Kemp Statement on Kosovo
Jude Wanniski
April 1, 1999


Where does the stepped-up bombing of Kosovo/Belgrade end? As long as Republican leaders stand back from criticizing the course the Clinton administration is on, the White House will keep on bombing in hopes that someone will get a bright idea on how to proceed. There is none at the moment, except to step up the demonization of Slobodan Milosevic, as if the problem would go away if he did, and propagandize the ethnic cleansing and atrocities in order to maintain political support for the campaign. The GOP hardliners argue, as The Weekly Standard does, that it is only Republican hatred of Clinton that is causing some of them to snipe at the bombing campaign. Of course, the WSJ editorial page is the Number One Clinton hater as well as the Number One cheerleader for bigger and better bombs. Jack Kemp, who is no longer a combatant in the 2000 political wars and thus is capable of playing honest broker, stepped into this power vacuum today with a statement urging a ceasefire and fresh negotiations with the Belgrade government. We of course hope it can provide a means to halt the slide toward a wider war. The conflict is not yet affecting global financial markets and they will not if it is contained. Our biggest concern is the rupturing of relations with Moscow and China if the disturbance leads to the kind of unforseen and unpredictable events that often grow out of a political upheaval such as this one.

Here is the Kemp statement in full. Of the GOP presidential contenders, former Vice President Dan Quayle has been the most aggressive in criticizing the bombing campaign but still is not as sharp as Kemp is in today's statement. The way each of the political contenders reacts to the fast-breaking events will help shape their potential, up or down. JW

Kemp Criticizes Clinton's Unilateral Rejection of Primakov Opening to Negotiations In Kosovo
Says Clinton bombing strategy is wrongheaded and making situation worse;
Rejects administration's emerging doctrine of an independent Kosovo

Washington, D.C., April 1, 1999 - Today Jack Kemp criticized the Clinton Administration for unilaterally rejecting Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's opening to negotiations in Kosovo. Kemp said "We should not unilaterally accept Slobodan Milosevic's conditions, but neither should we unilaterally reject the idea of returning to the negotiating table under a simultaneous cease-fire on the ground in Kosovo and in the air over Yugoslavia. The president should explore every opportunity to halt the destabilizing violence that is threatening to engulf the entire Balkan region.

"We've come to this point through a series of blunders and miscalculations committed by all the parties, beginning with Milosevic's withdrawal of Kosovar autonomy in 1989 which the region had enjoyed for more than a decade. We properly interjected ourselves diplomatically into the Yugoslavian civil war to halt the violence by attempting to convince Serbia to restore Kosovar autonomy. Then the Clinton Administration itself committed a huge blunder by insisting that Serbia allow thousands of NATO troops to be stationed on Serbian soil in Kosovo. Now, Mr. Clinton is on the verge of committing another blunder by suggesting that the United States may seek an independent Kosovo.

"It is time to restart negotiations for the autonomy of Kosovo without insisting that the Serbs allow foreign troops to be stationed permanently in their country or floating any more hints that the United States and NATO intend to establish an independent Kosovo. For make no mistake, once we go in, there is no coming out. An independent Kosovo will turn into a NATO protectorate, requiring our troops to remain as an occupying army for decades to come."Our thoughts, our prayers and full support are with the men and women in the armed forces who honorably, courageously and without question carry out the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. Yet while they are succeeding with the air campaign, the Clinton Administration's policy is failing. And let me emphasize that any thought of sending ground troops into Serbia to salvage the situation is, quite simply, insane.

"The air strikes against Serbia and Serb targets in Kosovo are wrong. They are counterproductive. The bombing has backfired and should stop immediately. Far from saving lives, the air war and the intensified ground war between Serbs and the KLA are causing more people, including innocent civilians on both sides, to die. Far from preventing a mass exodus of refugees, the bombing and shelling have created a new flood of displaced women, children and elderly, who are escaping to neighboring Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. NATO itself has reported on this massive tide of refugees, but its response has been to step up the air attacks, apparently in the false hope that doing so will persuade Serbian authorities to allow the families left homeless to return unmolested. In the administration's misguided use of violence to end what it calls a ‘humanitarian crisis' in Kosovo, it has succeeded in producing another, even greater catastrophe; and it runs the risk of spreading the war.

"It is imperative that the major regional powers devise a strategy for bringing all parties back to the negotiating table. While negotiations are under way, the refugees must be allowed to return to their homes and we must mount whatever humanitarian effort is necessary. One thing is very clear however: the West cannot insist that foreign troops be stationed on sovereign Serbian territory as a condition for negotiations to be undertaken. Peace is not contingent on American-lead NATO forces, neither in the air over Yugoslavia nor on the ground in Kosovo. We cannot bomb people into making peace with one another. Nor can an occupying NATO army bring peace to this troubled region. Peace is dependent on the Serbian people and the Kosovar Albanians.

"President Clinton miscalculated. Rather than sink deeper into a quagmire by continuing to bomb or sending in helicopters and ground troops, our leaders must rethink their strategy and their purpose, not only in the Balkans but also around the world. Just as there will be no peace in Iraq as long as we continue routinely bombing Saddam Hussein, there will be no peace in Serbia as long as we continue to drop bombs on Slobodan Milosevic. If we persist in this misguided foreign policy, we could find ourselves engaged in a perpetual two-front war, the flames of which Russia and China may feel compelled to stoke in seeking to restore a geo-political balance of power at our expense."