America’s “Soft-Hearted,” Soft-Headed Foreign Policy

by | Mar 19, 2001

Former President Clinton has just received another fitting addition to his legacy. Two years ago, he sent U.S. troops to Kosovo to protect ethnic Albanians against attacks by Serbia. Now our troops are stuck trying to protect Macedonia against attacks by these very same ethnic Albanians. It is tempting to say that this is what […]

Former President Clinton has just received another fitting addition to his legacy. Two years ago, he sent U.S. troops to Kosovo to protect ethnic Albanians against attacks by Serbia. Now our troops are stuck trying to protect Macedonia against attacks by these very same ethnic Albanians.

It is tempting to say that this is what happens when you make foreign policy by the seat of your pants (or when you’re caught with your pants down). But we can’t just blame Clinton for this one; we are all responsible.

The latest mess in the Balkans is something we could have predicted — if we had exercised a proper regard for American interests.

We could have predicted it two years ago, after our air war against Serbia. When we chased the Serbs out of Kosovo, the result was not peace. Instead, the Kosovo Liberation Army, the rebel group we acted to protect, went on its own killing spree; in the weeks after the cease fire, Albanians murdered dozens of Kosovo Serbs. KLA attacks have become so persistent that NATO just allowed Serbian soldiers to resume anti-KLA patrols in some areas.

Long before that, we could have predicted that the Albanian rebels did not want peace. The KLA’s stated goal was dominance for Albanians — that is, the same philosophy of ethnic separatism that motivated the Serbs.

And before that, before most of us had even heard of Kosovo, we could have predicted that the Balkan conflict would mushroom. The Balkans are a notorious quagmire of ethnic conflict. All sides are guilty of the same tribalism, the same desire to exact revenge on their neighbors for centuries-old grievances. As former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger told the Senate in 1995: “If one looks at the study by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace after the Balkan wars of 1911 and 1912, it reads just as if it were written yesterday, with regard to the rivalries amongst these ethnic groups.” So, he concluded, “If our goal is to achieve the enduring viability of Bosnia, we will be there for the foreseeable future, probably for decades.”

Five-and-a-half years later, we are well on our way to those decades. They will be decades in which we continually risk the lives of our soldiers by putting their bodies in the line of fire between bloodthirsty ethnic tribes.

If we knew all of this, why didn’t we do anything to stop U.S. entanglement in the Balkans? And why are we standing by while our troops get more deeply involved?

The shameful answer is that our goal in the Balkans is not to promote American interests, but to sacrifice them.

We sent troops to Bosnia primarily to appease our European allies. The mission was sold as a test of “the continued viability of NATO.” Nothing in NATO’s charter required us to go, but even Schlesinger — after all of his warnings — argued that “our relationship with our allies … rises above the specific wording of that agreement.” So NATO transmogrified from a pact for mutual defense into a yoke to harness American might for Europe’s supposed benefit.

We did it to prove how “humanitarian” we could be, to prove that our foreign police is not designed to protect our interests — as if this were some grievous fault. So we deliberately mired ourselves in Bosnia to show the world that we would act as the humble military servants of world opinion.

This explains how we managed to bumble our way into a predictable quagmire in Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia — and wherever is next.

If our goal is to sacrifice American interests and offer up our soldiers’ lives for the rest of the world to dispose of, then we chose the right way to go about it. No complex analysis, no sober judgment, no scrupulous responsibility is required to figure out how to sacrifice our interests. All that is required is to look at the television, see news coverage of ragged refugees, hear the panicked demands of our allies, and feel that “somebody needs to do something.” All that is necessary is to react emotionally.

There is no reason to believe that American interests will be served by our entanglement in the Balkans. But our policymakers have rejected reason and American interests as the basis for our foreign policy.

Before the latest conflict flares up farther and draws us in deeper, we need to reverse this policy of national self-destruction. We need to restore sanity by demanding the immediate withdrawal of our troops from the Balkans.

Robert Tracinski was a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute from 2000 to 2004. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Mr. Tracinski is editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist and TIADaily, which offer daily news and analysis from a pro-reason, pro-individualist perspective. To receive a free 30-day trial of the TIA Daily and a FREE pdf issue of the Intellectual Activist please go to TIADaily.com and enter your email address.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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