Sunday, 17 August 2008

1999: McCain on Kosovo

Matthew Yglesias, whose sanity is much admired by Andrew Sullivan, linked yesterday to an item from the archives of The New York Times. Dated April 4 1999, it’s about how John McCain was arguing on the need for the US to be prepared to use ground troops in the ongoing Kosovo conflict. The bombing had started on March 24th and after ten days of it Milosevic was defiant, and the Clinton White House was ruling out ground forces.

Oddly, Yglesias seems to see this as a point against McCain.

It’s interesting that a commenter on Yglesias’ blog brings up Wesley Clark to further critcise McCain, unaware perhaps that Clark, commander of Nato during its campaign in Kosovo, wrote “the threat of a ground attack, I believe, proved decisive.” Here.

There’s a longer story behind Clark’s conclusion, one of initial expectations that a few days of bombing would be sufficient, of Nato coming to the end of its initial target list with still no movement from Milosevic, of Clark moving as many ground forces as possible into Albania to make Serbia think he was planning a ground invasion, and having to do it under the justification of ground support and force protection for the air campaign because of the political resistance to committing ground forces.

By arguing for ground forces, McCain was leading where Clinton would follow in talks with Blair weeks later. Again, in Clark’s own words:
In the end, NATO achieved every one of its aims. With the air war intensifying, a ground invasion being prepared, and no other country to turn to for help, Milosevic in early June pulled his troops, police, and weaponry out of Kosovo. A NATO-led international peacekeeping force entered to establish order.
Much more detail on the move to accepting the logic of invasion in this Washington post article from September 1999 and this New York Times article from November 1999.

In an earlier post I raised an eyebrow at Mr Yglesias’ understanding of foreign affairs and of geography. It would seem that very recent history isn’t his strong point either. But hey, his book has loads of five star reviews on Amazon, so why should he worry? And it’s on foreign policy!

UPDATE 20TH AUGUST: Not only has Yglesias not read enough history, he doesn’t seem to read the comments on his own blog either. If he did he’d have discovered that he was talking rubbish in that first post, and wouldn’t have repeated it again and again.

Not that this history is that ancient, and Mr Yglesias should be just about old enough to remember as he turned eighteen during the Kosovo war. Maybe he had other things on his mind back then.

More Yglesias fun in this follow up post.

No comments: