July 29, 1999
Jim Bullington did an excellent job [American Interests, American Values, and War in the Balkans in the present issue] summarizing all the standard arguments of why NATO should not have intervened militarily in Kosovo and Bosnia before it. I am surprised, however, that such an old pro did not provide American Diplomacy subscribers with suggestions for alternative courses of action to deal with ethnic strife in ex-Yugoslavia. I was left with the impression that he advocated doing nothing.
The writer completed a thirty year career in the US foreign service in 1986. He served as an election monitor in Bosnia in 1997 and recounted his experiences there for American Diplomacy readers in the Spring 1998 issue.
AMBASSADOR BULLINGTON REPLIES:
August 4, 1999
Dick Matherons impression that I advocated doing nothing to deal with ethnic strife in ex-Yugoslavia is not too far off the mark. Over the years, tempered by a good deal of disappointment in places such as Burundi, Burma, and Vietnam, Ive come to believe that the injunction First, do no harm is as applicable to diplomacy as it is to medicine. As I said in the speech/article, there are some problems in this world that we just cant solve. Sometimes, inaction is the wisest course of action.
[Continued above, Column 2]
|Other alternatives (not mutually exclusive) might have included greatly increased support for the democratic opposition in Serbia, strengthening the OSCE observers in Kosovo rather than with-drawing them, getting the UN and the Russians more involved, providing security assistance to neighboring countries, and perhaps even arming the Kosovars if the ethnic cleansing accelerated beyond the relatively modest pre-bombing level.|
All of these alternatives have their own risks and costs, and no one can know if they would have produced an acceptable outcome. But at worst, they would have done less harm than fighting a feckless war that served no ones interest and left us with responsibility for a problem we didnt create and cant solve.
Ambassador (ret.) J. R. Bullington
AMBASSADOR MATHERON RESPONDS TO THE AUTHOR:
August 5, 1999
I still do not agree with you overall but appreciate your thoughtful commentary. One problem I have is that your points remind me so much of those of the America Firsters prior to our entry into World War II. Churchill did believe in jaw, jaw but when that didnt work (god knows Chamberlain tried) he resorted to war, war.
Send an email letter to American Diplomacy