Dubya’s Kosovo Doubletalk

The recent Senate vote on the Byrd-Warner amendment to get us out of Kosovo was an object lesson in the way the two government-subsidized “major” parties operate, in practice, as two wings of the War Party; or, as Pat Buchanan puts it, “two wings of the same vulture.” While most Republicans supported the amendment, and most Democrats voted nay, the key factor that defeated congressional non-interventionists was the leadership of both parties. The Clinton administration worked overtime to defeat Byrd-Warner, with Cabinet-level officials working the phones right up until the last moment: they managed to pull off a squeaker, 53-47 – but in the end they couldn’t have done it without Dubya. LEGISLATIVE OVERREACH – OR RECLAIMING THE CONSTITUTION?

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee joined Clinton and Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the administration’s point man on Kosovo, in calling for the defeat of the measure: Bush’s statement was key in winning over waverers like Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.). With typical Clintonian deviousness, Bush spokesman Scott McClellan, said, “The Clinton-Gore administration has failed to instill trust in Congress and the American people when it comes to our military and deployment of troops overseas, but the governor does not believe this provision is the way to resolve the lack of presidential leadership.” He added, “Governor Bush views it as a legislative overreach on the powers of the presidency.” Never mind that the Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to make war, and not the President: this was enough for Cochran, who burbled: “I agree with the governor. He would need the flexibility of a newly elected president to make decisions with his own advisers.”


But wait a minute – Dubya is not in the Oval Office yet, as much as Republicans would like to believe that it’s practically inevitable. Doesn’t he have to tell us just where he stands on vital issues such as Kosovo first – isn’t that one reason we bother having elections? Because it is not at all clear what President Dubya would do. As the Kosovars gather on the Serbian border, carrying their war for “liberation” deep into Yugoslav territory, he may be forced to take a stand before Election Day 2000 – but given his previous statements, which jump all over the map, it is hard to say just where he will come down.


On the one hand we have his own seemingly offhand remark that the war ought to have been prosecuted more “ferociously.” On the other hand, we have the cautious and weasel-worded policy papers and press statements of his advisors, who make a strenuous effort to appeal to the noninterventionist instincts of most conservative Republicans. When the war ended, the Bush camp issued a statement in which they averred:

“Once they are returned to their homes, the Kosovars must be protected by an international peacekeeping force with NATO at its core. Any United States forces involved must be under United States or NATO command. The President should also lay out a timetable for how long American troops will be involved and when they will be removed. If a residual force is needed, it is important that over time United States troops are withdrawn and our European allies assume most of the responsibility.”


But they didn’t mean a word of it, because this is precisely what the Byrd-Warner amendment would have accomplished. Senate Republicans who were under the illusion that the Bush camp meant what they said had the rug rudely pulled out from under them – and this is only the beginning. Just wait until Dubya is elected President, thanks to Ralph Nader: then their troubles are really going to start.


The job of interpreting the foreign policy pronouncements of George Dubya and Company is made easier by the dearth of such statements. The Bush website is packed with information on every conceivable issue under the sun, but to get to the foreign policy section you have to scroll all the way to the bottom: a single speech is listed in that category, in which the word “Kosovo” is a “search string not found.” Only the most determined researcher is able to find their search engine in the first place – and that in and of itself says a lot. A search for “Kosovo” turns up 10 items, including these two items on a long list of foreign policy positions:

“Supported U.S. intervention in Kosovo because it was in our strategic interests

“Said option of ground troops should not have been taken off the table in Kosovo intervention”


But if US intervention in Kosovo was “in our strategic interests,” then on what grounds can the Bushians call for the phased withdrawal of all US troops and refer to the US military presence as “residual”? Is an alleged “strategic interest” to be suddenly and so easily abandoned, without a thought or even an explanation? My search for such an explanation on the Bush website proved fruitless. The best the Bushies can come up with is to pledge, if Dubya is elected, that he will

“Order an Immediate Review of Overseas Deployments: As President, Governor Bush will pledge to maintain longstanding commitments, but will order a review of other overseas deployments. To improve morale and preserve resources for important interests, diffuse commitments will be replaced with focused ones. National security planners will scrutinize open-ended deployments, reassess US goals, and ascertain whether they can be met. For example, as he has previously stated, he will work hard as President for political solutions that allow an orderly and timely withdrawal from places like Kosovo and Bosnia.”


Now there’s one for the record books – an example of a campaign promise broken before the candidate is even elected. Hat’s off to the Bush camp: this is truly a feather in their cap. Not only have they set a record for mendacity, they have also managed to convince dullards like Senator Cochran and sixteen other Republican Senators that the time to come out with a policy is after the election is safely won. This strategy of laying low until after November is made necessary because of the threat posed by Buchanan to Bush’s conservative (and increasingly anti-interventionist base) – and is predicated on the hope that Kosovo doesn’t explode before the election. In any case, the battle within the Bush foreign policy team over Kosovo is already over, and the interventionists have won. As the Washington Post reported back in November,

“While the group tries to reach consensus on major issues, Bush sometimes has to choose between competing arguments. Last spring, for example, he was confronted with a difference of views over whether the United States should take military action to protect the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo. Zakheim was against it. Wolfowitz was for it. In the end, swayed by arguments that the crisis threatened European stability, Bush reluctantly backed Clinton’s decision to intervene.”


Wolfowitz was a leading light of the now-dormant Balkan Action Council – which functioned as the major Washington-based American front group for the Kosovo Liberation Army – and lent his name to the BAC’s propaganda, which had been advocating an all-out war against Serbia since June of 1998: In January of 1999 they issued the following statement, which also appeared in newspaper advertisements, calling on Clinton to:

“Withdraw the international monitors immediately to prevent Belgrade from using them as hostages and clear the ground for NATO military intervention. Use NATO air power in sustained attacks on Serbian police, paramilitary units and military forces in Kosovo to compel their withdrawal back to Serbia proper. Deploy NATO ground troops and reintroduce the OSCE monitoring mission to Kosovo to forestall a return to violence. Impose and enforce with NATO forces an interim settlement in Kosovo that restores the elements of pre-1989 autonomy.”


The statement was signed by Morton Abramowitz, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Frank Carlucci, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Helmut Sonnenfeldt, William H. Taft, and Paul Wolfowitz. A perceptive piece from last year by Jacob Heilbrun on the “realist” versus ultra-interventionist factions within the Bush foreign policy team noted the predominance of the latter in spite of the former’s strength in numbers. Condolezza Rice is revealed as the author of the “troops out of Kosovo” pledge, noted above, but Wolfowitz an “impassioned” advocate of worldwide intervention, is apparently on the ascendant. While Ms. Rice was the chief inspiration behind Dubya’s very first foreign policy speech, in which the limits of American power are at least acknowledged, Heilbrun writes that in Dubya’s second and far more widely reported second speech, “he took the Wolfowitz line.” Avers Heilbrun:

“The irony about the internal Bush team debates is that even though George W. may not know much about foreign policy, he is playing the same role as he is in domestic affairs with his call for a ‘compassionate conservatism,’ namely, taming the worst instincts of the GOP itself. As congressional Republicans drift into the swamps of isolationism, he may be the last barrier against a full-fledged Republican retreat from the international arena.”


In other words, the only thing standing between conservative Republicans and the foreign policy of the Founding Fathers is their presidential candidate, George Dubya Bush, and his gaggle of neoconservative advisors – as his betrayal of Senate Republicans on the Kosovo vote dramatized rather vividly.


Those Republicans who are voting for Bush this year partly on the basis of their belief that he will get us out of Kosovo and out of the business of empire-building are setting themselves up for a major disappointment – and setting the rest of us up for a renewed war in Europe that could make Kosovo look like a Sunday school picnic. For Wolfowitz, in line for a top job in a future Bush administration – perhaps National Security Advisor – sees no end to the Cold War in spite of the implosion of Communism. The Wolfowitz Doctrine, enunciated in an infamous memo drawn up by him, is a vision of imperium as America’s inevitable and glorious future. Wolfowitz sees Russia as America’s major antagonist, and explicitly foresees a US-Russian showdown over NATO expansion. In other words, Europeans – and Americans – must be prepared to lay down their lives so that the small Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania can enter NATO and buy plenty of American-made weapons – with much of the bill going to US taxpayers in the form of export subsidies and foreign aid.


Not only must we be willing to go to war for the sake of NATO expansion, but we must also be willing to die for the imperial principle of American hegemony on every continent, so as to inhibit the development of any regional rival into a possible contestant for global dominance. In the Wolfowitzian worldview, Serbia is just a cat’s-paw for Russia, and therefore must be smashed. Chechnya is also a likely target of Wolfowitzian intervention, where yet another gang of thugs is just waiting to be put on the American dole and dubbed “freedom fighters” – coincidentally, in a region where a large quantity of oil has recently been discovered.


A Republican victory in November would not only unleash Wolfowitz, the would-be world hegemon, but also the Big Oil faction of the Bush coalition: as I have noted before, these folks have plenty of corporate links to big Republican poohbahs such as former defense secretary Dick Cheney. The oil companies have taken a big gamble in the Caucasus, investing billions of dollars (not their own money, of course, but taxpayer subsidies) and expending plenty of political capital to strike it rich in the Caspian oil fields. As American troops are mobilized to guard “democracy” in Georgia, or Azerbaijan, or some other completely unpronounceable Caucasian sub-“republic,” in order to stop another alleged case of “ethnic cleansing,” it will of course be a coincidence, albeit remarkable, that certain large oil-related corporations reap enormous profits. Naturally, the costs of this venture will be socialized – by you, the taxpayer, with your money and perhaps the lives of your sons and daughters – while the profits will be strictly privatized.


