The Slaughter of the Innocents

Why America Must Act Decisively to Free Kosova

By D. W. Tedder, Ph.D., P.E.

Chuck Colson's comments ("The Slaughter of the Innocents: Kosovo and Just War Theory," BreakPoint Commentary, March 31, 1999) are not persuasive. The concept of a "just war" is not meaningful. This phrase is an oxymoron. I do not find any such theory expressed in the gospels by Jesus. The closest I come to a "just war" is a definition based on passive resistance as advanced by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, but war can never be "just" because innocents are always victims.

Colson makes the point that "First, the Just War Theory requires that war be declared by the proper authority and be waged to resist an attack. There has been no attack here. This war is being waged within a sovereign state." But who is the sovereign state in this case? Are we dealing with Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia, or Kosova an emerging independent state? The British were sovereign in the American Colonies before the American Revolution. Using Colson's logic, Americans had no right to rebel and become independent. I disagree. Americans had every right to rebel against injustice, and the Kosovars have every right to do so today. All who love justice and fairness should be willing to help them.

How many wars have been "declared" since World War II? Was Vietnam ever a declared war? I think not. Neither did we declare war against Korea or Iraq or Afghanistan or Cambodia or Libya. In recent years America has taken military action against all of these countries without declaring war against any of them. The concept of declaring war is no longer meaningful. Today nations prefer to pretend ignorance and deny reality. I submit that the declaration of war has virtually disappeared as a practice, as has adherence to the Napoleonic Code in which soldiers are not allowed to engage civilians. The latter sadly disappeared with the World War II bombings of London and Dresden.

Ethnic sovereignty and human dignity are the paramount issues in this case, not Yugoslavian sovereignty as Colson suggests. Does an ethnic Albanian minority have a right to exist as a free people and without fear of violent attack from another ethnic group? Of course they do! Ethnic cleansing is a godless concept that should be abhorrent to all Christians. It should be the goal of America and its NATO allies to end ethnic cleansing. This is a noble cause that should be supported by all Christians. Our Lord surely hates ethnic cleansing and so should all believers. It is not a loving act for America to pretend that it's not happening and to look the other way. It is not enough just to pray for Kosova. Faith without action is dead. Christians should therefore seek strategies that reduce conflict as quickly as possible and minimize human suffering.

Colson suggests that NATO bombing has resulted in greater human suffering since they have caused Milosevic to intensify his attacks. He may be right in suggesting that Milosevic has accelerated ethnic cleansing in response to the bombing, but NATO is not responsible for Milosevic's behavior. Milosevic is responsible, just as the troops doing the actual killing are responsible. Milosevic is simply using the bombings as an excuse to undertake ethnic cleansing that was already planned. This argument is not a reason to avoid doing the right thing.

America faces three alternatives in the Balkans. It can: (A) ignore the situation and let them fight it out, (B) enter the war on a limited basis and hope to modify the outcome and minimize its losses, or (C) enter the war full scale and end it as quickly as possible. None of these alternatives are reasonable or desirable. None of them are good. Because of our adversaries and the hatred they hold against ethnic Albanians, we are forced to choose that alternative which appears least harmful in the face of much uncertainty.

Nothing is fair or just about any of these options, but we are obliged to support the best and most loving choice. Shall we not follow Christ's example? Nothing was fair or just about His crucifixion, yet He never wavered from doing His duty and submitted to death on the cross. Clearly He was not happy about it, but He did the best and most loving thing He could do.

Option A clearly limits American losses in the short term, but is not necessarily the best for Europe or America in the long term. It is not clear how far our adversary is willing to go. If unopposed, will he next attack Macedonia or Albania? I am not suggesting that the domino theory necessarily applies to the Balkans, but clearly some of the Balkan neighbors view it as a distinct possibility and the consequences should be considered. The world cannot tolerate another Hitler, and we should have learned long ago that reason does not prevail against madness.

President Clinton has apparently adopted Option B and America has entered the war on a limited basis. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't make military sense. Why, for example, were we sending three scouts without adequate protection to the border in Macedonia? Why were they exposed as they were? Why couldn't they immediately call for support and get it in time to prevent their capture? This situation apparently resulted from a limited military action that exposed some troops more than is prudent, and which tempted the enemy to undertake activities that would be precluded by either Options A or C.

The amount of human suffering accompanying Option B is not encouraging thus far, especially in light of recent Serbian actions to seal the Albanian border with Kosova. Clearly our enemy has no desire or interest in protecting ethnic Albanian civilians. Time will tell as the tragedy unfolds. Serbians may well accelerate ethnic cleansing by using Albanians as human shields for military targets. It is too bad we haven't already eliminated that possibility through the use of ground troops.

Option C should only be undertaken if America and its NATO allies are also willing to undertake long-term occupation and monitoring of the Balkans to establish a stable government and protect the innocents. While most unpalatable, this option may be the most humanitarian and loving, even in the present circumstances. It was the underlying principle that resulted in the rapid and successful conclusion of Desert Storm. It also worked under Reagan in Granada. Why has it been abandoned so quickly by the present administration, considering its recent success?

Scripture teaches that the "Just shall walk by faith," but we live in a world with little justice and even less faith. If our adversary, on the other hand, is mad with hatred and is made confident by our indecision and lack of faith, then our options are limited indeed. When a bully corners us, then our faith must be revealed by our actions. Unfortunately, bullies are not reasonable and have limited awareness. Most can only learn in the school of hard knocks. In the schoolyard we knew it was wrong to allow bullies to beat up little kids. We know it's wrong in Kosova today.

In response to Colson, Christ clearly teaches that we have a duty to help others, "If you have done it for the least of these, you have done it for me." An attack to carry out ethnic cleansing is an attack against all mankind. The bell tolls for each of us. It is immoral to ignore it or pretend that it's not happening. It should be the intent of America and its NATO allies to stop ethnic cleansing. The ruthless Serbian killings in Kosova justify intervention and its independence from Yugoslavia. France was willing to help America win its revolution. America should act decisively to help free Kosova today. In the process it will also help free itself by doing the right thing.

D. W. Tedder, Ph.D., P.E.
School of Chemical Engineering
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia