Kemp to Quayle on Kosovo (April 6)
Jude Wanniski
April 21, 1999


Memo To: Political commentators
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Leading on Kosovo

Following is a memo Jack Kemp of Empower America sent to former Vice President Dan Quayle earlier this month. Kemp apparently sent the memo to some of the GOP leaders on Capitol Hill and Robert Novak asked Quayle about it on his CNN show last Saturday (4/17/99). We linked to that interview Tuesday and you can catch up with it today. The Kemp memo, you will see, is remarkable in its length and harshness in its criticism of the bombing campaign. Kemp has not endorsed Quayle's presidential candidacy, but they appear to see eye-to-eye on the Balkans.

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Memorandum To: Dan Quayle
From: Jack Kemp
Subject: Leading on Kosovo

Thanks for calling Sunday. Here's the memo you asked for on my "take" on the situation in Kosovo:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, which is where we are surely headed in Yugoslavia unless a Republican leader emerges to clear a path toward a more positive outcome. The fact that so many leading congressional Republicans shared in the design of the administration's failed policy tells us that there is little room for partisan criticism of the President, but enormous room for constructive criticism. Because you are a serious candidate for the presidency yourself, and I've taken myself out of the competition, it could be that you are the man to fill this crying need -- to prevent what could easily become the biggest American foreign policy failure since the Bay of Pigs.

Early on, regrettably, a few leading congressional Republicans bought into the President's poorly conceived strategy, giving it a gloss of bipartisianship by voting to support the bombing. By doing so, they put us on the path to war and put the vast majority of Republicans in a very tight corner. A number of the other Republican presidential contenders have either joined in support of intervention, remained silent, or straddled the issue with vague statements. Now, having been dragged into a genuine foreign policy debacle, the American people find themselves in a quandary. We not only blundered to this point through a bipartisan miscalculation. We also face a slippery slope that promises to end in much greater violence, human suffering and loss of life.

Will we, as I believe we must, have the courage and the ingenuity to cut the devastation on both sides, stop the ill-conceived war immediately and help construct a diplomatic solution? And if we do, how can we get out without rewarding Milosevic's despicable behavior and without destroying our credibility in the process? Or, will we be lured deeper into a bloody quagmire under the delusion that we have no choice but to fight our way out, no matter what the costs in human life?

Politically, these questions are so tough for Republicans, and emotionally, the "fight-response" is so powerful when our troops are in harm's way that most of our colleagues will fail to see a way out of the morass. They will find themselves sucked deeper into war. That's why I believe you can help lead America out of the cul-de-sac into which we've stumbled. For a presidential contender, what I am suggesting will be risky. It will take courage to stand against this war and to show America where her long-term self-interests really lie. It will, in short, require a vision of what America's foreign policy should look like in the 21st Century.

There are only two serious reasons for the U.S. ever to have considered transforming NATO from a successful defensive alliance into an agent of offensive action. The weaker of the two reasons is that humanitarianism requires it. Kosovo -- at least before NATO's bombing turned it into a major humanitarian catastrophe -- has been a humanitarian disaster but no where near the same magnitude of scores of other such civil wars taking place around the globe. If humanitarianism justifies and requires our military intervention in Kosovo, it means that we would truly become the policeman of the world. Humanitarianism is a slippery slope into war and as a general proposition should never be the sole, or even the primary, reason we risk spilling American blood on the battlefield.

The stronger of the two reasons for is that we put our credibility behind the transformation of NATO into a police force and now must proceed to victory at all costs in order to preserve our credibility. That is, the consequences of not winning are too serious to endure. Henry Kissinger believes the bombing was wrong but that once begun there is no retreat; that unless we go into Kosovo with an occupying army to guarantee Kosovar independence we will legitimize the massive ethnic cleansing stimulated by the bombing and thereby abandon our credibility. Kissinger states forthrightly that he believes we have no choice but to violate Serbian sovereignty, wrench Kosovo away from Serbia and set it up as an independent protectorate of NATO. By so doing, Kissinger acknowledges we will be assuming for ourselves the same despised role played by the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires in the Balkans. Yet, in spite of so undesirable an outcome, Henry still believes we must continue along this course because he can conceive of no other escape from the President's disastrous intervention.

Several Republicans in addition to Kissinger, all of whom I hold in equally high regard (such as Bob and Elizabeth Dole, Steve Forbes, George W. Bush and John McCain), also have concluded that no matter how weak the case for war in Kosovo may be on the merits, we are now inextricably involved, and we must, therefore, do whatever is necessary militarily to "win." We are in the bramble; it is impossible to back out gracefully. Therefore we must fight our way out the other side. Some have suggested that this implies a relentless bombing campaign to force Milosevic to give up Kosovo. Others insist that a massive ground assault is necessary to throw the Serbs out of Kosovo. Some contend that it would be safe and sufficient to arm the KLA insurgency so the Kosovar Albanians can carry out a guerilla war and win their independence or fight the Serbs to a standstill inside Kosovo -- a form of "Albanianization" of the war.

