A Formula for Disaster

A Formula for Disaster

A Formula for Disaster

What the foreign papers are saying.
April 7 1999 3:30 AM

A Formula for Disaster

The Observer of London pulled no punches in its assessment of the first 11 days of the Kosovo campaign, describing them as a "fiasco" in an editorial Sunday. "At this stage Nato confronts the real possibility that Milosevic may end up with de facto control of an ethnically cleansed Kosovo while Nato takes responsibility for a million or more refugees. Nato would have lost before the challenge of a minor dictator. This cannot be allowed. To lose would be to validate and entrench Milosevic, dangerously strengthening militant Slav nationalism in both Serbia and Russia. It would be a betrayal of more than a million people in Kosovo whose sole crime is their race. The refugee crisis would destabilise Macedonia and Albania. Nato would be exposed as a sham, and its military threat no more than posturing. The security of the West and the central prop of the western alliance would be humiliated," the paper said.

June Thomas June Thomas

June Thomas is managing producer of Slate podcasts.

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Attacking NATO's lack of commitment, the Observer opined that "[s]o far Nato has prosecuted the war as if its aim was no more than to give Milosevic a salutary smack, with the Americans in particular rating the risk of one American military life before the lives of the thousands of civilians whose condition is the explicit reason for the intervention. ... Nato has to raise its game, with all that implies both in terms of acting on the ground militarily and of relieving the refugee crisis." Surmising that British Prime Minister Tony Blair is reluctant to pressure President Clinton to step up the U.S. commitment, the paper concluded that "if Blair wants to be a successful war leader, like Churchill and Thatcher, he must learn to be as ruthless."

The Sunday Times of London agreed that NATO is "at risk of being humiliated" and suggested that the only opportunity for success is the use of ground troops. "The only way to ensure victory is for there to be massive intervention. ... Nato will have to guarantee Kosovo's independence, making it in effect a protectorate. The Serbs will undoubtedly challenge this violation of what they regard as their heartland. It will be a form of peace and justice, but it will be fragile. The West must accept that it is going to be there for a very long time." While Spain's El Mundo editorialized that "Europe Must Mobilize To Help the Refugees," Dawn Neeson articulated a much less charitable position in Britain's mass-circulation tabloid Daily Star: "It's hard not to be moved by the pictures of Kosovan refugees streaming out of the war zone, especially the terrified kids. But have you spared a thought as to where they'll end up? Make no mistake, they're headed here. Soon you won't be able to move for head-scarfed women clutching wide-eyed babies and holding out their hands in your direction. Of course, the majority have been through a hell we can only imagine, but does that mean we have to swamp our already over-burdened welfare state?"

An op-ed piece in the liberal Israeli daily Ha'aretz recommended a return to the "Tito model" for the former Yugoslavia. Columnist Teddy Preuss concluded that a "solution will only be found if the two sides will agree to implement the one and only model that can prevent a Balkan holocaust, the model created by Yugoslavia's great president, which assured 40 years of peace in the whole of the Balkans: autonomous province status for Kosovo." Nevertheless, even Preuss was pessimistic that such an outcome would occur since "[c]ommon sense and the ability to see all sides are qualities as plentiful in the Balkans, unfortunately, as they are in the Middle East " In an exclusive interview with Canada's Globe and Mail, Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, who is due to arrive in the United States Tuesday, said, in regard to the Kosovo conflict, that while China respects human rights, "we do not think that we can possibly disregard the sovereignty of a country in the world. And if military interventionism is to be allowed in all the internal matters like a question of human rights of any country, that will open a very bad precedent in the world." Zhu stressed that China expects the same theory of nonintervention to apply to the situation in Taiwan, which Beijing views as a breakaway province that must ultimately be returned to Beijing's control.

Canada welcomed a new territory April 1 as Nunavut was carved from the eastern part of the Northwest Territories. In an editorial Saturday, the Globe and Mail said, "At a time when the international scene offers us too many horrific images of the intolerance and bullying that can govern relations between regions and ethnic groups, Canada is proving once again that intelligence and innovation, when applied with good will, can almost always permit the accommodation of difference." The population of the new territory is 85 percent Inuit, and in the view of the Globe and Mail, "This alone marks an important step forward in relations between native and non-native in this country, guaranteeing, for instance, that when federal, provincial and territorial leaders meet, there will always be someone speaking for an aboriginal majority somewhere in the country." Writing in the conservative National Post of Cananda, David Frum was less optimistic. He theorized that the territory's reliance on federal money from Ottawa will lead to misgovernment. "Nunavut will be misgoverned not because the people in charge are Inuit, but because the territory has adopted the same system of governance as Boss Tweed's New York [or] Marion Barry's Washington, D.C. ... Revenue from outside sources minus an effective opposition plus a co-opted population is a formula for disaster, regardless of whether the government is controlled by Inuit, whites, or South Sea Islanders."

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