In his June 9 op-ed column, Michael Kelly commits a sin he regularly ascribes to the White House: He spins.
What he spins is the successful conclusion of NATO's military action against Serbian aggression in Kosovo. He spins it into a "moral" miscalculation, a "mistake" and a "stumbling forward."
What he obscures is the truth: NATO was right; he was wrong. He was wrong when he said in April that NATO's plan is "failing, catastrophically." He was wrong when he said, "NATO planners have no reason to believe that anything they are doing in the air is having the slightest real effect in stopping what the Serbs are doing on the ground." He was wrong when he said: "We know that there is no sign that Serb forces are being hurt enough to force their retreat" ["Two Wars: Ours and Theirs," op-ed, April 21].
Kelly spins because he cannot admit that he was wrong. While he does admit in his June 9 column that the Clinton administration and NATO deserve some credit "in the face of savage and increasing criticism," at the same time he neglects to confess that some of that savagery is his.
Instead, he spins history and, along the way, tries to undercut a NATO victory. He cites the president's March 24 remarks to point out that NATO was not successful in deterring "an even bloodier offensive against innocent civilians." Yet he neglects to mention that in that same speech, the president warned that Serbia "could decide to intensify its assault on Kosovo," which is precisely what occurred.
Kelly tries to blame NATO for the war crimes of the Serbs: the murdered civilians, the burned-out villages, the ethnic cleansing. He ignores the fact that the Serbs already had embarked on the path of murder, burning and ethnic cleansing prior to the commencement of NATO's air operation. A quarter of a million Kosovar Albanians had been forced to flee their homes before a single allied bomb fell.
Does Kelly think Slobodan Milosevic would have stopped this evil rampage on his own initiative? Apparently, in Kelly's world, Serbian paramilitary troops would have been sipping cappuccinos alongside Kosovar Albanians in Pristina's cafes if only NATO hadn't confused the issue.
Kelly's worst sin is the way he indirectly impugns the morality and courage of our troops and the effectiveness of what they've accomplished. Typical of Washington's many armchair generals, Kelly talks about how the Serbs, "including many innocent civilians, also suffered greatly at the hands of the righteous warriors of the West."
The "carnage" and "sufferings" were in part "the result of failures by the planners and politicians of the West" who didn't want to risk the lives of pilots by having them fly too low, or the lives of ground troops by committing them to battle.
The truth is that NATO's actions in Kosovo were prudent and well considered. No military force has used so many precision-guided weapons so expertly. None has waged a months-long military action with no combat losses on the victor's side. None has shown such concern for the military men and women on its side and the civilians on the other side. And none has intervened so strongly for such clear moral and humanitarian purposes.
Kelly questions the morality of NATO's action. Yet the argument could have been made that it would have been immoral had NATO not acted. Kelly's sophistry undermines the purpose with which NATO acted and the success it achieved.
-- Bill Danvers
The writer worked in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1994 as a senior adviser to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and a senior director of the National Security Council.