"Prayers and letters to the editor were not going to stop the violence and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; hot steel and political willpower ended this war."

Albanians cheer the arrival of NATO peacekeeping forces into Kosovo.

A Qualified Victory

June 10, 1999

      Dear Mr. Clinton,

      The war in Serbia appears to be over, our conduct of which was far from ideally planned and carried out -- this conflict that has left a million homeless and thousands dead. We didn't start it and in fact ignored it until we could not do so any longer, but hopefully we have brought it to an end. This is no time for celebration or parades, but we can take satisfaction in the job hopefully being done once and for all. The risks in this complex imbroglio where so much had the potential to go wrong were serious and many; but in having more or less navigated successfully this mine-field of troubles and obstacles, I congratulate you and your administration. What you should have done years before you finally accomplished, with more or less skill. Better late than never, I say.

      Skeptics from all corners of the political compass lined up around the block to take shots at you and predict disaster for your execution of the war: the liberal knee-jerk protesters, the conservative isolationists, the Christian pacifists -- the "holier than thous," the "oh!-we-can't-help-it!," the "peace at any cost" carping windbags. A thuggish dictator and indicted war criminal in Southern Europe can ask for no better friend than them! But you proved the nay-sayers and hand-wringers who would have left the Kosovar Albanians to rot in Macedonian and Albanians refugee camps indefinitely to have been wrong: the conflict did not spread to WWIII, as some feared, and the Cold War Part II has not begun. But Mr. Milosevic will most likely think twice before slaughtering his own people in NATO's own backyard and then thumbing his nose and daring us to do something about it.

      Prayers and letters to the editor were not going to stop the violence and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; hot steel and political willpower ended this war. And it has ended on terms very favorable to NATO and the Albanian refugees expelled from Kosovo. Having suffered so much, the Kosovar Albanians themselves even claim it will have been worth it if it gets them permanently out from under the boot of Milosevic! And nothing smells so good as success: nineteen democratic countries have rolled back a criminal army and prevented it from completing the most horrible crime in Europe since the end of WW II. I read with considerable frustration those who opposed our resort to military force, criticizing our "hubris" and arguing we should swallow our pride and simply look after the refugees as best we could, try to make people aware of what is taking place, call for more negotiations, and hope for the best. None of this did much good in Bosnia, and more likely only exacerbated and protracted that nasty conflict! If we had heeded the skeptics, Milosevic would still be the bleeding canker eating at the soft underbelly of Europe, the violence and bloodshed in Kosovo would continue indefinitely, and (after we finally took action) the refugees would be exiled from their lands permanently. But it appears our belated, clumsy action in Kosovo will bring about better long-term results than our pusillanimous inaction did in Bosnia. Again: better late than never. We have won the war. Now let us see if we can win the peace.

      Yes, peace is finally at hand in the former Yugoslavia. Milosevic might still be able to do perform some minor trouble and the peace will most likely be frustrating and tedious, but his power appears to be effectively contained: NATO soldiers enforce a peace both in Bosnia and Kosovo, the trouble-making arenas of choice. As it is now, Serbia will never control Kosovo or Bosnia again. And as long as the ignoble Slobodan Milosevic controls their government, the Serbs will continue to suffer poverty and need. Let them lie in this unhappy bed they have made for themselves!

      Milosevic started his drive for power back in 1989 by playing up Serbian nationalism in Kosovo. Perhaps in this defeat by NATO, Milosevic will similarly encounter his demise there. Serbia could have got almost the same terms by agreeing to NATO demands before any bombs ever dropped and saved themselves thousands of lives and a good part of the infrastructure of their country. As ethnic Germans in the territories today known as Poland and Czechoslovakia paid for the crimes of Adolf Hitler after WWII, so will many Serbs (most of whom are innocent of any ethnic cleansing) in Kosovo pay for the sins of Milosevic and most likely leave their homes for safer climes. When they arrive in Serbia, let Milosevic explain to them the policies of his regime in Kosovo. Let Milosevic explain to them and to the rest of his country what was gained in this war and why people all over Serbia this winter will be cold, hungry, and impoverished.

      Congratulations again, Mr. Clinton, on a job... if not well done, then at least successfully done. With the war over and Kosovo poised to be suffused with peacekeepers, I sleep easier tonight believing the world to be less in peril. Anybody can criticize a policy wrought under almost the most difficult and complex circumstances conceivable (in this intractable area of the world!), but not everyone can devise and successfully carry it out. That you did so in the face of grave doubts and serious risks only speaks well of your political skill; and let this be duly noted when it comes time for history to judge your administration. In contrast to l'affaire Lewinsky, let this Kosovo crisis be accrued somewhat to the credit column when historians appraise your presidency.

