February 15, 1999
Stopping the President's New Little War
Clinton would use troops to support 'Butcher of the Balkans'
A common practice since World War II has been the presidential commitment of our troops to battle without congressional approval, despite constitutional requirement to the contrary. Continuing in this dubious tradition, President Clinton recently announced he would be sending American troops, under NATO command, into strife-ridden Kosovo.
Three years ago, the President sent troops into Bosnia, promising they would be home in six months. The years have passed, more than $20 billion has been spent, and our soldiers are still there. Very few seriously ask anymore when these troops will be coming home -- or even what it is they are supposed to be accomplishing.
Last week I introduced House Resolution 647 to stop the president from involving us in Kosovo without first obtaining congressional approval. The measure immediately received more than a dozen cosponsors.
Congress must restate its constitutional obligation to supervise the engagement of troops in hostile situations. Our Founding Fathers gave Congress the authority to determine what wars should be fought, as Congress is most directly responsible to the people.
We spend less and less money every year on our own defense while spending more and more policing the world. It would be better to spend on national defense projects the money now being wasted in Bosnia, Iraq and other locales around the world. Moreover, our nation would be undeniably stronger by not having our soldiers killed in pointless "police" actions.
The issue is one of responsibility. As the history of the last half-century has shown, once troops are sent into a foreign war, it is very difficult to bring them home. Without a pressing national security threat and declaration of war, there are no clear objectives, and, hence, no way to measure when a job is finished.
The fact previous administrations were unchallenged in scattering troops around the world was not due to legitimately granted power, but rather abdication by Congress of responsibility to supervise out-of-control spending and reckless warring.
It is remarkable that the president is planning to send troops to Kosovo, a section of Serbia. The Serbia leader, Slobodan Milosevic, is the last of the hard-line communists still ruling a former Soviet Bloc nation. For his well-documented reign of terror, Milosevic has rightfully earned the title "Butcher of the Balkans." Despite all this, the president is sending our troops to Kosovo to keep independence-minded people under the ruthless hand of Milosevic.
One task to be assigned our troops will be the disarming of the Kosovo Liberation Army. While supporting Milosevic is hardly rational, it makes even less sense to take actions that will serve only to pit Kosovars against Americans.
How ironic that at the dawn of this century Americans were viewed as the champions of liberty, yet in its closing days we will be using our might to support a communist butcher.
Adding to the recklessness of the mission is the near-certainty that our troops will serve under the direct command of a foreign military leader, someone not answerable to Congress or our laws.
Troops in Kosovo will not serve the interests of the United States, nor further our national security. In fact, national security will be jeopardized as our presence in the region only increases the likelihood of needless involvement in an all-out war. Even Pentagon officials have been critical of a Kosovo operation because troops are already spread so thinly around the world, there are no defined objectives, and the resources could be better utilized.
According to the US Constitution and American tradition, it is not a prerogative of the president to send troops around the world to fight the battles that do not concern us.
Congress must re-exert its constitutional authority and stop presidents from sending troops into harm's way. Most immediately, Congress must stop President Clinton's new little war in the Balkans.