Nothing in the recent history of the National Football League would suggest that the best defense is a good offense, but there is still a lot of belief in that old wives' tale, and the Commander-in-Chief, heretofore not known for his concern for old wives, decided to push NATO, which some of us remember as a defense alliance, into action against Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, action which the rest of the world considers, well, offensive.

"Only firmness now," said the President, "can prevent greater catastrophe later." Coming from a man whose every position on every conceivable issue is notably squishy, this sounds more than just insincere it's ludicrous. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana weighed in with "We must stop the violence," even as death rained from the sky. Now I don't know where these guys studied history Laverne and Shirley seems as plausible a source as any but there's a reason "balkanize" has been in the dictionaries for decades. None of these ethnic groups have ever gotten along with one another for any substantial length of time; there's no reason to think they ever will. The Russians, official allies of Yugoslavia and therefore of the Serbs, are decrying the NATO attacks and demanding that the UN Security Council do something, but that's, well, being official. I suspect the unofficial reaction in Moscow is more along the lines of "What, are they nuts?"

They'd almost have to be. Apparently no thought was given to an exit strategy; NATO is convinced that it can drop a few hundred incendiary devices, almost immediately Milosevic will cave in, problem solved. What happens if the Serbs put up more of a fight than was anticipated? And didn't we already see this scenario in some other hemisphere? So far, only the odd-numbered World Wars have started in the Balkans; as the old wives in Washington say, when in doubt, predict the trend will continue.

The Vent

25 March 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill