Time for serious measures in Kosovo

On Saturday, Defense Secretary William Cohen cosigned an agreement with NATO members threatening military intervention unless the violence stops in Kosovo. It’s about time. Cohen has already observed that, “We should take action sooner rather than later in the event that Mr. Milosevic doesn’t respond.” It is no longer sooner in the region. The Dayton Peace Accord has failed. Serbian violence has left more than 700 people dead in the Kosovo province, with 300,000 refugees hanging in the balance. Meanwhile the United Nations Security Council has authorized action while NATO forces are preparing for air and missile attacks. Yet Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is not scared, nor is he backing down. As he sneers at the rest of the world, his forces continue non-stop terrorist activity against ethnic Albanians.
Recent disaster relief efforts have been cosmetic at best. Thousands of Albanians are without shelter and other necessities — the weak dribbling of aid and good intentions inadequate for the realities of the situation. The only hope they have comes from NATO Secretary General Javier Solana who has indicated that “limited” and “phased” strikes might become necessary. He has asked that military commanders from NATO member nations begin to consider what hardware they will make available should military action be called for.
Germany and the Netherlands have already committed jet fighters. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe believes the latest warning to Milosevic should be the last. France also supports military action and Great Britain has lost patience.
In theory, the United States could intervene in the region without approval from the United Nations and NATO. However, a NATO alliance offers protection to the United States from international recrimination and strengthens the condemnation of Milosevic and his thugs. Moreover, NATO efforts make further peace-keeping demands including full access for international observers in Kosovo, ending Albanian terrorism and full cooperation by Serbs and Albanians with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for atrocities during the Balkans War.
The war in Kosovo differs little from the war in Bosnia: Civilians are the victims. Idle threats and flexing military muscles are not enough to stop the horror. An ultimatum must not only be delivered to the Serbs, but also stood behind. The people of Kosovo are suffering and massive humanitarian intervention is needed, from food to building materials, medicine to sanitation efforts. As the Serbs continue to block such efforts, the United States has taken a step in the right direction, joining together with other NATO nations. Hopefully we will give some teeth to the decision this time, standing behind our threats rather than offering only empty saber rattling as hope to those suffering in the region.