The Breakfast Table

Is the Bombing Bombing?

Dear Mary,

I heard the comments from the British Ministry of Defense and I must say my reaction was like yours: If internal opposition to Milosevic is building, that’s great, but it seems hard to believe. One of the most disturbing (albeit not very surprising) things about the past couple of weeks is the way that the domestic political opposition to Milosevic has not merely gone quiet but has appeared to rally round the leader.

It struck me that the German proposal, and other diplomatic moves afoot, could put Britain in an awkward position. Our line still seems to be that what Milosevic has done in Kosovo must be “reversed.” Tony Blair has explicitly promised that this will be done, arguing that anything less would be a victory for Milosevic and a crippling blow to NATO’s credibility. (Britain’s language on this has been conspicuously firmer than America’s.) Of course, much of what has happened in Kosovo simply cannot be reversed, so I assume that what the government means is that Milosevic should be unambiguously defeated (and that the refugees should go back). But this reported German plan–in calling for an OSCE rather than a NATO peacekeeping force–includes a concession to Milosevic, as compared with Rambouillet. And it appears that the Americans are even contemplating letting Milosevic keep some of his forces in Kosovo. Don’t you think Milosevic might accept such an outcome and (with good reason) regard it as a victory?

I don’t see how it could be squared with the line Britain has taken–but that is not to say it’s a bad plan. As things now stand, I’m for allowing Milosevic his partial victory if it means stopping what is still being inflicted on the Kosovars. That was what this operation was supposed to be about, and what it should still be about.