You can bet your bottom dollar that the day after Bush gets into office will mark the beginning of a new cold war, a new era of increasingly polarized international conflict that directly poses the threat of nuclear war. As I have noted before, Buchanan’s book, A Republic, Not an Empire, has an excellent section on the Wolfowitz memorandum and its sweeping recommendations: the apparent rise of its author as the de facto leader of the Bush foreign policy team does not bode at all well for those well-meaning mainstream conservatives who opposed that war and abhor its tragic results: they want to vote for Bush and hope for the best. In hoping for the best, however, they are certain to get the worst – but I don’t want to have to say I told you so.


From the viewpoint of those who see US intervention abroad and the growing danger of war as the greatest danger to our liberty here at home, choosing between the two major party candidates for President is a hairsplitting operation that requires a political microscope of awesome power. On the one hand, Gore is the inheritor of the Clinton Doctrine, the policy of “humanitarian” interventionism that measures the necessity of war on a scale of political correctness, with the crimes of “racism” and “nationalism” (synonyms to the Clintonistas) numbers one and two on the list. On the other hand, the Bush-Wolfowitz vision of America is frankly imperial, with Washington clearly positioning as the kind of global arbiter that can make imperialism pay. In his classic essay, “Ex America,” Garet Garrett criticized the American empire as a new and curious development, the “empire of the empty purse,” where “everything goes out and nothing comes in.”


When Dubya gets in office, having raised the largest campaign war chest in American history from these very same corporate interests, a lot will come in – that’s the payoff. Think of the Bush campaign as an investment, a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to what is potentially a much bigger payoff – the profits from the biggest oil bonanza in history. Taken together, these two historical firsts – coincidentally occurring during roughly the same period – are ominous in the extreme. While Gore has rather stupidly attacked Bush for alleged “isolationism” – Where? When? I eagerly await any evidence of it – he has rightly gone after the Republican candidate for his antagonism toward Russia and accused him of wanting to revive the cold war. This is exactly what Wolfowitz and the radical wing of the War Party are driving at – and if Bush makes it to the White House, Cold War II is practically guaranteed. Russophobia is on the rise among some sadly misinformed conservatives, although others, such as Paul Weyrich and the foreign policy analysts who write for Chronicles magazine – and have now organized the new Center for International Affairs – are notable exceptions.


In Gore versus Bush from a noninterventionist perspective, we are faced with the choice of sanctimony and fear-mongering. Either we invade and occupy the rest of the planet for their own good, or we do it for our own good – these are the Democratic and Republican alternatives, respectively. As for me, I’ve made my personal stand for years, not only in this column but long before that, that there is indeed a third alternative, and that is in the presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan. I’ve written plenty of columns about why, but I just want to make the additional point that those Republicans who argue that Bush is better than Gore at any price are by no means making a certain case. Sanctimony at least implies some standard of vaguely republican (small-r) virtue, while fear-mongering in the nuclear age is dangerous and could lead to nuclear annihilation. An argument could be made – although I am not the one to make it – that, given only two choices, Bush or Gore, from a strictly noninterventionist perspective Gore is preferable on the grounds that Gore wants to take on the smaller “rogue states,” such as Serbia and some in Africa, while Bush would go head to head with the (relatively) big boys, nuclear-armed Russia and China. One could indeed make the case that the latter course is far more dangerous, and that therefore Gore represents the only alternative to world annihilation – but we’ll have to leave explosion of that particular fallacy in a future column.


Suffice to say that there is indeed a third alternative, one that anti-interventionists of the left as well as the right are rallying around, and that is the Reform party campaign of a man who proudly claims the legacy of America First, the biggest antiwar organization in American history.


The impact of domestic politics on our foreign policy is a lesson bitterly learned by conservatives all through the Clinton years. The bombing of an aspirin factory in the Sudan crowded news of yet more scandal off the front pages. As the drive to impeach the President reached its dramatic anticlimax, so did the Kosovo crisis. The domestic uses of overseas intervention are well known to conservative Republicans – and perhaps they have not seen the last of it yet. In any other era, the following might fairly be termed a thoroughly outlandish conspiracy theory, but in the Clintonian era I wouldn’t rule it out. . . .


With the situation building along the Yugoslav-Kosovo border, and the mini-republic of Montenegro a tiny tinderbox waiting for a match, it would only take a small incident to spark a general conflagration and resumption of US military action. The war was never ended, but only interrupted, when it became clear that the American public would not support it. But hostilities could break out at any time, and this administration has the power to make it sooner rather than later. Consider the political implications of such an event: the outbreak of renewed warfare would split the Republican party, and more than offset the Nader factor in California (where the Green Party could cost the Democrats the state). The main beneficiary of all this would be one Patrick J. Buchanan – which is all right with Al Gore and his partisans.


Of course, the Democrats could overplay their hand: in the event of a war involving US ground troops – as it would this time around – the Buchanan campaign could very well take off and garner a level of popular support way beyond the mere 15 percent required to get into the debates. The supposedly solid Democratic party consensus on foreign policy would immediately begin to unravel, and then we would begin to see the development of a left-right coalition against the New World Order – but that really is another column.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].