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<nettime> (fwd) Kosovo: A Letter By An American Serviceman


Subject:            Kosovo : A Letter By An American Serviceman
Author:             Agent Smiley <smiley_777@hotmail.com>
Date:               1999/04/27
Forum:              misc.activism.progressive
Posted on:          1999/04/27
Message-ID:         <7g34qa$lp4$1@news.missouri.edu>
Distribution:       usa

                    (27 Apr 1999 01:44:42 GMT)

Activist Mailing List - http://get.to/activist

Kosovo : A Letter By An American Serviceman

*I heard in the news yesterday that 55% of Americans who were polled
support sending ground troops into Kosovo. Well, I'm a ground troop
and I'm willing to go. My only hope is that this 55% of Americans are
prepared to deal with the possibility they'll have to look my widow in
the eye and provide a plausible explanation as to just what I died
for. Good luck on getting her to buy into any of the current rhetoric
on why America has no choice but to involve itself in a Serbian Civil

*I'm a Gulf War vet. In spite of all the B.S. about standing up for
Kuwaiti sovereignty we all know what that conflict was about - it was
about oil and it's importance as the life blood of the modern world
economy. The rank and file who fought that war all understood this and
didn't have a problem with it. Fighting to preserve free- market
access to oil may lack a certain nobility, but it was clearly in the
national interest. Had it come to that, I think my widow would have
understood there was some value in her loss.

*I've served with U.N. peacekeepers in Former Yugoslavia. At the time,
the nation seemed to believe the region was of only minor importance
to our larger national interest. Consequently, our involvement was
fairly low risk. Had it come to that, I think my widow would have
understood that when you take a calculated risk like this, a small
number of people are going to have the bad luck to be killed.

*Now the nation wants to send it's ground troops off to Kosovo. In the
event I go and in the event I'm killed, it's going to be a pretty hard
sell to convince my widow that her husband's life wasn't needlessly
squandered by a nation that decided to head down the road of good
intentions with both its eyes closed.

*The current situation in Serbia/Kosovo is a civil war; the inevitable
result of two groups of people who have chosen to treat each other
badly over the last several hundred years. Is it sad? It certainly is.
The current situation in Kosovo offends our sense of humanity. It
sparks that outraged voice that lives inside of each of us, both
because we're human beings and Americans, that asks "can't we do
something to stop this?" The pictures of suffering Kosovo refugees are
gut wrenching to anyone with a shred of conscience - As will be the
pictures of widows and small children standing over flag draped
coffins in American cemeteries.

*The talking heads encouraging our intervention in Kosovo all allude
(albeit very briefly) to the fact there will be American casualties.
How many casualties? No one seems to want to go into that. What the
55% should be asking themselves right about now is very simple - as
bad as the situation is in Kosovo, how many dead Americans is it
worth? In even simpler terms - how many American widows and orphans
are you prepared to try to justify our involvement in a Balkan ground
war to?

*Is Milosevic a war criminal? Maybe. Was General Sherman a war
criminal when he led his Army through Georgia in our own civil war?
I'm sure a lot of Georgians at the time felt he was. In our civil war
both the North and the South had some legitimate concerns and
grievances. In the Serbian civil war both the Serbs and the Muslims
have some legitimate concerns and grievances. This is usually the way
it goes in a civil war and it is why they tend to be such quagmires.
The necessity of our involvement in this quagmire will raise a few
questions in the minds of the widows.

*I'm going to shift gears a little and try to provide a little insight
into the minds of the "rank and file" as it applies to the situation
in Kosovo. I joke with my wife about how I'm currently in the
unenviable position of having too many people with too much to gain by
seeing me dead. My death allows Bill Clinton to distract the nation
from his peccadilloes and show international leadership. It allows
Milosevic to show Serbians how he has slain the enemy.

*It improves Ted Turner's ratings at CNN. It gives Congressional
Democrats the opportunity to support their President. It gives
Congressional Republicans the opportunity to show they're even more
"hawkish" than the Democrats. It even gives my wife a $200,000 GI life
insurance pay-off. Is there anyone out there in a position of
authority who doesn't have something to gain by seeing me dead? If
there is, I wish they'd hurry up and speak out. Otherwise I may find
it necessary to increase the benefits of my life insurance policy!

*I think it's kind of funny, but she doesn't seem to see the humor in
it. This probably has something to do with the worry associated with
having seen me off to two combat zones in last ten years.
Nevertheless, the rampant behavioral stupidity she has seen in this
White House and Congress (and the media's frenzied response to it all)
over the last couple of years has left her cynical enough to see a
little truth behind my attempt at humor (all except for that life
insurance part!).

