Military Gambit in Yugoslavia

The Balkans long have been Europe's cradle of wars. President Clinton knows this. He says forcing Milosevic to accept the West's peace terms is the only way to prevent a region-wide war from erupting.But as an avid reader he should know that wars are easy to start but very hard to end.By ordering military action against Yugoslavia Clinton suddenly changed the rules of the international game. Peace is one kind of game and has its special rules. War is a different kind of game and has its own rules.And when war supplants peace not just a few leaders, generals and soldiers change their life's rules. Sooner or later everybody in the countries concerned also changes theirs.The last time this happened in America was on February 5, 1965 when President Johnson ordered the sustained bombing of North Vietnam. He tried hard to convince Americans that while we were fighting a war out there we were living at peace here at home. When Vietnam Day erupted at UC Berkeley in May 1965 --two months before Johnson sent troops to South Vietnam -- it started the here-at-home process of turning peace rules into war rules. By election year 1968 a good part of the American people were obsessed by the war.Here are two signs of possible events to come:Soviet Defense Minister Sergeyev said "we have reports that NATO is getting ready to send ground combat forces into Yugoslavia starting with an initial contingent of 2200 soldiers."A second sign comes from Seoul. South Korean sources report that for the first time since World War II Japanese naval vessels fired on hostile ships in the Japan Sea. In the dead of night they pursued two suspected North Korean "spy boats" which managed to escape.What does the latter have to do with Kosovo? When other countries see the world's solo superpower changing the rules then they feel legitimated also to change the prevailing rules. That helps to start up a worldwide war mood.On midnight of July 31, 1965, LBJ slipped into a small Catholic chapel and sat down next to his daughter Linda Bird. He said to her, "your daddy may just have started World War III." Not long afterwards he said "when the going gets tough the tough get going." That was his Texan way of saying the rules everywhere are changing from peace to war.However, the huge American anti-war movement finally forced LBJ to start turning the rules back from war to peace. At least as important, if not more so, was the broad international revulsion against LBJ's Vietnam adventure. He not only started pulling out of the war but quit politics.LBJ failed to understand two basics: (1) Communists thrive in wars and repression but falter in peace and stability; (2) rapidly developing capitalist countries -- like Japan and Germany -- thrive with peace and stability but falter in wars and repression.Right now the U.S. and Western Europe are on a capitalist roll. The U.S. is swimming in an ocean of money with low unemployment. Western Europe too swims in an ocean of money but has too many young men out of work. A lot of them think of war. That can get dangerous if fascist movements sweep them up.Highly developed Japan is in a persistent economic slump and some of its newly powerful right-wingers don't mind a little rule changing. In 1933 a lot of Germans thought that Hitler was only doing a little rule-changing.In earlier centuries Muslim states which were endlessly going in and out of wars believed that the "house of peace" and the "house of war" had to be kept absolutely separate. So did the American military from the Civil War till the Cold War. They held that America was mainly a peace-minded country. Therefore we should have limited military forces. But when war comes we have to invoke the U.S. military's "mobilization doctrine": go all out to win.Monica already has been forgotten -- war does that to personal relations. What President Clinton may soon have to agonize over is whether, as happened with LBJ in July 1965, we should send ground combat forces into Yugoslavia.Franz Schurmann, a professor emeritus of history and sociology at U.C.-Berkeley, is author of numerous books on world affairs.


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