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The Democrats' Model War

The Democrats' Model War

10 Mins
July 21, 2010

The 2006 U.S. elections, which put the Democrats in charge of the House and Senate, were widely described in media as a referendum on the Iraq war. Intense media scrutiny had resulted in critical reports on pre-war intelligence, the decision-making process that preceded the war, the postwar plan, and an unfolding civil war.

Books with titles such as Fiasco, Imperial Hubris, and Colossus described an America in denial of imperial ambitions that were destined to fail. Their authors and others ascribed to the U.S. such motives as arrogance and a willful refusal to learn from history. They characterized American foreign policy as an effort to impose democracy at gunpoint upon cultures either lacking democracy’s fundamental precursors or just plain unwilling to abide by them. Prior to the election, Americans also heard multiple media reports of the worst unintended consequence of the war: the multiplying of the ranks of terrorists.

By election day, national polls indicated 60 percent of voters believed that the war had not improved the long-term security of the U.S., and 55 percent thought that the U.S. should pull some or all of its troops from Iraq. The Democrats worked to further the discontent and clearly profited by it.

However, if the election was a vote of no confidence in the administration’s conduct of the war in Iraq, it left unanswered the question of what the Democrats would view as an appropriate use of American military force in the world. It’s a question most Democrats have preferred to dodge, but they have given us some disquieting clues.

What would Democrats view as an appropriate use of American military force?

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner in national polls for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has said openly what many Democrats think: Democrats go to war for the right reasons and prosecute war more successfully. Prior to the 2000 presidential election, Senator Clinton cited the American military campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo as models of foreign engagements that she favored on moral and strategic grounds.

“I am a strong proponent of a national defense that is smart,” she told CNN in August 2004. “What we need to be focused on is which president is more likely to make decisions that will achieve our objectives with putting the least amount of lives at risk,” she said, adding, “You know, we were successful in Kosovo—and we didn’t lose a single American military person.”

That view has been echoed by many other Democrats and some Republicans, too. Praising the Kosovo operations, former president Bill Clinton has even suggested that, under a Democrat administration, more such operations may be on the way.

So, what are these “objectives” that Senator Clinton alluded to? What would future war-fighting look like according to the Clinton doctrine? One has only to look at Kosovo to see the blueprint and organizing principle behind what could become the long-term future of U.S. foreign policy under the Democrats.


Approximately the size of Connecticut, Kosovo is a province within the Republic of Serbia, an Eastern European country that controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East. Like the rest of what used to be Yugoslavia, Kosovo had a rich mix of ethnic groups and different nationalities. Ethnic Albanians, who are predominantly Muslim, make up the majority of a population of around two million. The presence of many Albanian Muslims and the Ottoman Turks over the centuries has left a countryside dotted with mosques. Meanwhile, the predominantly Orthodox Christian Serbs form the largest minority group. For them, Kosovo—home of the Patriarchate of Pec, the equivalent of the Vatican for Orthodox Christianity—is the center of their religious and national identity, both their Jerusalem and their Alamo. Other minorities present include the Montenegrins, Turks, Croats, Ashkali, Roma (Gypsies), and Muslim Slavs.

In previous centuries, the Serbs had been the most populous group in Kosovo, but over the years were driven out in large numbers. One reason was brutal treatment during World War II, when Nazi and Italian troops invaded Yugoslavia. Kosovo Albanians sided with the Axis Powers, helped raise an SS Skanderbeg division, and began a systematic slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Jews, and other minorities. The fact that Albanians in the 1980s had the highest birth rate in Europe also contributed to the fateful demographic shift.


In the aftermath of World War II, Yugoslavia became a socialist successor state to the monarchic Kingdom of Yugoslavia, formed after World War I. Under Marshal Tito, Yugoslavia’s many ethnic, national, and religious groups were held in check with an iron hand and cynical machinations, which included playing one ethnic group against another. So it’s not surprising that in the power vacuum created when Tito died on May 4, 1980, thousands of students poured into the streets of Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, demanding that Kosovo be made an independent republic. News outlets and analysts reported that some Albanians wanted republic status so that they could secede and become part of neighboring Albania, then the most orthodox Communist country in the region.

As this movement spread, a ruthless crackdown from Belgrade followed. In 1981, Albanian riots broke out and were put down violently by Yugoslav forces. Kosovo came under virtual military rule, with curfews and other emergency measures provoking more resentment. The discontent was compounded by a country-wide financial crisis. Despite large-scale national investment in Kosovo, and the fact that the province received the lion’s share of all federal aid in the country, unemployment ran at 40 percent.

A mass exodus of Serbs was underway by 1986, when Reuters quoted a Western diplomat saying that Kosovo was a “powder keg” and officials were “struggling to keep the lid on.” “For the Serbs who have remained, frustrated Albanian youth have kept up a steady harassment ranging from the painting of hostile slogans on Serb homes and vandalism of Serb graveyards to beatings and rapes,” the Washington Post reported. The following year, the New York Times concluded that:

    Ethnic Albanians already control almost every phase of life in the autonomous province of Kosovo, including the police, the judiciary, civil service, schools and factories. Non-Albanian visitors almost immediately feel the independence—and suspicion—of the ethnic Albanian authorities.

An official inquiry found that local security and justice bodies had let Albanian offenses against Serbs go unchecked, including rape, assault, arson, intimidation, and property offenses. The finding led to a purge of the Kosovo judiciary and police. But 1987 saw a return of the worst violence since the riots initially broke out.


The rise of Slobodan Milošević, the Communist Party boss who became first President of Serbia (1989-1997) and then President of Yugoslavia (1997-2000), evolved in part from his promises to protect Serbs. He courted voters with the “policy of the hard hand.” Under Milošević, Serbia cut back aid to Kosovo, revoked the province’s autonomy, continued meting out harsh sentences to protestors and struck down ethnic quotas for jobs in the province—all of which fueled enormous resentment.

The 1990s saw the Balkans flare up in a series of civil wars over the rise of Milošević, various forms of nationalism, and secessionist moves by Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Later in the decade, Kosovo would become the final battleground before the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, as Milošević (now Yugoslavia’s president) and the newly formed Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës (Kosovo Liberation Army or KLA), an armed paramilitary group, battled ruthlessly for supremacy.

The Albanian mafia reportedly backed secessionist groups in Kosovo.

As early as February 1995, Jane’s Intelligence Review reported the rise of a “Balkan Medellin”—namely, the Albanian mafia, believed to control 70 percent of the illegal heroin market in Germany and Switzerland. Closely allied with the Sicilian mafia, the Albanian mafia was dominated in the southern Balkans by Kosvar Albanians, and was reported to be involved in gun-running and the financing of the KLA along with other secessionist groups in Kosovo and neighboring Macedonia.

The group viewed violence as the only effective path to secession and proper rights for the province’s Albanian majority. Despite an eclectic composition that included university students, Marxist-Leninists, and Maoists, in addition to tribal clansmen, the KLA embraced all the ideological hallmarks of a backwards tribalism: ethnic purification, racism, collective guilt, and mob justice.

The group made its violent debut in February 1996 by bombing several camps housing Serbian refugees from the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. Soon, it claimed responsibility for deadly ambushes of policemen, kidnappings of Serbs, and murders of Albanians accused of being traitors. The KLA used hand grenades, bombs, and machine guns in its bloody attacks against police, private citizens, and universities, and human rights workers documented KLA rapes of civilian women. By May 1998, the group controlled about a quarter of Kosovo.

Initially, the Clinton administration opposed the KLA. In 1998, U.S. Ambassador Robert Gelbard stated, “We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UÇK [KLA] is, without any questions, a terrorist group.” On March 4, 1998, State Department spokesman James Rubin said the U.S. had “called on the leaders of the Kosovar-Albanians to condemn terrorist action by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army.”

United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1160 (March 31, 1998) and 1199 (September 23, 1998) also denounced “acts of terrorism by the Kosovo Liberation Army,” as well as “external support” for terrorism, including “financing, arms, and training.” Even-handedly, they also condemned “excessive and indiscriminate use of force by Serbian security forces and the Yugoslav Army.”

The KLA sought to escalate the conflict in order to draw the West in.

A ceasefire was negotiated between the Serbian government and the KLA in late 1998. But simultaneously, the KLA sought to escalate the conflict to the point where they believed the West would feel compelled to intervene against Milošević's pro-Serb regime on behalf of ethnic Albanians. According to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 80 percent of the ceasefire violations in the months preceding the NATO bombing campaign were by the KLA. Their battles with Milošević's forces were characterized by grim atrocities on both sides; but increasingly cruel retaliation by Milošević's thuggish forces soon received the lion’s share of international attention, as past Serbian victims became perpetrators of new atrocities against their former Albanian victimizers.