But Dan, as difficult and perilous as the Republican Establishment makes stopping the war sound, I am convinced that continuing the war is immeasurably more dangerous. The false premise on which the Establishment's line of reasoning rests is that peace around the world hangs on whether or not people believe America is prepared to go to war to preserve it. World peace cannot rest on American threats of violence, bombs at midnight or the "bully" tactics of President Clinton. If this is where American foreign policy is heading in the next century, we are in big trouble.

Of the three war options in Kosovo, arming the KLA looks most attractive on its face because it would seem to permit us to continue the war from afar long after we have run short of cruise missiles. I believe, however, that this strategy rests on a false premise, which mistakenly analogizes Kosovo to our successful efforts during the Cold War to arm other resistance groups who were fighting Communism. The logical flaw in drawing this analogy is that the successful efforts in Latin America, Africa and Afghanistan worked precisely because they involved a calculated strategy of siding with one faction in a civil war to combat a common enemy that threatened the U.S. directly -- Communism. We threw in our lot with some rather nasty people during the Cold War, not because we were particularly interested in seeing them rule but rather because we had a very definite and well defined interest in preventing Communism from spreading anywhere else around the world. We face no common enemy in the Balkans.

In arming the KLA -- a group funded by drug money that the State Department contends has committed terrorist acts -- we would run a huge risk of fanning the flames of Muslim fundamentalism against a former Christian ally. Israel's foreign minister, Ariel Sharon, warns that there are Hezbollah people, mujahidin forces and Bin-Laden people, all working with the KLA. Arming the KLA is the fastest way I know to turn Bill Clinton's disingenuous warnings about a Balkan "tinder box" into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Arming the KLA would almost certainly destabilize the region even further -- not to mention the horrible precedent it would set. If we become the KLA's arms merchant, should we also assist the Tibetans against Beijing, the Chechans against Moscow, the IRA against London, the Kurds against Turkey, Quebec against Canada and the Basques against Madrid? See where this goes? It would lead to enormous pressure to enter into every "war for independence" that came along. It is Wilsonianism run amok and the logical extension of an emerging Clinton doctrine.

I believe the way out of this box begins, but does not end as the Clinton Administration insists, with the Rambouillet proposal. I believe we must elicit Russia's assistance to transform the Rambouillet proposal into a workable framework for peace. The President insists that the only way out of his fool-hearty war is to embark on "relentless bombing" to impose a fatally flawed peace. Instead, if we would stop the bombing and listen carefully to the signals being sent by the Serbian government, I believe we would hear Belgrade accepting three of the four Rambouillet conditions: 1.) a cease fire with withdrawal of Serbian military forces from part or all of Kosovo; 2.) some form of self government for the Kosovar Albanians; and 3.) allowing the refugees to return to their homes. The one condition rejected by Serbia, the same condition that doomed the Rambouillet proposal from the outset, is the stationing of NATO troops in Kosovo as a peacekeeping force. Dropping this fourth condition is, I believe, the key. Instead of insisting on stationing NATO troops in Kosovo, I believe a combined force made up of the OSCE monitors that left in the wake of the war and other military forces acceptable to Belgrade (Russian for example), would allow Serbia to retain its sovereignty at the same time it gave NATO, and more importantly the refugees, a high degree of certainty that the ethnic cleansing will not recur. A fifth condition touted by a growing number of people is removal of Milosevic from office. I agree with Henry Kissinger, in this case, that such a condition is unnecessary and likely to be counterproductive.

Our greatest hope for peace in the Balkans is an economically prosperous region.... We must prevent bad economic policy from undermining any political settlement that emerges. It was the IMF that created a tinderbox out of the Balkans at the end of the Cold War. The result of the IMF's deadly economic medicine of the late 1980s has been to bankrupt the entire Yugoslav economy, destroy the currency and unemploy the people. We should be doing everything possible to prevent the IMF from re-entering the region and undermining efforts to rebuild the economies.

The Joint Chiefs resisted this war because they knew that no fundamental U.S. interests were at stake, and they understood better than anyone the impossible demands the Clinton Administration was placing on the military. The military professionals also understand that no military "solution" can ever hope to solve what is, at heart, both an economic and a political problem.

Ronald Reagan won the Cold War not only because of his nerve in confronting the Evil Empire but also because of his ability to recognize a mistake like the one he made in Lebanon and reverse course before he made a bad situation worse. What would Ronald Reagan do in Kosovo? First, he would never have gotten us in, but had he made the mistake of getting us involved, he certainly would not have allowed a misplaced sense of machismo to compound the mistake with more mindless violence.