Adding Fuel to the Fire

The U.S.-led NATO intervention in the Balkans seems to have provoked the humanitarian disasters it was intended to prevent. As widely expected, aerial bombardment of military targets in Serbia failed to deter a bitter retaliation by forces on the ground, resulting in a river of freshly displaced civilians and untold slaughter across the Kosovo countryside.

Food and fuel shortages were already real for the pastors and other church workers whose messages churn across the e-mail connections as war comes (again) to the Balkans. Former students of mine, many of whom are now pastoring, tell of spending nights in basement fallout shelters (again), of fears that young men will be hit with conscription (again), of regrets that the diplomats and foreign missionaries have abandoned the scene (again).

Slaughter on an ethnic basis had preceded the recent international interventions. What is different this time is the attack on a sovereign nation, NATO intervening without specific U.N. sanction in a dispute that should have been resolved within the boundaries of a U.N. member state. Even those Serbs who oppose their leaders’ policies voice outrage that allies and enemies alike from the past two world wars should join in this action. The precedent is hazardous, if it means further weakening of the U.N.’s role in serious efforts to pursue peace.

Another loss is the voice of moderation and sober political opposition within the Yugoslav regime of President Slobodan Milosevic. As in other recent times of national crisis, Milosevic is making his standard moves to clamp down on dissent, eliminate press freedoms, and consolidate his power ever more firmly.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1999
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