Throughout the last half of 1998, Milošević led an especially brutal offensive against the KLA. Human Rights Watch representatives reported that the special forces of the Serbian police, the Yugoslav Army, and anti-terrorist forces were responsible for summary executions and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including ax murders and the slitting of throats. Milošević’s forces also engaged in systematic destruction of civilian property, contaminating wells, burning crops and homes (sometimes with people inside), and shooting livestock. Widespread physical abuse of prisoners and arbitrary detentions were also cited. Father Sava Janjic—a famous blogging “cybermonk” of Decani monastery, who offered refuge from marauding forces to Albanians and Serbs alike—denounced Milošević as the “cancer of Europe.”

The escalating ethnic bloodshed evoked outrage from the Clinton administration and other international leaders. Eastern European and NATO countries expressed concern over the mounting economic and public-order crises caused by tens of thousands of fleeing refugees, and some forecast a potential unfolding of World War III. Even many conservatives thought that the U.S. should take up the defense of the Albanian Muslims against the ruthless onslaught of Milošević's Christian Serbs, though contrarians argued that intervention itself could touch off a wider war.


However understandable the worries about Milošević, what did not make sense was the Clinton administration’s sudden about-face concerning the KLA. Abruptly, his administration placed this official “terrorist” group on the fast track to public rehabilitation.

In the person of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the administration offered incentives to the KLA intended to show that Washington was a “friend of Kosovo.” Reported the New York Times: “Officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army were sent to the United States for training in transforming themselves from a guerrilla group into a police force or a political entity, much like the African National Congress did in South Africa.”

"Portraying the Serbs as evil and everybody else as good was... dishonest."
-U.N. Force Commander Lt. General Satish Numbiar

During the ongoing carnage, Milošević was portrayed exclusively as the villain, while a contrasting romantic view of the KLA was promoted. By April 1999, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) would even claim that “the United States of America and the Kosovo Liberation Army stand for the same human values and principles,” adding: “Fighting for the KLA is fighting for human rights and American values” (Washington Post, April 28, 1999). That same month, he and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) proposed legislation to arm the KLA, in direct contravention of the Helsinki Accords and previous UN Security Council Resolutions.

In February and March 1999, the Clinton administration had sought a permanent peace agreement in negotiations at Rambouillet, France that included representatives of the KLA. But while Yugoslavia agreed to most of the demands, Milošević balked at allowing NATO troops access to Serbia.


Just as President Clinton had previously exhorted NATO to fight for Muslims seeking to form an independent state in Bosnia, he would now call for NATO intervention to defend Albanians seeking to secede from Serbia. Between March and May 1999, NATO bombed Serbia to compel its forces to retreat from Kosovo, where they had been fighting the KLA. Hillary Clinton revealed to an interviewer later that summer that “I urged him [her husband] to bomb. You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?” The use of the words “our way of life” to describe civil warfare between competing gangs in faraway Eastern Europe apparently went unchallenged.

The NATO campaign was supposed to be about stopping “ethnic cleansing” of Albanians by Serbs. President Clinton cited, as his rationale, “deliberate, systematic efforts at . . . genocide.” He estimated publicly that 100,000 ethnic Albanians had been killed. Before the bombing, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea also said that evidence of mass graves had been found. “God knows what we’re going to find when Kosovo is open again and the international war crimes tribunal is let in.” David Scheffer, then the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, declared that as many as “225,000 ethnic Albanian men aged between 14 and 59” may have been killed. The estimate later ballooned to 600,000.

Fear and altruistic sentiments and are poor substitutes for facts.

In seeking the public’s support for war, Clinton also invoked dramatic memories from World War II. “[We are acting] so that future generations of Americans do not have to cross the Atlantic to fight another terrible war…,” he said. “Our stand in Kosovo is a strategic imperative.” On May 14, 1999, first lady Hillary Clinton visited refugee camps in neighboring Macedonia and told media that the stories she had heard “echoed images of the Nazi era, as depicted in films like Schindler’s List or Sophie’s Choice.” The war, she said, was about our commitment to “human rights.”  

Most of the press uncritically absorbed these notions in stories and headlines that echoed the Third Reich theme, like “Flight from Genocide” and “Echoes of the Holocaust.” The specter of mass butchery and the evocation of painful memories of the Nazi death camps stirred feelings of compassion in the American people.