*If I thought for a minute that fighting a ground war in Kosovo was
going to end the region's problems I suppose I'd be all in favor of
going off to do so. I suspect my prospective widow would be in favor
as well. This just begs the question; does anyone really believe we
can make everything all better in Kosovo by fighting a ground war

*Unfortunately, the odds seem to favor an outcome that, at best, will
be the political equivalent of willingly entering into a life-long bad
marriage in which divorce won't be an option. After all, how many
years has it been since we sent the troops off for the one-year
mission in Bosnia?

*None of this is to say we don't have a national interest in the
region. Rather, it is intended to raise the question; "how many dead
Americans is this worth?" I can't help but think that once the dust
has all settled and the dead are all buried, we could have accomplish
as much, or more, by simply using foreign aid to bribe surrounding
nations in the region to stay the hell out of another country's civil

*We've been getting a lot of mileage out of our military since the
cold war ended. Through a combination of good training, superior
equipment, thoughtful planning, and shear dumb luck; we've been able
to do this with very few causalities. I think this has made it easy
for the 55% to say they're in favor of committing ground troops to
Kosovo. I also think it is very naive of them to believe that luck
will hold in ground combat in Kosovo. A study of the German Army's
experiences in Yugoslavia during WWII would be illustrative of how
likely we are to fight a ground war in the Balkans with minimal
causalities. Another point to consider is the simple matter of the
will to win. I have a hunch that when the body bags start coming home,
we'll discover the Serbians have a much stronger will to hold on to
Kosovo than we have to assure its autonomy.

*I've always kind of thought of the military as the national chain
saw: a very efficient tool when used correctly, but use it carelessly
and you'll end up ripping your own leg off. Since the cold war ended,
I have to wonder if we haven't been guilty of using the national chain
saw somewhat recklessly. I would guess we've militarily intervened in
the affairs of other countries as many times in the past ten years as
we did in the 90 years that preceded. These interventions have
apparently numbed the 55% to the point that they're no longer capable
of seriously considering the possibility of an American military
intervention running amok.

*We've reached a point where 55% of the American public seems to think
it is O.K. to put the military into harm's way without serious
consideration of the risks involved (very great in this case) relative
to the national interest (highly debatable in this case). It's enough
to get this old sergeant wondering if they really feel much of a
personal stake in the whole thing.

*Hell, we're all volunteers these days; we knew the risks going into
it didn't we? So what have we got to bitch about if we're sent off to
die on some questionable foreign policy intervention? Sure we know the
risk when we "sign on the dotted line", but something about this view
of the military never the less makes me very nervous. I'd hate to
think the American public sees us as little more than contracted
mercenaries whose fate has little bearing on the larger affairs of the

*Still, I have to wonder if, on some level, this isn't precisely the
perception that exists. Would the 55% feel the same way if we were
sending conscripted draftees off to Kosovo? Would the 55% be quite so
happy to send me off to die in pursuit of a highly dubious foreign
policy objective if I were taking their conscripted sons, daughters,
husbands, and wives with me? I doubt it. Here is the point, if it
matters enough to the national interest to send volunteers off to die,
it should also matter enough to send conscripts as well.

*Otherwise, our all volunteer force has become nothing but
mercenaries. Sadly, I suspect this has become the case. Still, I'd
hate to see the 55% become too complacent in how they support the use
of their mercenaries. The military is having a hard time of meeting
its recruiting goals these days. The available pool of young people
eligible for military service is growing smaller each year. Could
today's 55%'er be tomorrow's "hell no we won't go" protester? Wouldn't
surprise me a bit, if not in Kosovo, then certainly in some future
foreign policy adventure. After all, the war in Vietnam didn't take
long before it became necessary to suck in increasingly large numbers
of draftees to support it. Let's go back and ask those widows if their
loved ones died for a good cause.

*But I digress. Hopefully the time I've spent wandering away from the
original topic has provided those of you who number yourselves among
the 55% an opportunity to think. Hopefully, you've been thinking about
just what explanation you're going to provide all those widows when
they ask, "what exactly did my husband die for?" Good luck, because
when it comes time to talk to this old sergeant's widow you're going
to have a tough sell on your hands.


)From Defending America   http://www.hackworth.com

Recall the face of the poorest and
most helpless person you have seen
and ask yourself if the next step
you contemplate is going to be
of any use to that person.
 - Mahatma Gandhi

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