Transnational Transgressions
In Kosovo and Honduras, Obama-ite foreign policy gave Putin effective precedent.

Russian troops near Perevalnoye in Crimea.


Andrew C. McCarthy

‘Your independence is irreversible, absolutely irreversible.” So declared Vice President Joe Biden, thrilling a parliamentary assembly in Pristina, Kosovo. These were still the early months of the Obama administration, and the vice president was touring the Balkans to take a victory lap in the breakaway Serbian territory whose independence he’d done so much to champion as an influential senator.

As Vladimir Putin tucks away Crimea, just as he clawed South Ossetia and Abkhazia back from Georgia five years ago, Kosovo is worth remembering. So is President Obama’s staunch support of Manuel Zelaya, the socialist would-be dictator Hondurans tried to rid themselves of back in 2009. With an unreconstructed Soviet imperialist eying more worlds to reconquer, one is constrained to ask whether the Beltway’s transnational progressives will ever be called to account for greasing the skids for him.

It has been rich indeed to hear Obama, who oozes contempt for his constitutional duty to execute the laws faithfully, whine about Putin’s rogue stampede over the decidedly more vaporous principles of international law. Saul Alinsky, it seems, could have learned a thing or two about “direct action” from the KGB. Once things get a tad more challenging than harassing tea-party activists or trumping up prosecutions against a couple of nettlesome film producers, the community organizer’s bag of tricks feels awfully empty. Putin is a strongman, playing remorseless hardball in the big leagues; the president of the United States, by contrast, harangues about dialogue and pleads with the president of Kazakhstan — Kazakhstan! – for tips on buttering up the rascally Russian. A neo–Ivan the Terrible is on the march, and the world’s only superpower huddles with Borat.

But the Kosovo precedent — which, as National Review’s editors noted this week, is one that Putin wielded as a club against the West while storming Ukraine — is not solely, or even mostly, Obama’s fault. He was a bit player in the closing act of a debacle that tossed territorial integrity overboard when our bipartisan foreign-policy solons decided it was inconvenient to their trendy priorities. In this instance, it was about appeasing Islamic supremacists.

Kosovo was an overwhelmingly Albanian-Muslim province of the former Yugoslavia. It had sided with the Nazis in World War II and later come under Communist domination. The mutual hatred between the Kosovar Muslims and Orthodox Christian Serbs resulted in centuries of dueling atrocities and efforts by each side to wipe out the other.

In the Nineties, while straining for independence from the Serbs, Kosovo served as a safe haven for al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups. Like contemporary “rebels” in Syria and Libya, the Kosovo Liberation Army had moderate Muslim elements but also worked cooperatively with the jihadists. Naturally, the separation of Kosovo from Serbia became a cause célèbre of the Muslim Brotherhood and the global jihad. As night follows day, it also became fashionable at the soirées where transies convince themselves that Islamic supremacists will surely moderate if given the responsibilities of governance and will like us better if we support their access to power.

The Brotherhood and its fellow Islamic supremacists were heartened when President Bill Clinton encouraged the rabidly anti-American jihadist regime in Iran to arm the Bosnian Muslims in their war against the Serbs — a flagrant violation of a U.N. embargo against arms shipments to Yugoslavia that Washington, a Security Council member, had endorsed. Later, when war broke out in Kosovo, despite brutality on both sides, the Brotherhood knew it had a receptive audience for propaganda framing the conflict as a one-sided “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims by Serbs.

By 1998, the scandal-plagued Clinton found any page-turning opportunity welcome. He picked up the “genocide” theme and ran with it. Providing what would later become Obama’s Libya-war blueprint, Clinton instigated an unauthorized, undeclared, and ultimately disastrous war, in the absence of any threat to the United States, ostensibly to protect civilians but in reality on behalf of the Muslims.

Clinton’s State Department warned the Serbs that NATO bombing would commence unless they agreed not only to withdraw forces from Kosovo but to an arrangement whereby Kosovo would surely be granted full independence from Serbia after three years. The Serbs refused. Clinton miscalculated that the Serbs would quickly blink and that his aerial attacks, though lawless, would be brief and easily forgotten. Instead, the Serbs did not surrender and the bombing went on for nearly three months, causing far more damage than the carnage it was ostensibly meant to stop, while the killing intensified on the ground.