Courtesy Reuters

How to Defeat Serbia


Those whose sole concern has been to keep the United States out of the Yugoslav conflict may view American policy over the past four years as successful. The rest of us, even those who had a hand in that policy, know failure when we see it. True, the war has not spread beyond Croatia and Bosnia, owing in part to an American containment strategy. Also true, the human agony would have been worse had the United States not supported an international relief effort that deserves more praise than it gets. Yet we cannot evade the larger truth: the United States promised to stay in Europe after the Cold War in order to help keep peace and sustain the democratic revolution; but a war of aggression has been waged and won by a most undemocratic regime. The United States proclaimed principles of peaceful change for a new era; but those principles have been wantonly disregarded. We said "never again"; but again the intolerable has happened in Europe.

Great as our sorrow is for the slaughter and for our mistakes, it is unfair to suggest that the United States bears the main responsibility. Our military superiority and international leadership role do not obligate us to sacrifice our sons and daughters to combat brutality wherever it occurs. Moreover, the lack of a purposeful effort by our European allies to prevent or stop a vicious conflict on their continent not only surpasses American shortcomings but has hamstrung U.S. policy. Still, we must see that American interests and values, its credibility and self-respect have been damaged in the former Yugoslavia, and we must thus recognize the face of failure.

The United States is not destined to keep failing in the Balkans. Rather, it can devise a strategy that responds to the fact of Serbia’s military success and, from here on, both protects American interests and repairs its principles. The Clinton administration has established some limits of what will be

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