The key to peace in Kosovo is the dismantling of Milosevic’s power base: the police and paramilitaries, his media monopoly, his economic control. These fundamentals underlie efforts that were unfolding on Monday, with German and Italian leaders pushing hard for an end to the war.
The idea is to draw the Balkans into the European Union, liberalizing investment rules and reestablishing links to international financial institutions. Stabilizing economic ties may mean having to pay off Milosevic retainers, not to mention family members— who reportedly have been shifting assets to South Africa, where Nelson Mandela has said they would be welcome if they are forced out (see last week’s column).
In addition, inclusion means economic support for independent media outlets like Radio B92, as well as magazines and newspapers like Vreme and Republica, staffed with some of Europe’s most fiercely independent journalists. The biggest problem may be defanging Milosevic’s heavily armed national police— possibly by first merging them into the army, and then, according to some optimistic scenarios, making the army part of NATO.
Also key to the postwar strategy will be encouraging people to vote. During the last election, in 1996, less than half the eligible voters went to the polls. Anti-Milosevic Serbs didn’t vote because they didn’t think it would make a difference. The Kosovars didn’t vote because they were so alienated they only wanted independence. Now, if they want a future, they may have to get it at the ballot box.
Serb General Threatens ‘Hell on Earth’
With the war wearing on both sides, it could go one of two ways: First, NATO could ratchet up the air campaign from the current 600 sorties per day by adding flights from Hungary and Turkey. Although civilian casualties would increase, NATO could gamble that it would get away with it. But a stepped-up campaign would have to show quick results.
The second possibility involves ground troops. Clinton was told by top NATO generals last fall, and more recently by his Joint Chiefs, that air power alone won’t win the war. British prime minister Tony Blair was reported over the weekend to be increasingly frustrated by Clinton’s refusal to deploy troops. Currently, there are 27,000 NATO troops in Macedonia and Albania, with 16,000 U.S. Marines on the way. A much larger contingent— 75,000 is the figure often mentioned— would have to start assembling in early June for a late-summer invasion. It would be a risky endeavor, with the invaders traversing hilly terrain into the basins of Kosovo, where they would confront at least 40,000 dug-in troops.
A smaller force with more limited objectives could fight its way into southern Kosovo, where it could impose a de facto partition. In such an event, Russian or Ukrainian soldiers could serve as peacekeepers in the north, with NATO troops controlling the southern half (and holding the Kosovo Liberation Army at bay).
The campaign would be brutal. “In the event of a ground invasion in Kosovo,”
Yugoslav general Nebojasa Pavkovic said on Tuesday, “NATO will suffer enormous human losses, and hell on earth will await its soldiers.”
Whether Clinton’s tutoring of Al Gore will put the boring veep on the comeback trail remains to be seen, but so far Prince Al’s well-heeled campaign is reeling against George W. Bush’s rope-a-dope tactics. Bush hangs back, saying little, while Gore fumbles around recounting his past as a hog farmer (which he wasn’t), even sending Tipper out to win sympathy with news of her bouts with depression.
Last week, it was déjà vu all over again— with Gore signing on ’80s hack power broker Tony Coehlo as campaign chairman. Now Gore has two controversial figures at the helm of his campaign. Peter Knight, a veteran staffer and key fundraiser, was tarred by scandal when he chaired the Clinton-Gore 1996 rerun.
Knight narrowly avoided a Justice Department probe into allegations that he solicited funds from companies seeking government contracts. In another instance, his firm was
enlisted to help broker the return of oil lands to the Cheyenne Indians in exchange for campaign contributions. In that deal, Knight was tied to longtime Gore financier Nathan Landow, who more recently has been under investigation by Ken Starr for obstruction of justice in the Kathleen Willey case. Knight and Landow deny any wrongdoing.
Coehlo, a six-term congressman from California’s Central Valley, resigned suddenly in 1989 after reports about his investments in a Beverly Hills S&L linked to junk bond king Michael Milken. Coehlo’s resignation came shortly after Speaker Jim Wright resigned in disgrace over ethics problems. When Wright stepped down, Coehlo had been in the running to be majority leader.
In 1989, the L.A. Times reported that the Justice Department had initiated an investigation of favors Coehlo and some associates had given to Milken. The department never confirmed or denied the story.