But fear and altruistic sentiments and are poor substitutes for facts and rational self-interest, and constitute dangerous grounds for going to war.


There was no direct or obvious benefit to the U.S. in bombing Milošević's forces in Kosovo. By all informed accounts, the violence in the Balkans in the 1990s was a three-sided civil war, with brutality and atrocities committed mutually by the Croats, Bosniaks, and Serbs. Moreover, prescient analysts warned that while there was plenty of bloodshed in the unrest, there was no clear evidence of “genocide” in Kosovo, and that military intervention could have grave and unintended consequences for the region.

In fact, within weeks of the bombing campaign, pre-war “genocide” claims of hundreds of thousands of victims were scaled downward dramatically. A subsequent five-month UN investigation found only 2,108 bodies. Similarly, James Bissett, former Canadian Ambassador to Yugoslavia, Albania, and Bulgaria, later testified: “In the case of Kosovo, it appears that about 2,000 people were killed prior to the NATO bombing.  When one considers that a civil war had been going on in Kosovo since 1993, that is not a remarkable figure, certainly not when compared with a lot of other hot spots in the rest of the world.” Recent reports reviewed by this author indicate that in 1999, slightly more than 4,000 Albanians were killed and approximately 1,700 non-Albanians were killed. Some 2,500 are still missing, according to data from the Commission for Abducted and Missing Persons.

Terrible, of course, but a far cry from the slaughter of hundreds of thousands.

"[W]e did not find one—not one—mass grave."
-Investigator Emilio Perez Pujol

Spanish forensic investigator Emilio Perez Pujol headed a large team of pathologists and police specialists. The search for mass graves, he explained to the Sunday Times, was “a semantic pirouette by the war propaganda machines, because we did not find one—not one—mass grave . . . ” Pujol told the El Pais newspaper, “We had been working with two parallel problems. One was the propaganda war. This allowed them to lie, to fake photographs for the press, to publish pictures of mass graves, or whatever they had to influence world opinion in favor or against Milošević or in favor of the NATO bombings . . . ”

“There never was a genocide in Kosovo,” he concluded. “It was dishonest and wrong for western leaders to adopt the term in the beginning to give moral authority to the operation.”

Shortly after the bombing began, Lt. General Satish Numbiar, a UN Force Commander, wrote:

    Portraying the Serbs as evil and everybody else as good was not only counter-productive but also dishonest. According to my experience all sides were guilty but only the Serbs would admit they were no angels while the others would insist that they were. With 28,000 forces under me and with constant contacts with UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] and the International Red Cross officials, we did not witness any genocide beyond killings and massacres on all sides that are typical of such conflict conditions. I believe none of my successors and their forces saw anything on the scale claimed by media


When the bombing campaign ended, there were no NATO Kosovo Force troops on the ground to preserve order. Infuriated Serbs launched reprisals against Albanians, in an apparent effort to push all the remaining Albanians out of Kosovo. Then came the inevitable backlash: a retaliatory campaign of ethnic cleansing against Serbs and other minorities, carried out by those on whose behalf the U.S. was fighting: the ethnic Albanians.

In the name of “stopping the genocide,” NATO and the UN actually sparked and presided over one of the worst episodes of ethnic cleansing in modern history. Jiri Dienstbier, the UN special representative on human rights in the former Yugoslavia, put it this way: “[T]he spring ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians accompanied by murders, torture, looting and burning of houses has been replaced by the fall ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Romas, Bosniaks and other non-Albanians accompanied by the same atrocities.” Dienstbier reported that the province was left “without a legal system, ruled by illegal structures of the Kosovo Liberation Army and very often by competing mafias.”

In August 1999, Human Rights Watch estimated that more than 164,000 Serbs, Roma (or Gypsies), Ashkali, Croats, Muslim Slavs, and other minorities had been driven out of Kosovo during the wave of violence. That number later grew to an estimated 220,000 who fled Kosovo in fear for their lives. According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), UNMIK (United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo), KFOR (NATO’s Kosovo Force), and various human rights groups, entire villages were burned down and cities emptied of minorities. Thousands of buildings owned or related to minorities, including homes, churches, seminaries, and cemeteries, were burned, blown up, or otherwise vandalized. Knifings, bombings, abductions, murder, threats, and intimidation have been used to cleanse the province of any remaining minorities.

