Friday, March 17, 2000A test of resolve in Kosovo
US Army troops in Kosovo have begun a crackdown on cross-border raids by Albanian guerrillas into Serbia. This is not exactly a welcome development, inasmuch as the United States and its allies originally came to Kosovo to protect Kosovo's ethnic Albanians. Still, as a show of American resolve, the raid on Albanian weapons caches appropriately demonstrated U.S. commitment to a lasting peace and its willingness to take risks to preserve that peace from anyone, Serb or Albanian, who threatens it.
U.S. resolve in Kosovo had not been terribly clear in recent days. When Gen. Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander in Europe, ordered U.S. forces to assist the French peacekeepers in the divided town of Mitrovica, he was rebuked by his superiors in Washington for having moved Americans from their own, seemingly quieter sector in the southeast corner of Kosovo. That undermined America's stature as leader of the alliance. Now the recognition that U.S. troops have risky work to do in their own patch of Kosovo could bolster U.S. credibility. As U.S. forces moved against the Albanian guerrillas, French troops were taking on the dangerous job of clearing Serb "guardians" from their intimidating posts on the bridge that links Mitrovica's Serb and Albanian sections.
Some in Congress are impatient; they ask why Europe can't shoulder more of the cost and risk. Europe has been delinquent about supplying the aid dollars and policemen it promised. Several European members of the Kosovo protection force (KFOR) have unilaterally reduced their troop presences, to the point where KFOR now fields only 37,000 of the 50,000-soldier force Gen. Clark considers necessary.
So Europe should do more; but the United States can't very well demand that Europe share the burden unless the United States shoulders its part. Kosovo is, as ever, difficult and dangerous. Yet achieving stability there remains a component of the broader task of stabilizing southeastern Europe--and, by extension, Europe as a whole. From the point of view of that vital American interest, the only thing worse than accepting the burdens of leadership in Kosovo would be to try to fob them off on others.