      From A Grateful Citizen,

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

At 03:04 AM 1/22/00 -0500, you wrote:
Hi Rich,

You're getting a personalized version of this email. In part, it is because your email address changed, but also because my blood boils when I read such things as your letter of adoration to the President concerning our "success" in Yugoslavia. I have learned in this past year that if someone is going to listen to reason, chances are they haven't been blinded by the media at all. So, in this case, anyone with the strong opinion that what NATO did was legal or ethical, is beyond my grasp, and therefore discussion of the topic is completely futile. The only thing to do, then, is expose the failings of such a course of action in an attempt to make it clear that the real meaning of these events was not accurately portrayed to the vast audience of modern media. You're educated, I hope you will reconsider your support for such actions.

http://www.kosovo.com has been reorganized, and I think you will find it tragically appauling, if you take the time. It is very sad that such an incredible capacity for destruction should be put into the ignorant hands of those who have such short memories and attention spans. This is the failure of democracy in our day, that there are situations where the mass audience is ignorant of reality, and where poll chasing politicians become the servants of that ignorance.


      Dear Dan,

      Sorry to hear your blood boils, but I am even more convinced in the justice and wisdom of our actions now than last year. The Kosovo disaster of last spring, I will hope, was the endgame for the wars Slobodan Milosevic began years earlier after the death of Marshal Tito and the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. Finally the flames he fanned and rode to power seemed to have been quelled. Frankly, Milosevic doesn't seem to matter much anymore.

      Why? Because larger parts of the areas around him are occupied by NATO peacekeepers. Milosevic is highly skilled in creating a bigger crisis to cover up smaller crises and thereby hold onto power; but after Kosovo, Milosevic may have run out of crises to exploit: he is contained inside Serbia proper by Western economic embargo and NATO military force. The Serbia Milosevic leads is isolated, badly damaged, and impoverished -- all direct results of the actions he took when he took up the helm of violent Serb nationalism. Yugoslavia has been completely corrupted by persons such as him and Zeljko Raznatovic (ie. better known by his nom de guerre, "Arkan"), profiting personally Mafia-style as the country went down the tubes. I have all the sympathy in the world for some poor Serb family (and they number in the millions) who have seen their fortunes decline as Milosevic and his cronies rose to wealth and power, but they just go to prove (as I said in my original URL) what Plato claims: "The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." And now so many are so discouraged in Serbia that, like in Iraq, they will simply whimper and allow the miserable unsatisfactory status quo to continue -- with no end of their suffering in sight. How sad.

      You might claim that the violent passions have not ended in Kosovo and Bosnia, NATO troops notwithstanding. You are correct, but the violence is much less than it was. Nobody, for example, is going to be taking thousands of the others out into the countryside (as happened in Srebernica) to slaughter them. The situation is very much more stabilized, and if the mouth-breathers in that putrid part of the world decide to go at if for another round it will not be anytime soon. Why? First, because they are all exhausted. Secondly, because NATO troops will not let it happen. This is very much better than the situation only a couple of years ago when the fighting raged virtually unchecked all across the former Yugoslavia. Nobody in the United States or Western Europe is happy to win a war only to be rewarded with the prize of a Godforsaken piece of earth such as Kosovo. Nobody on either side of the Atlantic Ocean is thrilled to occupy the tedious, frustrating role of trying to police that chaotic, traumatized place where large segments of the population want nothing more than to kill each other, but this is better than watching them continue to kill each other unabated. From the perspective of 1995 or 1997 the present situation is a success, as the Balkans are much less violent and many fewer lives are being lost. It seems obvious that to win a war against the Serb military forces in Kosovo will prove easier than bringing law and order (or any kind of effective government) to the anarchy and madness of Kosovo, racked by Albanian organized crime and lacking anything remotely resembling a modern civil society. Nevertheless, Kosovo will not explode into bitter, bloody civil war while NATO and the United Nations are in charge; and that is in direct contrast with Milosevic, who sought to exacerbate tensions and increase the violence and bloodshed in Kosovo precisely so as to hold onto power more securely in Serbia proper.

      You might claim neither NATO nor the United Nations has the legal right to go into the areas of the former Yugoslavia. In a strictly legal sense, you may be right. But when you have warlords and thugs with automatic rifles posing as soldiers (re. Arkan) pillaging the countryside and when any real sense of a serious government is gone, sovereignty begins to look pretty tenuous. What the Balkans needed more than anything else was a stronger outside power to come in and contain the fighting; NATO did this, and anyone with a bit of common sense can see that the situation is better now. What NATO did, in my opinion, should have happened years earlier during the Bosnia campaign. It was begging to happen, and finally slick Willy Clinton's hand was forced and even the pussy Europeans found a backbone. The West stumbled into this recent war against the Serbs after running away from it for almost a decade; and we shall see if they stumble as much in effecting the peace inside Kosovo, and in the Balkans in general. In the 500-year struggle between Muslims Albanians and Eastern Orthodox Slavs in the cultural fault line of Southern Europe, I don't pretend a permanent peace is within sight. But I can hope the large-scale fighting is over for the foreseeable future: no more standing on the sidelines by the West and watching the two weasels in a hole strike at each other's jugular. Again, the main areas of contention -- Kosovo and Bosnia -- are international protectorates. The United Nations has proved itself a pathetically ineffectual actor in the trauma of the Balkans; the United States and its NATO allies therefore moved into the vacuum, belatedly. There is a new sheriff in town, if a reluctant one.

      The law enforcement motif is, in my opinion, exactly right. When two assholes are slugging it out in the street, finally the police show up and restore order (in places with functioning societies, at least). The two might go back to fighting sooner or later, as only they can decide to live together peacefully and make a permanent peace; but the police can stop them from killing each other in plain view as everyone watches horrified. You could argue that the United States and NATO are not the global policeman, but in this case we sure as damn were! The place badly needed such a policeman for years, and now a messy peace seems to be in place that pleases nobody; but this is much preferable to a return to the killing fields of Spring 1999 and before. As an American, I would love to wash my hands of having the responsibility of dealing with these backwater shit holes drenched with the blood-and-soil ideology of ethnic hatred, but if we don't do anything nothing will get done -- that was the reality in 1991 when all this began, and it is the reality today! It is the nature of Authority to take criticism and be second-guessed, and if we Americans don't like the heat then we should get out of the kitchen! Nobody likes much the cops when they go do some bit of needed dirty work in some dark, ugly corner of the city, but most sensitive, thoughtful people understand the necessity of police and the use of force in the context of a flawed humanity: in a "world indelibly stained by Original Sin," author John Updike reminds us, "peace depends on the threat of violence. The threat cannot always be idle." Think about it. I am not in favor of aggressively patrolling the world in search of brutal dictators to confront, but glaring instances need be addressed -- especially in areas sensitive to our national security, like Europe. So be it.

      After years and years of his neighborhood burn and bleed, finally Milosevic and his cronies appear to have had his wings clipped and his dreams for a Greater Serbia seem thwarted. Now I hope and pray that the healing balm of time will serve to mitigate the violent hatreds and drive for revenge in the Balkans. This may be naive on my part, but peace in the former Yugoslavia in the long-run is in the hands of the primary combatants themselves. In the short term, however, a cessation of widespread fighting in the region is the responsibility of NATO military forces. And this is a good thing. I have few illusions about the Albanians in Kosovo; they would hand out the same treatment to the Serbs as they got, if they had the power. They can in fact harass and kill Serbs here and there in Kosovo, but they will be in the main reigned in by NATO troops. As long as Kosovo is a NATO and UN protectorate, we will see no more vicious, widespread combat as was seen last year and before. The peace there will not be pretty and all the people involved will complain long and loudly, but they are far beyond being able to run their own affairs for the time being. Maybe that will change with time -- but I leave that to the future and persons smarter than you and I. We do what we can do with the situation as it is, and then we live with it. The situation has gone from critical to merely bad; and now we are moved on to Chechnya, the Congo, Sierre Leone, East Timor and other fresher but equally dispiriting stories of man-made disaster and suffering. "The wearisome condition of mankind," lamented John Donne, back at the beginning of the 17th century. How little the world changes!

      But you know what? The more I look back at the Yugoslav Wars from 1991 on and reflect with the benefit of hindsight and a view as to what has happened since the Serbs withdrew from Kosovo last spring, the more I think history will judge harshly our European NATO allies and ourselves the Americans not for having had the arrogance to intervene in the internal affairs of "Greater Serbia" -- but in not having had the backbone to intervene and stop the wars and the massacres sooner! Sadly, I reflect once again -- almost 60 years after Neville Chamberlain and the Munich Accords! -- how ineffectual, spineless, and slow are liberal democracies to move decisively against evil. After all the hand wringing after WWII about Nazi einsatzgruppen in E. Europe herding whole villages out into the countryside to be shot and buried in mass graves, the same exact thing happens not far away in S. Europe in Srebernica and elsewhere -- in an age when the media enabled everyone to be much more aware of what is going on, in a time when powerful military forces were only a hop, skip, and a jump away from being able to make their presence felt. Disgraceful!

      Big fishes in a little fishbowl like Ratko Mladic and Arkan (the latter predictably murdered along with his bodyguards recently by organized crime rivals) got taken down a notch; it is one thing in Bosnia or Kosovo to carry a rifle and play "soldier" and brutalize Muslim civilians with relative impunity, it is another thing to fight against professional forces and play "for real" in the big leagues. Milosevic and his cronies finally found they were playing out of their league. (If the bombing of Serbia last spring by NATO and subsequent occupation of Kosovo by KFOR was anything, it was a crude lesson in power.) Milosevic and his goons can retreat into Serbia proper and enjoy a relative safety from justice, but if they leave and enter EU Europe or go virtually anywhere else they will be arrested as indicted war criminals and be prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. The Serbs, and their leaders in war in particular, are pariahs in the world community. They could hardly be more isolated, or more penurious; Hungary, Slovenia, and most of the rest of Central Europe move into the 20th century modernizing their economies and joining the "civilized" world, as Serbia moves in exactly the opposite direction (a direct result of the decisions made by Slobodan Milosevic over the past decade). As usual, it are the powerless and innocent in Serbia who will suffer the most, as you just know Milosevic and his partners in crime are eating well and suffer no privations; but if the rest of the Serbians want to clean up the cesspool gangster-culture, which Serbia currently is, and enjoy a better tomorrow -- then the work will be long, laborious, and dangerous. But there is no other way -- you clean up your own messes in this world. The extremist Serb nationalists have had quite a party over the past decade, but the hangover will be particularly sharp both now and long into the foreseeable future in Serbia.

      This is how I see it now. I am sorry we don't agree. I suspect your anger is directed less towards disturbing events in the Balkans and more at your own government in Washington D.C. You cringe instinctively, I suspect, in the clumsy application of brute force by the United States in a complicated internecine fight overseas. As you see, I have no such compunction in this instance. I cannot for the life of me understand what you see in the Serb's cause that gets your panties in a bundle. The world does not lack for more worthy causes in which to crusade.

      I trust this message finds you well.

      Very Truly Yours,


P.S. This e-mail address is not new, as you simply have been sending missives to me at a long dormant old address from an ISP I long since left (and checked only infrequently). Finally, the account was disabled, Amen.

P.P.S. You might claim my conclusions are the mere result of my mindlessly imbibing biased Western media reports and consequently being brainwashed to a certain point of view. You underestimate the number of different sources from which I glean information, as well as my own capacity to look at a situation from a variety of different perspectives and gauge the complexity and violent passions that drive the human heart in the affairs of man. When I opine about Bosnia or Kosovo, I speak about subjects to which I have devoted considerable time and attention -- as might be evidenced in these lengthy exchanges. I don't consider of myself an expert, but I don't consider myself as uniformed or "ignorant of reality" (as you put it). For better or for worse, I am just another citizen stating his own considered opinion. If Bill Clinton as a "poll chasing politician" decides to chase my vote by belatedly bombing Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia, then I am all in favor of democracy!

X-From_: www@web28.anawave.com Fri Feb 4 16:03 PST 2000
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 2000 16:12:35 -0800 (PST)
From: webmaster@rjgeib.com
To: guestbook@rjgeib.com
Subject: Form Submission from www.rjgeib.com

EMAIL_ADDR: guestbook@rjgeib.com
EMAIL_SUBJECT: Guest Book Signature
Name: seth
Age: 22
email: moonie197@hotmail.com
State?: ma
Country?: usa
Findout: Just surfed on in!

Mr. Geib,
I sent you a link a week ago to Michael Parenti's archive at www.michaelparenti.org, however I signed your Gustbook as The Green Knight. Hopefully, now that I've resigned your Guestbook using a different name you will respond with your opinion of Parenti's The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia. I look forward to reading your reply. Thanks for your time and consideration. Cordially, Seth at moonie197@hotmail.com

thankURL: http://www.rjgeib.com/about-me/guest/thank-you.html

      Dear Seth,

      I read the section on Michael Parenti's webpage but remain unconvinced. His seems the typical anti-capitalist criticism that the U.S. for its financial interests is able to be a sort of invisible hand starting and finishing crises around the world to its own advantage. The critique to me seems to grossly overestimate the power of the United States to be the determinant, cause, and final arbitrator for the desires of people around the world. The United States might have been the primary force behind the end of the violence both in Bosnia and Kosovo after it finally, belatedly decided to flex serious political and military muscle, but the passions and hatreds that started those wars find their genesis in the tragic history of the area and not in some bureaucrat's office in Washington D.C.

      After having read and thought widely about the Balkans over the past decade, it seems clear to me that the United States was for the most part a puzzled observer watching aghast at the former Yugoslavia as it fell apart and then turned on itself. Yugoslavia as a nation had been held together by the iron hand of Marshal Tito, who suppressed any tinges of nationalism after WWII. After his death, it began to fall apart. Nobody predicted this or needed to abet it, considering the virulence of the ethnic hatreds present. Both Western Europe and the United States wanted to stop the violence and received much criticism from their own citizens about failing to stop the mayhem, but the price for stopping the violence would have been very high and nobody wanted to pay it -- until things had progressed to quite a level.

      For example, for all his campaign rhetoric about stopping the slaughter in Bosnia in 1992, Clinton took the easy way out (ie. committing no U.S. soldiers to the area) until it looked as if the credibility both of NATO and stability of whole S. European area hung in the balance. To be more specific, he saw that he might have to commit U.S. combat troops from Europe to rescue U.N. forces that looked about ready to be overwhelmed and abused as horribly as everyone else in Bosnia. Finally, he took the situation seriously and started down the road to the Dayton Accords. Clinton provided substantial military aid and advice to the Croatians who then began to push back Serb forces and score victories; and then the Serbs were suddenly more amenable to peace -- hence the Dayton Accords, the insertion of NATO peacekeepers, the end of the fighting in Bosnia, etc.

      The U.S. role in the Balkans from George Bush to Bill Clinton has been a stumbling and bumbling one, not a coldly pre-meditated masterpiece of realpolitik. And as we stumbled puzzled through the first few Yugoslav Wars, so we stumbled clumsily into the war with Serbia last spring. For years the State Dept. wanted a more activist role to stop Serbian aggression, but the Defense Dept. wanted no part in a potential morass that would put at risk U.S. troops for no discernible national security interest. Many American voters (such as myself!) wanted something done to stop the blight of killing fields and "ethnic cleansing" in a post-WWII Europe that was supposed to have relegated to its past, but other Americans wanted no part in a contest in which all sides were villains that would risk the lives of U.S. soldiers for no good point at all. (As one U.S. official of the Bush Administration put it bluntly [I paraphrase]: "Bosnia is a dogfight in which the U.S. has no dog.") The Euro-Atlantic policies might zig-zag a bit here or a bit over there to try to assuage public opinion in their own countries, but everything was ineffectual. On the other hand, the Serbs, Croats, Albanians, and Bosnian Muslims never paid too much attention to the EU, UN, the U.S., or the various charities, aid organizations, media, etc. as they were going for each other's jugular during the various Yugoslav wars. Or let me put it more clearly, the local forces paid little attention to the external powers and organizations until such actors decided to make their presence known in a decisive manner. They did what they wanted to do, until others forced them not to do it.

      With the Serbs, in particular, they seem to very much respect strength and disrespect weakness. They abused and humiliated the paltry U.N. forces wearing their pathetic baby blue helmets but have not tried the same thing with powerful NATO KFOR forces in Kosovo and other Euro-Atlantic troops in Bosnia. With superior force on the ground, they could afford to threaten and beat up the U.N. forces. They dare not do the same thing to the very much larger NATO forces because they know it will mean a fight they will suffer greatly. But if the Europeans and Americans always have had vastly superior military forces just across the border able to defeat the Serbs in a knock down, drag-out fight, they lacked the political will to use it -- until the whole disaster was very far progressed, that is. (As Mikhail Gorbachev wrote at the time about the Western Europeans, "You are an economic giant, but you are political pygmies.") Rather than an exercise in Machiavellian U.S. policies, the Balkans over the past 10 years to me seems a humbling lesson in how difficult it can be to make peace in an area where few want to make peace and many want to fight it out to the last soldier (or more likely, the last civilian victim caught in the middle). The regional ethnic passions and hatreds of the actors in the area have been the real driving forces behind events in the Balkans over the past decade, but Parenti makes it sound as if foreign powers (ie. American) were the actors pulling the invisible strings that truly explain what happened. It is the stuff of conspiracy theorists and neo-Marxists.

      I saw that City Lights publishes most of Parenti's books. That should have been the warning sign for you that the bias of the book was going to be very left wing. If you see a book is published by the Heritage Foundation or Buckley's "National Review," you should have similar qualms about a similar right wing agenda and bias of the author. Look elsewhere for sensitive, nuanced, and insightful political journalism.

      I trust this message finds you well.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib