The low-key approach is necessary because past U.S. policy toward Yugoslavia has been so heavy-handed. Not surprisingly, last years U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign merely strengthened Milosevics position at home. Vojislav Kostunica Yugoslavias opposition leader and apparent winner of last months presidential election condemned NATOs blitz as a criminal act and alleged that the muscular U.S. tack only helped Milosevic remain in power. In August, when a U.S. office in Hungary was opened to support democratic forces in Yugoslavia, Kostunica denounced the United States for flagrant interference in Yugoslav affairs. Add to this almost 10 years of grinding international economic sanctions aimed at punishing Yugoslavia and the source of anti-western sentiments among the Yugoslav people is easily discerned. Whether or not the American people give Bill Clinton high approval ratings, they would loathe any foreign power that bombed them, attempted to impoverish them using economic coercion and tried to manipulate the U.S. political system.
U.S. policy made the petty dictator Milosevic into a Hitleresque monster and has an obsession with removing him from power. The implicit assumption is that stability will miraculously return to the Balkans once he is ousted. But Kostunica is a also a nationalist who backed the Kosovar Serbs in their attempt to keep the province within Serbia and supported the Bosnian Serbs during their war of secession from 1991 to 1995.
The conflicts in the Balkans are driven by intractable ethnic rivalries that go back hundreds of years and are probably immune to changes in leadership. Yet U.S. interventionist policy (bombing, sanctions, peacekeeping, and nation-building) ignores that the people of the Balkans will ultimately have to solve their own problems.
Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.
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