CO Libertarians Reflect on the War in Kosovo

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CO Libertarians Reflect on the War in Kosovo

by Sandra Davies Johnson and Ari Armstrong


Sandra Davies Johnson, May 1999

Why Are We Killing People in Yugoslavia?

What Are The Consequences of This Unprovoked Attack?

Where is the Outrage?

"A government willing to act lawlessly abroad is likely to do the same at home."
-- Doug Bandow, April 3, 1999, Cato Institute

Where does the U.S. get the right to attack a sovereign nation? Has Yugoslavia attacked the U.S. or any other country? Have they hurt Americans in any way or have they threatened our security? Have they declared war on us?

The purpose of our military should be defense. The purpose of the NATO alliance was defense. Have they forgotten that? Or have they re-defined the word "defense" to really mean aggression? Where does the U.S. get the justification to intervene in any civil war? How can we be so arrogant to think that we can (or should) solve the Yugoslavs' centuries-old problems?

So, why are we killing these people?

What are the consequences of this unprovoked attack? Many are dead and wounded; there are a million homeless and hungry refugees; property damage is extensive. Milosevic was not very popular in Yugoslavia -- until we started bombing. Now, the outraged factions are uniting behind him against the unprovoked foreign aggression toward their country.

The Constitution calls for Congress to declare war; Clinton is waging war without them. This President (and future Presidents) will now be comfortable attacking the country of his or her choice, without the obligation to respect the Constitution which requires Congress to declare war. The U.S. is correctly seen as a dangerous bully which creates world-wide animosity. U.S. aggression creates more danger of terrorism against Americans both at home and abroad. Even if we "win" we lose: American troops will be Yugoslavia for 30 years.

If we accept this policy and apply it elsewhere, it means we have become the world's enforcer -- of what WE want. Anytime we don't like what another country is doing we simply intervene with force. Who's next?

More killing never brings peace.

I have trouble saying "my country is bombing Yugoslavia" -- it's become "they are doing this" against my will.

Where is the Outrage?

Polls claim that the majority of Americans agree with what the Clinton administration is doing. They must be following the lead of the politicians and the media who favor the war. They may quibble about the details of the war, but they assume that it's O.K. to commit outright aggression. They forgot entirely to ask the hard questions about WHY we are doing this and WHAT JUSTIFICATION is there for the U.S. to kill Yugoslavs. Where are the media questions on the very legitimacy of the U.S. bombing?

Wake up Americans and think for yourself! Would you volunteer to kill Yugoslavs? Would you send your children to kill Yugoslavs? Would you force your neighbors to pay billions to kill Yugoslavs?

Didn't we learn anything in Viet Nam? Where are the anti-war protesters?

"We can have liberty or we can have 'global responsibilities.' We can't have both."
-- Sheldon Richman, April 5, 1999, The Future of Freedom Foundation, The Freeman magazine

"Waco gone global."
-- Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., President, Ludwig von Mises Institute



Ari Armstrong

I oppose the war in Kosovo, but not because of any alleged right of a "sovereign" Yugoslavia to conduct its internal affairs. States do not have rights, only individuals do. One individual right is to prevent crime. I see no moral difference between stopping a neighbor from viciously beating his or her child, and stopping the Serbian army from raping, murdering, and displacing ethnic Albanians.

However, the right to take action does not impose an obligation to take action. The Clinton administration, warned repeatedly about the inefficacy of air campaigns, decided to "take action," ANY action, regardless of the consequences. NATO's policy of bombs and more bombs is sickeningly counter-productive. The air war has produced:

  • A radical increase of Serbian support for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
  • The removal of what few international observers existed in Kosovo before bombing began.
  • An intensified effort on the part of Serbian forces to murder, rape, and drive out the Kosovars.
  • The slaughter of scores of Albanians by NATO bombs. The April 16 headline of The Rocky Mountain News read, "NATO admits error." I'm sorry, but baseball players commit "errors." NATO slaughtered over 70 civilians with a single bombing run, and many more over the course of the air war.
  • The destruction of the private property of Serbs and Albanians. (And I'll lay odds that American tax dollars will follow million dollar bombs with billion dollar restoration projects.)
  • Wasted U.S. resources (to the advantage of the military-industrial complex).

While making a bad problem worse, the U.S. government also makes libertarian solutions to the problem illegal. American firms could sell arms to the citizens of Kosovo. More significantly, American citizens should be able to "adopt" Kosovar families until the Albanians are able to settle into the United States. While the U.S. government will allow some Kosovars into the country, it won't allow them to settle here or integrate into the society.

Of course, the U.S. government has done plenty to render the economy incapable of quickly assimilating new citizens. With minimum wage laws, union laws, and government controls of most industries, the economy cannot accommodate change as rapidly as a free market would allow. Even so, U.S. society could easily assimilate a million Kosovars within a couple years, if businesses and individuals were permitted the freedom to do so. If a U.S. citizen offered an Albanian the chance to come to America, and the Albanian refused, I don't see that any further charitable effort would be warranted.

Bill Clinton does not have the right to force me and other U.S. citizens to pay for his ill-conceived air war. Neither does he have the right to prevent me from helping the Kosovars the way I see fit. Clinton and the U.S. government have trampled on the rights of U.S. citizens in two ways, then. But at least Clinton has raped only one citizen under his rule, whereas Serbian forces have raped thousands of ethnic Albanian women. Thankfully, we live with the lesser of two evils.

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