Belgrade, Yugoslavia, was my destination on April 12. I was accompanied by two other members of Congress—one Republican, one Democrat, both good friends.

Both had voted for the 1999 bombing, although my Republican colleague had voted for it only because he felt he had to “support our troops.” I had not only voted against it, but had spoken against it several times on the House floor. I had said, repeatedly, that we were bombing people who would like to be our friends. Even more importantly, I said we should not bomb people unless there was a real threat to our national security or a vital U.S. interest at stake. Neither, in my opinion, required the bombing of Yugoslavia.

We went to Belgrade to confirm the release of the second half of a $100-million aid package. We met, at separate times and places, with members of parliament, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindic, and President Vojislav Kostunica.

In Chronicles and State Department briefing papers, I had read that Kostunica is a nationalist and the Yugoslav official most averse to trying Slobodan Milosevic in the International Tribunal at The Hague rather than in the local courts of Serbia.

“Nationalist” has become a bad word to liberal intelligentsia around the world and to most in the U.S. Foreign Service, who have served so long in other countries that they seem to pride themselves on being citizens of the World rather than of the United States. They regard anyone with patriotic, nationalistic feelings and beliefs as unenlightened, xenophobic, possibly racist, and certainly not sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and forward-thinking (like themselves).

In each meeting, I said that, as a former criminal court judge (for seven-and-a-half years before going to Congress), I could understand the Serbian desire to try Milosevic in the courts of Yugoslavia. Moreover, most Americans probably do not know or care that there is an International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

I am in no way defending Milosevic. He was a communist who committed horrible crimes while in power. However, we should not be telling another country how to handle its own criminals.

There is some inconsistency in our refusal to join the International Criminal Court (which we should not do), only to order Yugoslavia to ship Milosevic to The Hague. (I am sure that most in our own State Department and Foreign Service believe it is terrible that we have not signed on to the International Criminal Court.)

Those who so desperately want Milosevic tried by the International War Crimes Tribunal apparently believe this would somehow justify the mess they made in the Balkans, which resulted in hundreds of thousands more forced from their homes and many thousands more killed than if we had simply let the people in that region work things out on their own.

When I first went to Yugoslavia about six years ago, I witnessed huge demonstrations against Milosevic. Former President Clinton promised that we would be out of Bosnia by the end of 1996, yet almost all of our actions either prolonged things or made the situation worse, keeping Milosevic in power longer.

One of the worst things we did in Yugoslavia was to turn NATO from a purely defensive organization into an offensive war-making machine. Rather than recognizing that NATO had long ago served its purpose and closing it down, the same people who got us into the Balkans mess keep expanding NATO, committing us to going to war in even more places in the future.

In recent years, we have wasted billions of taxpayer dollars in Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo—and perhaps next, Macedonia. In Iraq, we are spending four million dollars a day more than a decade after a “war” in which Iraqi troops surrendered to TV camera crews or anyone who would take them. The United States has a CNN foreign policy: We send our troops and huge amounts of money into any small war that is featured on the nightly news.

Because we so often see a map of the United States on one page in a book, we sometimes forget how unbelievably huge this country really is. I hope that, somehow, our national leaders will develop the humility to be satisfied with attempting to manage the United States of America, rather than wanting to micromanage the entire world.