened moderate forces on both sides, begun
genuine negotiations (in place of the Rambouillet farce), and weakened
Milosevic. (I have copies of this proposal here today.) Predictably, that
appeal fell on deaf ears. But this Administration cannot say it was not

Ninth, the Administration's "humanitarian" justification for this war --
the contention that this is about returning Albanian refugees to their
homes -- is rank hypocrisy. Many commentators have noted that the
Administration had turned a blind eye to the cleansing of hundreds of
thousands of Serbs from the Krajina in 1995. This is not quite accurate.
They did not turn a blind eye, they actively abetted the Croatian Army's
"Operation Storm" with mercenary retired U.S. military consultants to
provide training and operational planning under the guise of
"democracy training." Indeed, there is evidence that U.S. assistance to
the eradication of the Krajina Serbs may have included air strikes and
psy-ops, but to my knowledge no member of our intrepid Fourth Estate
has yet seen fit to look into it.

Tenth, the notion that Milosevic is nationalist bent on creating a
"Greater Serbia" is nonsense. Milosevic -- unlike the equally thuggish
Franjo Tudjman and Alija Izetbegovic -- is an opportunist, who likely
would have been more than willing to sell out Kosovo as he did the
Serbs of Krajina and parts of Bosnia, if the Clinton/Albright policy had
not been so completely incompetent as to paint him into corner where
he had to stand and fight. As for Greater Serbia -- as opposed to Greater
Croatia or Greater Albania -- it's all in the definitions.

The only consistent rule in the break-up of Titoist Yugoslavia is that the
Serbs -- the only constituent nationality that gave up their own national
state to create Yugoslavia -- have alone been regarded as having no
legitimate interest in how it broke up. One the one hand, Serb minorities
in other republics were expected to accept as authoritative Tito's borders
or be regarded as "aggressors" for wishing to remain in the state in
which they had up until them been living. On the other hand, Kosovo, a
region that was part of Serbia even before Yugoslavia was created, is up
for grabs. The double standard is breathtaking.

So what are we left with? The Clinton Administration's blunder has
done nothing but harm American interests and those of everybody else
concerned. It has harmed the Albanian refugees, making an already bad
situation much worse; harmed an unknown number of innocent
civilians, both Serbian and Albanian, killed or injured by our bombing;
harmed any prospects of political reform in Serbia that would remove
Milosevic from power; harmed the U.S. security posture, as our forces
around the world have been stripped down to devote resources to
Kosovo; harmed the already fragile stability of neighboring states and
the region as a whole; and harmed our relationship with Russia, which
should be among our first priorities -- having vindicated every lie the
Soviet Union ever told about NATO's aggressive intentions. And the
harm grows worse every day.

The question before us is finding an honorable exit. Some suggest
turning the current disaster into complete catastrophe by sending in
NATO ground troops under premises as faulty as those that led to the
air war. Arming and training the KLA would be similarly ill-advised.
That leaves pointlessly extending the air war -- or looking for a way out,
a diplomatic solution. I will let Rep. Weldon describe his proposal as
outlined in House Concurrent Resolution 99 -- which seems to me the
best idea on the table. I would add only one thing: we need to stop the
bombing as soon as possible. If what you are doing is making things
worse -- stop what you're doing. If you have mistakenly put gasoline on
a fire instead of water -- don't pour on more.

Some will suggest that quitting while we're behind would harm
American and NATO's credibility and would be a victory for Milosevic.
But to a large extent, that damage has already been done. As for NATO,
what has been harmed so far is less NATO's commitment to its
collective defense mission under Article 5 of the North Atlantic 
Treaty -- which has never been at stake in Kosovo -- than what President
Clinton has called the "new NATO" and Prime Minister Blair a "new
internationalism," which is nowhere provided for in the Treaty. What
would, and should, collapse is the misguided effort to transform NATO
from a defensive alliance into a regional peacekeeping organization, a
mini-U.N. with "out-of-area" responsibilities, a certain road to more
Bosnias and more Kosovos down the line. That mission would lose its
credibility, fatally so, and so it should. The Clinton Administration's
incompetent policy in Kosovo has had one small benefit: it has exposed
fact that last year, when the Senate gave its advice and consent to
expansion of NATO's membership, it also approved expansion of
NATO's mission. If the Clinton Administration and NATO are
successful in Kosovo, not only will the principle of state sovereignty in
the face of an out-of-control international bureaucracy be fatally
compromised -- we can expect (and indeed some observers already have
started to set out the case for) new and even more dangerous adventures
of this sort elsewhere, notably in the Caucasus.

Finally, I have no confidence that the Clinton Administration is ready to
take the rational way out offered by Rep. Weldon and his colleagues.
Indeed, rational people would not have committed the blunders to date
nor would they have continued to compound them. All signs indicate
that President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and their "Third Wave"
European cronies of the Tony Blair stripe are treating this not as a
policy problem but as a political problem. Their attitude, as it was
during the impeachment crisis, is "we'll just have to win then, won't 
we" -- "winning" meaning not a successful policy or even "winning" the
war, but winning the propaganda war: an exercise in media spin, polls,
and focus groups. As Madeleine Albright suggested last year, the leader
of some countries -- she mentioned Serbia among them -- ". . . try to
grab the truth and leash it like a dog, ration it like bread, or mold it
like clay. Their goal is to create their own myths, conceal their own
blunders, direct resentments elsewhere and instill in their people a dread
of change."

However true that description is of Slobodan Milosevic, Madame
Secretary should look in the mirror. No, this war is not about American
interests but about vindicating the intelligence of Madeleine Albright
and the good word of Bill Clinton.

The door to an honorable exit is clearly marked. The question is how to
induce this Administration to take it.

* * * 

Back To Kosovo Statement
Back to Home Page