Memo To: Anthony Lewis, NYTimes "At Home Abroad" columnist
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Praising Clinton's Kosovo courage
Your Saturday column praising the courage of President Clinton "When Praise Is Due," for bombing Yugoslavia until he got everything he demanded is without foundation -- so totally devoid of fact that I only can assume you ran out of time in London and had to dictate it off the top of your head. I of course always expect you to praise Clinton, no matter what he does or what kinds of jams he gets into. It is in your nature, Tony. Always before, though, with a little struggle to get myself into your shoes, I could see a sliver of a viewpoint. This column, without facts and foundation, does not deserve to be called an opinion or a viewpoint.
Here is why. You say that "Mr. Clinton has often abandoned positions in the past whenever the going got rough. But this time he abandoned nothing. Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian tyrant, had to eat every one of the terms set out by Mr. Clinton and NATO, including withdrawal of all Serbian forces from Kosovo, and its occupation by an international force with NATO at its core." I suggest you ask your secretary to get an old copy of the Times when the Secretary of State announced the terms that Milosevic, "the [duly elected] tyrant" would have to meet or face the music and the bombs. There was nothing about NATO being "at the core." It was NATO in command, with no Russians in sight, and 50,000 NATO troops under U.S. command free to roam all over Yugoslavia. Please note, Tony, there ain't gonna be NATO troops in Serbia, and there will be Serbian police forces of some number permitted in Kosovo, inasmuch as Kosovo remains a province of Yugoslavia. How could you have gotten this so wrong? You are a Timesman after all.
The terms also said the bombs would not stop unless Milosevic agreed to permit the Kosovars a referendum in three years on the question of independence. Because Kosovo is 90% Albanian, you know how that vote would turn out and so did the Serbs. The bombing stopped WITHOUT Milosevic agreeing to this American diktat. If you simply did not notice, I now am happy to point it out to you. Finally, at Rambouillet, Madeleine Albright warned that bombs would fall unless Belgrade submitted to NATO. I see our hapless Secretary of State now says the Russians were "co-negotiators" at Rambouillet and were "unhappy" that Milosevic did not accept these terms. But this is baloney. The last thing the Russians would agree to is an extension of NATO authority in order to avoid a Russian veto at the United Nations. This was, after all, one of the hidden agendas of the conflict. This is another example of President Clinton thumbing his snoot at the U.S. Constitution. Surely you will agree, Tony, that the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty negotiated by the Truman Administration and ratified by the U.S. Senate did NOT specify a police role for NATO. Former Vice President Dan Quayle, who served in the United States Senate, has made this very point. Whether the war was a "just and necessary"one as Mr. Clinton insisted in a NYT op-ed last month, it was nevertheless unconstitutional. Normally, I would expect Tony Lewis to balk at the obvious unconstitutional use of the President's use of our military forces. If he can do so for a war of which you approve, next week it could be a war of which you disapprove. Your fellow Times columnist Abe Rosenthal thought of that and he is not the constitutional scholar you are.
I don't mean for this to sound like a lecture, just friendly, constructive criticism. I've been thinking about good and evil lately, especially the evil of war. In my website "TalkShop" last week there was an extended discussion of whether the ends justify the means, might makes right, etc. You might take a look at it. Here was my contribution to the string:
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I always think of "evil" as ignorance. Satan is the prince of darkness. Jesus Christ is the "Light." The USSR was, to Ronald Reagan, the "Evil Empire," because it was based on ideas proven to be "ignorant," that is "ignoring" that which is clearly more true, at the moment. At the moment the Cold War ended, I began terming the International Monetary Fund the "Evil Empire." Just as Reagan did not wish to eliminate the USSR, only the ignorance upon which it was founded, I have no desire to eliminate the IMF, only have it discard its ignorant foundations, which ignores its repeated failures.
It is evil what we did in Yugoslavia because we ignored the damage we have done to something that is proven and reliable, which is our Constitution. Our political leaders decided they know better than our Founders that in this case, might makes right. NATO has no authority from the American people to do what it did. Bill Clinton acted in an evil way in using NATO as he did, and the GOP leaders of the House and Senate were complicit in these evil acts, as were the editors and publishers of our major news media.
That is, we based our actions on primordial instincts of power over the rule of law. We were animalistic, in a sense, abandoning millennia of trial and error and reverting to MIGHT makes right. This is what sickened me most, why I was so dumbstruck at the eagerness of so many of my old friends to join this satanic course of action, bombing and killing and rampaging, and lying to all of us about what was going on.
Of course, maybe I'm wrong; maybe I am in the grip of the prince of darkness, and the Political Establishment has seen the light. Well, if it does, it should run it past the American people and get the Senate to ratify a new NATO treaty that permits it to roam around the world bombing people it does not like in order to make them do our bidding.
Was it evil for Grant to burn the Shenandoah Valley and for Sherman to burn his way from Atlanta to the sea? Was it evil for Truman to nuke Hiroshima? No, because I do not consider these to be ignorant acts. In war, they say anything goes. I would not go that far, because there are international laws that govern warlike behavior. (Clinton has violated these laws as well, especially in Iraq.) I do recognize that when a political leader is attempting to minimize the losses of his people in a great war, he has to make chesslike moves which involve sacrificing pieces along the way. The Holocaust was one of the most evil acts of all human history because it was without purpose, truly satanic. It was the indulgence of a hatred, outside of all of the laws of man and God. As a boy, I first heard of the concept of Might Makes Right in connection with Hitler, and see it in those terms. Might does not make right, ever. Right makes right. Like my daddy taught me, what is not right is wrong. He also told me that he was not always right, but he was never wrong -- by which he meant he always tried to do the right thing given the information available to him.