It now seems as if we have a choice of continuing an irrational air war that, all historical experience as well as this past week’s tells us, is not going to stop Slobodan Milosevic from savaging Kosovo, let alone dislodge him from power; finding some excuse to pull back and return to our basic stance in the Balkans, an unconscionable passivity; or pursuing a bloody ground war whose outcome is by no means certain and for which there is at present little public understanding or support.
But beyond the immediate horror, what’s so appalling is that all of this was predictable and none of it had to happen. The West’s objective in Yugoslavia after the collapse of communism should have been to support both politically and with money anti-nationalist forces. Yugoslavia was a viable country. It could have evolved into a democratic federation. But instead, our post-Cold War policy there, like everywhere else, was privatism and austerity. We weren’t about to cooperate with Yugoslav social democrats. And we (i.e., the West’s financial markets) also did our part to impoverish the country by calling in its debts, where we should have been doing just the opposite–pouring in money to ease the post-communist transition. Then came Bosnia and the West did nothing. It gave Milosevic what he wanted–the most criminal policy of appeasement since World War II.