Reports by the OSCE—self-described as the world’s largest regional security agency—documented how minority groups became the targets of

    executions, abductions, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrests…house burnings, blockades restricting freedom, discriminatory treatment in schools, hospitals, humanitarian aid distribution and other public services…and forced evictions from housing. [T]here are serious indications that the perpetrators of [these] human rights violations are either members of the former KLA, people passing themselves off as members of the former KLA or members of other armed Albanian groups.

Eventually, KLA members were absorbed into the “Kosovo Protection Corps” (KPC), put on the UN payroll, and tasked with providing emergency response and rebuilding. “We believe the Kosovo Protection Corps will make a useful contribution to the restoration of peace and security for all the communities of Kosovo and its progress toward democracy,” declared Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

However, the UN later reported that KPC members had acted as de facto police officers, torturing or killing local citizens, illegally detaining others, extorting “liberation taxes” from businesses, and threatening UN police who attempted to intervene.

Today, the property rights of minorities have disappeared as ethnic Albanians help themselves to what’s left of the former owners’ cars, homes, furnishings, and businesses. According to UNMIK’s Housing and Property Department, over 700,000 housing units in Kosovo have been illegally occupied, along with an unknown number of businesses.

In many areas, only those incapable of fleeing—the elderly, the poor, or the handicapped—remain, living in ghettoes circled by barbed wire and manned by NATO KFOR checkpoints. Many eke out an existence on the edge of survival, like those who now live in shipping containers donated by Russia. Moderate Albanians have been targeted as well, including those who had been content with Serbia’s rule or who enjoy socializing with Serbs. Political rivals have been assassinated and, in at least one case, dismembered. Many Serbs cannot move about without armed escorts.


Meanwhile, European media investigations and statements from law enforcement officials describe how Kosovo has become an open market for terrorists looking for weapons and explosives, a key global player in heroin trafficking, and the world’s most notorious center for sex-slave trafficking.

Into this vacuum of lawlessness have come radical Wahhabi Muslim groups from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These groups flooded into the area after the bombing and invasion, offering financial aid to Albanians, sometimes on strict conditions: “They had to wear the head scarf and bow to Mecca five times a day, or allow the Wahhabis to build a mosque,” former OSCE official Thomas Gambill recounts. The burly ex-Marine also showed this author security records logging complaints by Albanian school teachers who said they were being kicked out of their classrooms for hours at a time, so that Wahhabis could teach the Koran to their students.

Gambill’s warnings about the KLA creating new, illegal paramilitary groups were frequently rebuffed. Supposedly disarmed, the KLA merely formed other groups with different names, such as the Albanian National Army. A 2003 NATO map viewed by this author marked the locations of some two dozen illegal paramilitary camps in Kosovo.

In September 2005, a team of investigative reporters from Dutch television station VPRO produced a documentary showing a robust gun-running operation from a Brooklyn supporter of the KLA. They asked the gun-runner, Florin Krasniqi, about NATO’s claims of having disarmed the KLA. “It’s NATO propaganda,” Krasniqi replied. “NATO can collect a few arms. But most Albanians in Kosovo are very well armed. Just in case NATO pulls out, or we don’t get our independence peacefully, then we’ll use those weapons.”

"With money you can do amazing things . . . Senators and congressmen are looking for donations..."
-Florin Krasniqi

The KLA did not forget where its political support originated, either. In the documentary, Krasniqi is shown attending a John Kerry fundraiser in New York with other KLA members and writing checks to the Kerry campaign. The film also shows Krasniqi introducing his group to retired General Wesley Clark, who led the NATO campaign before becoming a Democratic presidential candidate. “Mr. Clark,” he says, “This is your group, your KLA.” Clark responds approvingly: “They fought against tremendous odds.”

“With money you can do amazing things in this country,” Krasniqi adds. “Senators and congressmen are looking for donations. If you fund them and raise the money they need for their campaign, they pay you back.”

Indeed. And it wasn’t just Democrats that raked in Albanian donations. Former Republican Senator Robert Dole, an early supporter, received $1.2 million from Albanian lobbies for his 1988 presidential campaign. Albanians even showed their gratitude by naming streets in Kosovo after Dole and Bill Clinton.


Kosovo has been a protectorate of the United Nations ever since the war, pending a negotiated resolution of its “final status.” At the bargaining table, the province demands independence from Serbia, while Serbia offers a compromise: “more than autonomy and less than independence.”

