In recent days, Slobodan Milosevic, that unreconstructed relic of the Cold War, the communist and chauvinist dictator of Serbia and Montenegro, has launched a campaign of terror against the people of his own state. He has sent Serbs to kill Albanians, simply because they are Albanians. Mr. Milosevic has sent the so-called Yugoslav Army and Serbian police to execute major military attacks, with armor and gunships, against innocent, unarmed citizens of Serbia, Albanians in Kosovo. Indeed, if Mr. Milosevic and his Serb sycophants could get away with it, they would commit genocide against the Albanians.
The immediate excuse for this crime is an attack on Yugoslav-Serbian police and soldiers by a band of Albanian guerrillas from the Kosovo Liberation Front. The attack is the direct result of the overwhelming oppression of the Albanians by the Serbs. The Serbs are intent on nothing less than the Serbization of the Albanians. The Serb program is exactly like the programs of 19th century tyrannies that oppressed eastern Europe, including the Serbs themselves. The Serbs have been systematically depriving the Albanians of their language, culture, nationality, and identity and brutally punishing those Albanians who want to remain Albanian. The Albanians have had enough. They have risen in revolt.
The American response to the Serbian repression has been to brand the Kosovo Liberation Front a terrorist group. The Kosovars are freedom fighters, the Serbs are the terrorists. Indeed, it is the Serb rump of Yugoslavia that is a terrorist state. It is the Belgrade regime which, for five years, has used terrorist tactics against Slovenes, Croats, Bosnians, Macedonians, Albanians. Belgrade, by oppressing its own Albanian citizens, has shown that it is not fit and has forfeited its right to rule Kosovo. The Serbs' historic claim to Kosovo, as the epiphany of their existence as a nation, is now overtaken as outdated and insufficient. Serbian retention of Kosovo endangers the peace of Europe. The Albanians are entitled to self-determination.
This is the second time that Mr. Milosevic has engineered an ethnic war for his own personal ends. This is the second time NATO and the U.S. are standing by, letting him get away with it. The first time was Mr. Milosevic's attack on Slovenia and Croatia that began a brutal four-year war of ethnic cleansing. As President Bush should have done then, President Clinton should now send someone of stature to do some severe straight-talking to Mr. Milosevic: Unless he stops his actions in Albanian Kosovo, the U.S. will bomb his instruments of intimidation, the pillars of his power, the army and police, into utter oblivion.
Now, as then, the U.S. and some NATO nations, notably the U.S.'s only steady ally, the United Kingdom, are protesting to Mr. Milosevic and warning of further economic sanctions. (The scandalous exception is Greece, which has consistently opposed the self-determination of Albanians and others in the Balkans because of its oppression of its own Albanians, denying them their nationality.) But by now NATO and the U.S. should have learned that Mr. Milosevic will not be stopped by diplomacy and sanctions. He has used diplomacy to delay, deny, discourage, diffuse and disarm punitive political action. The Serbs have survived sanctions, Mr. Milosevic has prospered from them. Indeed, what Mr. Milosevic most fears is free politics and a free market; with both, his culpability and cupidity would be revealed and would bring real punishment, the loss of power and privilege.
The United States suffers Mr. Milosevic because it thinks his cooperation is necessary to the fulfillment of the flawed Dayton Accord. Mr. Milosevic has convinced the U.S. that he is indispensable to peace in the Balkans the entire time that he has made war in the Balkans. He has delayed, discouraged, and distracted from Dayton's implementation while denying the same. He has not severed his tie with his surrogates in the so-called Serb Republic in Pale. Indeed, he has encouraged and underwritten this fiefdom of war criminals and war profiteers because their success, either in securing their separation from Bosnia or sustaining their struggle against Bosnia, is essential to the realization of his aim: indefinite instability to insure his indispensability.
In truth, peace in the Balkans, with solutions to the Bosnian and Albanian problems, is possible only if the bloodstained Milosevic and the bloody-minded Markovic, his partner in crime, are removed from power altogether. It is not sufficient or acceptable to confine their power to Serbia. Mr. Milosevic and his Belgrade regime are a threat to the peace of Europe. They are the instigators. Unless they and their supporters are removed from power in Belgrade, there will be war, at some level against someone, in the Balkans.
The U.S. objective ought to be the rapid removal of the entire Milosevic gang from Belgrade, no matter how weak and venal the several Serbian oppositions. The U.S. ought to orchestrate an open offensive, combining the strongest overt economic and political measures with serious covert complements. The weakness in both brain and backbone of U.S. policy in the South Slav lands is evidenced in the persistent toleration for and collaboration with the sole remaining communist dictatorship on European soil a decade after the U.S. won the Cold War. The U.S. thinks that it has been using Mr. Milosevic; in reality, he has been using the U.S. Words alone won't stop him.
Walter Jajko is a retired air force brigadier general and a former assistant to the secretary of defense for intelligence oversight.