In his 1988 book Honest Graft: Big Money and the American Political Process, Brooks Jackson tells how Coehlo solicited money from the Teamsters, and then sought to intervene with the Justice Department on behalf of union president Jackie Presser.
Coehlo is seen as valuable to Gore because he can raise big bucks in California— a state he knows extremely well— where Gore draws much of his $8.8 million war chest. It is here, in an early primary next March, that the campaign may well be decided.
Footnote: Coehlo was closely connected to policies that led to the Democratic Party’s collapse in the late ’80s, from subsidies for agribusiness moguls to all-out defense of entitlements. Together, Gore and Coehlo helped lead the Dukakis-Bentsen campaign down the tubes against Bush-Quayle in 1988.
Natural Born Gunslinger
Clinton Shindigs Hollywood
Surrounded by Hollywood pals (David Geffen, Steven Spielberg, Goldie Hawn, etc.), President Clinton welcomed gun manufacturers into their cozy little “family” over the weekend. Contrasting the outcasts of the NRA with do-gooder gun makers, the president said he was “very proud” of the weapons merchants who had showed “the kind of civic responsibility that we need more from every American.”
Clinton’s flirtation with gun dealers is not new. It dates back to the fall of 1997, when the president stood in the Rose Garden and
announced that his administration had reached a “voluntary agreement” with several firearms manufacturers to install child safety devices on new guns, a deal he celebrated as a “breakthrough in our efforts to protect children from gun violence.” He then praised the gun manufacturers: “Today, because of the voluntary
action of the firearms industry, millions of our citizens will receive this protection. I’m pleased to announce that eight of the largest handgun manufacturers will now provide child safety
devices with every new handgun they sell. This will affect eight of 10 handguns made in America, and it will save many young lives.”
Richard Feldman, executive director of the American Shooting Sports Council, which brokered the deal with top White House staff, declared, “Within the coming year, most major handgun manufacturers will institute company policies providing safety devices with all handguns shipped in the United States.”
The voluntary deal took the steam out of
reform efforts in Congress to legislate safety
devices, which was acknowledged by White House spokesman Mike McCurry when he
described the agreement. “When industries step forward and voluntarily do these things, the ease of implementation is greater, the likelihood of litigation over rule-making or regulation is less, and you get the job done,” McCurry said.
Unfortunately, the whole deal was phony. When the Violence Policy Center, the group that pushes for stiffer gun regulations, conducted a survey one year later, it discovered that 16 of 20 handgun manufacturers that had promised to
include safety devices with their guns had not done so. Of the other four companies, three were supplying safety devices before the White House deal was brokered, and even among these companies compliance was spotty, and some of the safety devices were of such low quality they were not considered adequate.
Remember Indochina, Summers Warns
Harry G. Summers Jr., a retired army colonel and fellow at the Army War College, has a reminder for anyone who thinks the trouble-ridden force of 22 surviving Apache choppers can save the day for refugees pouring out of Kosovo. In
Indochina, where Communist forces were equipped with the rough equivalent of Serb
antiaircraft weaponry, the toll on helicopters was deadly. During one month in 1971, Summers reports, the army lost 168 helicopters. In addition, 618 choppers were damaged, 54 crewmen were killed, and 178 were wounded— a level of casualties that would send Clinton’s poll numbers skidding, and doom Gore.
Underlining the limits of air power, Summers further notes that in Vietnam the Air Force dropped about 6 million tons of bombs—
almost triple the tonnage dropped in World
War II— without breaking North Vietnamese resistance. In the Persian Gulf conflict, Defense Secretary Richard Cheney fired General Michael J. Dugan for claiming that the Air Force could win the war on its own.
Army bases around the world are opening their gates to an unexpectedly popular form of religious worship: witchcraft. More than 40 witches and warlocks celebrated the Rite of Spring at Fort Hood, Texas, on March 20: the day of equal daylight and darkness that symbolizes witchcraft’s goal of perfect balance. At Fort Hood, where 42,000 soldiers are stationed, the Wiccans Open Circle counts 300 members. They have been warmly received by Army brass, and recruits who are Wiccans eagerly seek to be stationed at Fort Hood. Wiccan congregations will soon open at bases in New York, Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana.
Additional reporting: Ioana Veleanu