Early on, the UN had repeatedly insisted that Kosovo meet certain standards before negotiations over its final status were settled. But after seven years of UN administration and billions of dollars in foreign aid, Kosovo and its international administrators have been unable to consistently meet even the most basic standards set forth in UN Security Council resolutions 1199, 1160, and 1244. Those resolutions demanded the demilitarization of paramilitary groups, an end to “acts of terrorism,” the protection of basic human rights, and safe return of all refugees.

In October 2005, some six years after Kosovo became a UN protectorate, Norwegian Ambassador to NATO Kai Eide published a review of how Kosovo was meeting UN-set standards. “With regard to the foundation of a multi-ethnic society,” Eide wrote, “the situation is grim.” The report called the continued existence of minority “camps” inside Kosovo “a disgrace for the governing structures and for the international community.” The report also noted that the refugee return process had come to a halt.

The report also cited “widespread illegal occupation of property.” Prosecution of serious crimes was said to be hindered by hindered by “family or clan solidarity and by the intimidation of witnesses as well as of law enforcement and judicial officials.” Failure to prosecute crimes targeting minorities was said to result in a climate of “impunity.”

The failure of the UN to insist that Kosovo meet minimal civilized standards has convinced some critics that the negotiations are a sham, that Kosovo’s final status has already been decided by the “Contact Group,” which represents major Western powers.

An email this author received on February 28 from a military official stationed in Kosovo claimed the Contact Group had planned the future stepping down of Kosovo Prime Minister Barjam Kosumi and his replacement by former KLA commander Agim Ceku. "Agim Ceku will take over prime minister role...Contact Group does not find Kosumi appropriate for status talks and as a leader ...Lufti Haziri will be his deputy, Lufti will mentor Ceku, because Lufti knows how to play politics. Truly amazing ...the butcher of the Serbs in Croatia." The last phrase was a reference to the fact Ceku was wanted by Serbia for alleged war crimes in Croatia. (Ceku vigorously denies the charges.) The day after the email was received, Kosumi resigned and was soon replaced by hardliner Ceku who rejects compromise and insists on independence.

Sometime in late January, UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari will make a recommendation on the “final status” of Kosovo—namely, whether it should remain part of Serbia or be granted independence. The Contact Group will make its recommendation on Kosovo’s future after reviewing the report. If Kosovo gains independence, some analysts and political leaders warn of potential destabilization in other troubled parts of the world, as various secessionist movements become emboldened to demand their own independence. This would only exacerbate the process of geopolitical disintegration that philosopher Ayn Rand aptly labeled “global Balkanization.”


The disastrous political-cultural outcome of the NATO campaign in Serbia already affords us sobering lessons about the irrationality of conducting military actions on the basis of manipulated evidence, in the absence of contextual understanding of local history, and—most importantly—for motives other than clear national self-interest. The Kosovo incursion was instead prosecuted as a “war of belief,” argues Gregory Copley, a respected geopolitical analyst and president of the International Strategic Studies Association. Rational criteria for deciding whether to make war were jettisoned as the Clinton administration opted instead for “an approach to war and strategic affairs which is based solely around unsubstantiated beliefs.”

The motivational root of those “unsubstantiated beliefs” is the philosophy that extols as “moral” and “idealistic” any selfless act or policy—i.e., any course of action in which the actor has nothing personal to gain.

Observe that while most liberals (and many conservatives) recoil from any self-interested projection of American military might abroad, they fall all over themselves to demonstrate “pure, selfless motives” by launching military actions like those in Kosovo, where America had no vital interests at risk, but precious lives and treasure to sacrifice.

For such people, the hideous real-world consequences of their altruistic crusades pale in the face of their “idealistic” motives. For them, in truth, “good intentions” are the only reality—with “good” being defined as “selfless.” The logic of the selflessness ethos is inescapable: We should engage in warfare only when we have nothing to gain from it.

The moral self-deception continues to this day. Even as the brutal ethnic cleansing of Kosovo’s minorities by racists and fascists goes on, the Clintons—former president and presidential aspirant alike—continue to tout the military adventure in the Balkans as a victory for “democratic values” of humanitarianism and multicultural tolerance. Their selfless war, they insist, stands as an idealistic model of how a future Democratic administration should and would employ American military power abroad.

Consider that fair warning.

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