Watching the TV news footage of the jets screaming off the runways to battle over Kosovo, you get that same uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach and the same question: Is this really necessary?
It’s not that Milosevic isn’t an obviously very bad character, because he apparently is. He doesn’t seem to have any problem sending his troops in to commit genocide and then self-righteously bragging about it and claiming it’s all for the national good.
It’s not that I’m not old enough to #remember the stories of Munich and another militaristic dictator who perhaps could have been stopped earlier if the world had will, which it didn’t. Perhaps millions could have been saved.
It’s not that I don’t believe there are certain leaders and countries in this world who are only going to respond to raw force. They consider anything less a sign of weakness and lack of will and therefore an opportunity.
It’s not that in our more recent history there wasn’t another guy named Saddam Hussein who thought Kuwait offered easy pickings. We never finished him off when we had the chance, and he has been around to haunt us ever since.
It’s that I really don’t believe that any of the combatants in this one are any different, any better or any more essential to our national## interests than any other combatant. I’m sure that the Croatians or the Muslims, given half a chance, would be only too happy to run their soldiers through the other side’s villages and kill everything that moved.
So what’s the criteria we use? Two million-plus Cambodians get killed, and we shrug our shoulders. The Africans commit mutilation and genocide as part of everyday politics, and we look the other way and say, “Well, that’s just Africa.” But somehow we think, and most of Europe thinks, and NATO thinks, this is different and therefore we have to act.
What’s so different? What’s so important here that we should be fighting a war over countries we can barely find on a map, and for people whose names we can barely pronounce?
Are we fighting there just because NATO asked us?
Are we fighting there because we have the planes and need to do something with them to justify the expenditure?
Are we fighting there just to prove to ourselves and the world we have the political will because if we don’t have the will, we’re nothing but a paper tiger, and they’re all going to push us around?
Or are we fighting there because it truly is in our national interest and we need to act? We need to accept the reality that some of our planes will be shot down, that we may also have to commit ground forces and that some of those troops will die.
I surely don’t know the answer, and I’m looking for the case to be made. And it can’t be made only by the president. There has to be some bipartisan agreement, otherwise we don’t have much of a government.
I can’t think of anything worse for this country than sending men and women into battle with a political leadership split over its necessity. It’s time to revive some of that old and totally necessary bipartisan leadership, to decide what our country should do and then close ranks behind that decision.