The American Interest

Rumsfeld Stays

Having provided advice to a number of influential Balkan figures in my time, I know the sense of frustration when sound counsel is overruled in favor of proposals based on error or mendacity.  I have been proved right, but only when it was too late: Crown Prince Alexander Kara-djordjevic would have been better off had he discarded his notions of reuniting Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s.  The leaders of the Republika Srpska should have severed their link to Milosevic well before he stabbed them in the back in 1995.  Instead of ratifying the International Criminal Court (ICC) statute in 2001, President Vojislav Kostunica should have signed a bilateral treaty with Washington on the nonextradition of U.S. citizens to the ICC.

It is somewhat consoling that the effect of those mistakes was minor in the global scheme of things.  What happens in the Balkans is very important vis-à-vis the “War on Terror” and as a reflection of the postmodern Western mind-set, but individual decisions by the local actors are of limited significance.  When the president of the United States accepts advice on matters of war and peace that is based on error or guile, however, the consequences are serious both for America and the rest of the world.  If he continues receiving advice from the same source regardless of that source’s past failures, the matter is alarming, indeed.


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