Panel debates Kosovo strategy

by Alex Shartsis | 4/21/99 5:00am

Four Dartmouth professors addressed the idea of "Bombing for Peace" in the Kosovo conflict yesterday and discussed possible strategies for the upcoming months.

In a panel moderated by Director of the Dickey Center Eugene Lyons, Professors of Government Alexander Wendt and Bradley Thayer advocated the escalation of force in the region.

Although all four speakers accepted the moral impetuous driving the NATO action, Wendt and Thayer were the only two to support involvement on the ground. "Ground war is inevitable," said Wendt. "The U.S. should send in ground troops."

Likening the situation to Nazi Germany, Wendt said that "we are dealing with a criminal regime" and in response to an audience member's question said that he felt strongly enough to be willing to fight as an infrantryman and risk his own life.

Arguing both the immediate and future strategic necessity of further U.S. commitment, Wendt asserted that "the U.S. needs to get a bloody nose" and assert its credibility as a world power and leader of nations.

According to Wendt, the best conclusion to the crisis would be to "take Belgrade and overthrow the Milosevic regime... It would be unacceptable to accept anything but complete victory."

On this point Thayer and Wendt differed with the former asserting the "possibility for compromise," highlighting the fact that U.S. and Serbs shared goals on one level, namely peace and stability in the region. If the Serbs get what they want, the "minerals, monasteries and holy ground," in the northern part of Kosovo, and lose the other part of the region, the U.S. could have peace and stability.

At the same time Thayer acknowledged that this action "legitimizes what the Serbs have done" and that there is the risk that the "moderates would accept but the hard-liners would keep fighting."

Thayer's second-choice action, a NATO led invasion, was largely the same as Wendt's first choice. "I hope for the first but am increasingly expecting the second," said Wendt of his two views.

Assistant Government Professor Mlada Bukovansky addressed the meaning of the crisis for international organization, pointing out that in the United States' case, "power does not equal leadership."

"United States leadership is failing," she said, "because the U.S. has been neglecting" the United Nations.

Alleging that the Security Council is divided much like in Cold War days, Bukovansky went on to say that the "United States needs to reassert leadership in the United Nations if it wants to assert these kind of [democratic] ideals."

Both Bukovansky and English Professor Lynda Boose repeatedly mentioned the $1.6 billion in back dues owed by the United States to the U.N., connecting this and other strains of the U.S. - U.N. relationship to the issue of human rights.

"International norms are not invariably on the side of NATO and the U.S.," Bukovansky said. "There is not a clear consensus" on the issue of sovereignty versus human rights. "Many commentators are assuming that sovereignty is eroding," but this is wrong, she argued.

Bukovansky described the issue of "shared history," adding that the "bombing has only given them another shared experience to grab onto."

All speakers agreed that giving the Kosovo Liberation Army control in the future may result in the same war crime atrocities turned against Serbs, and all speculated whether establishing a democratic government was feasible or even a good idea.

They concurred only on the points that the atrocities were horrendous and there is at least some moral argument for involvement and that the United States has put its credibility on the line.

As Professor Wendt began, "We are where we are, and the question now is what to do next."

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