To many Americans, the very idea of fighting a war in a far off land brings back recollections of Vietnam and Korea, conflicts that were dubious both practically and morally. Throughout almost every military action since these two wars, the American population has been naturally reluctant to support large-scale military endeavors. This conservative trend has at its base quite humanitarian intentions, for the average American feels uncomfortable sending “our boys” over to die in a foreign land, for a cause that neither the soldier nor the citizen fully understands. Because of these tragedies, we should now hold military involvement to a higher moral and tactical standard.
That said, the situation in Kosovo demands both our attention and military action, for it would be positively inhumane of America to simply ignore the ongoing struggle. To many, including myself, the wars of the Balkans seem to blend into one another, until we become desensitized to the violence occurring today. This cannot be allowed to happen, because if it does America will be reluctant to ever enter into morally disturbing but practically difficult conflicts, thus emboldening the enemies of freedom and democracy across the globe. More specifically, if America hesitates to use force now, then it will potentially allow Slobodan Milosevic to destroy the fragile peace in the neighboring regions.
Milosevic is responsible for the Serbian revolts in Bosnia and Croatia, where civil war destroyed both countries. His actions in Kosovo are eerily similar, as his nationalist cries for a “Greater Serbia” have resulted in the slaughter or relocation of thousands of ethnic Albanians. Of course, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has done its share of initiating conflict, but the disproportionately destructive response from Milosevic has only increased animosity towards the Serbs. If the United States allows Milosevic to take Kosovo through either driving off or killing most of the ethnic Albanians who live there, then it is only a matter of time before the Dayton peace accords are destroyed through Serbian aggression.
Though little is clear in the Kosovo conflict, one time-tested fact stands out: peace cannot be achieved until it is in both sides’ interests. It is here that that the United States must support the growing NATO involvement in the region, because here we can be the most effective. By simply preventing the KLA and the Serbs from engaging each other, through a well-defended NATO presence, America would greatly increase the stakes at the next peace conference on March 15. A forced peace with the threat of airstrikes upon non-compliance would be ideal, as it would allow us to destroy the Serbian ability to attack. At the same time, we must be both swift and just in our retribution, and we should not hesitate to invoke similar force upon the KLA if they attempt to engage the Serbs. As soon as both sides realize the futility of attacking their foe, they will realize that their best bet for progress lies upon the peace table.
This is our only moral option, for we have watched and waited too long. Through forceful mediation with the power of massive airstrikes, it should not take long for the two sides to recognize that their bargaining should be done with diplomats rather than kalishnikovs. Ultimately it is not up to the United States to decide how the residents of Kosovo should be governed, but it is up to us to enforce peace, capture those responsible for crimes against humanity and remain until the Balkans have begun the process of rebuilding. The tree of liberty may need to be watered, but surely there is no more noble cause than the liberation of an oppressed people.