of recent civil strife in Guatemala, ElrnSalvador, Nicaragua, and Chiapas, Mexico,rnis hardly reassuring. In a Los Angelesrnschool district, celebrations of bothrnCinco de Mayo and Black HistoryrnMonth were canceled recendy to avoidrnpotential violence between polarizedrnblack and Hispanic students.rnRather than picking a fight in someonernelse’s backyard, we should be lookingrnto our own country and its immediaternneighbors, and seeking solutions forrnthe generation now being born—solutionsrnthat will spare them the agony ofrnethnic and sectarian violence or thernscourge of civil war. Those who believernthat “it can’t happen here” should rememberrnthat a cataclysmic civil war torernthis country apart once already, only 135rnyears ago, when our population wasrnmuch more ethnically and culturally homogenousrnthan it is today.rn—Ronald F.MaxwellrnAMERICAN TROOP deployments inrnKosovo were the subject of a debate inrnthe House of Representafives on Marchrn11. A resolution authorizing PresidentrnClinton to contribute U.S. groundrntroops to a NATO peacekeeping missionrnin the troubled province was supportedrnby 219 members, just one more than arnmajority. While the vote cut across partyrnlines, the White House and most Democratsrnopposed holding the vote in thernmidst of negotiations, but the Republicanrnleadership brought the resolution tornthe floor any-way. Speaker DennisrnHastert (R-IL) voted for it, while MajorityrnLeader Dick Armey (R-TX) and Majority’rnWhip Tom Delay opposed it.rnEven more troubling than the possibilit)’rnof sending American soldiers intornan ethno-religious civil war was the misusernof historical argument and analogyrnused to justify it.rnDuring eight hours of debate, the importancernof Kosovo to the Serbian identityrnwas never mentioned. Kosovo wasrnpart of the original heartland of Serbia.rnIn 1389, the Muslim Ottoman Turks defeatedrnthe Orthodox Serbs’ greatest hero.rnPrince Lazar, at the Field of the Blackbirdsrnon St. Vitus’ Day. A number of Serbianrnnobles had accepted Turkish vassalage,rnbut the prince is revered becausernhe died in battle rather than suffer therndishonor of surrender.rnSerbia would not regain its formal independencernfrom the Turks until 1882,rnbut it won autonomy within the OttomanrnEmpire in 1817 after a series ofrnbloody rebellions. The Turks were drivenrnback in a series of wars culminating inrnWorld War I, and Serbia regained controlrnof Kosovo by war in 1912.rnImagine that a San Antonio LiberationrnFront were to champion—by armedrnviolence—Mexican-American rights northrnof the border, demand autonomy for thernTexas city that is home to the Alamo, andrnplan for the eventual return of the area tornMexico. Would U.S. authorities havernthe right to oppose such a movement?rnWould Texans be indifferent if thernAlamo, the symbol of their independencernfrom Mexico, were returned tornMexico? Would the Organization ofrnAmerican States be justified in sending arnpeacekeeping force of Latin Americanrntroops, openly supportive of Mexicanrnclaims, into Texas? Would Americansrnwelcome or resist such a foreign intervention?rnThis obvious historical analogy wasrnnever mentioned in the House debate.rnInstead, attention focused mainly onrnWorld War I, proving the old adage thatrna little knowledge can be a dangerousrnthing. Thus Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO):rn”First, we should understand those pagesrnof history that point out that World War Irnstarted in the Balkans and if NATO in itsrnrole in keeping peace in Europe can bernfulfilled, it will be necessary for NATO torndo a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.”rnOf course, NATO was formed to defendrnits member states from attack, not tornkeep the peace in other parts of Europe.rnBeyond this new (and largely unexamined)rndefinition of the alliance floatedrnthe specter of Kosovo as the breedingrnground of a new world war.rnRep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) made thisrnexplicit: “I am sick and tired of my colleaguesrnsaying this is in Europe, let thernEuropeans deal with it. Sarajevo was inrnEurope. That was the genesis of the FirstrnWorld War. Czechoslovakia was in Europe.rnThat was the genesis of the SecondrnWorld War. These people who neverrnlearn, who are uneducable cannot carryrnthe day today.” Yet the Europe of 1999 isrnnot the Europe of 1914 or 1938. Inrn1914, Europe was divided into two heavilyrnarmed coalitions: the Triple Ententernand the Central Powers. Wlien a Serbianrnnationalist assassinated the heir tornthe Austrian throne, the spark fell on arnmountain of gunpowder that had alreadyrnbeen amassed.rnThese once-great powers are not lookingrnfor an excuse to settle their differencesrnon the field of battle today. Indeed,rnwithout American prompting, theyrnwould probably ignore Kosovo, exceptrnfor humanitarian aid and pious speechmakingrnfrom a safe distance.rnIn 1938, the most powerful state inrnEurope was on the march, and Czechoslovakiarnwas in its path. While manyrnhave attempted to cast Serbia in the rolernof a “fascist aggressor” in the Balkans andrnto conjure up the image of the Nazis, therngeopolitical differences are profoundrnand fundamental. Serbia has neither thernresources nor the ambition to conquerrnnew lands; in fact, the opposite has happenedrnas Yugoslavia has disintegrated.rnSerbia has been fighting on the defensive,rntrying to maintain as large a homelandrnfor its people as possible. The strugglernin Bosnia was about protecting thernright of Bosnian Serbs to associate withrntheir ethnic brothers in Serbia and to bernfreed from living under the heel of theirrnancient enemies, the Bosnian Muslims.rnThough supposedly on a peacekeepingrnmission to end the civil war inrnBosnia, U.S. and NATO troops remainrnthere, four years after the Dayton peacernagreement, in order to force the Muslims,rnCroats, and Serbs into a “singlernBosnian state” ruled from the Muslimrnstronghold of Sarajevo. That the Serbsrnare to be denied self-determination wasrnexplicitiy acknowledged by AssistantrnSecretary of State John Kornblum justrnbefore the 1996 Bosnian elections. Referringrnto the Republika Srpska (the Serbianrnzone in Bosnia), he stated, “Therernsimply is no real future for that littlernjagged piece of territory if it is not integratedrninto Bosnia.” The Clinton administrationrnhas sought to cripple Srpska.rnBesides trying to disarm the Serbsrnwhile arming the Muslims, NATO hasrnseized Srpska government offices andrnnewspapers and deployed high-tech aircraftrnto jam Serbian radio broadcasts.rnIs it any wonder that Serbia resistedrnthe installation of another NATO armyrnon its national territory, this one to “defend”rnthe Kosovo Albanian Muslims?rnRather than containing a rising majorrnpower, the United States and NATO arerncarving up a small countr}’ in decline.rnRep. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) argued,rn”If we are the leaders of the free world, ifrnwe are still that brave nation that stoodrnagainst darkness in World War II, now isrnthe time to stand together to help thernpeople of Kosovo.” But why is it just torndetach a piece of Serbia because thernleaders of its Albanian majority desire it.rnJUNE 1999/7rnrnrn