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The Path to Crisis: How the United States and Its Allies Went to War


---------- Forwarded message ----------
The following is a five-paragraph excerpt from Barton Gellman's
_Washington Post_ article. Those who are interested should visit
for the rest of the article - DL]

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, with Washington paralyzed by an ice storm,
President Clinton's top foreign policy advisers straggled into the Situation
Room. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright was pressing -- and losing,
for the moment -- a campaign to scale up U.S. and NATO intervention in

Everyone in the White House basement that day agreed that Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic was "shredding," as one participant put it, his promises
of restraint against rebellious ethnic Albanians. Albright said muddling
through was not working, and the time had come to tie the threat of force to
a comprehensive settlement between Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic,
and Kosovo, its secessionist province. Her Cabinet peers in the so-called
Principals Committee, no less frustrated than Albright, were not yet ready to
take that risk. They approved a 13-page classified "Kosovo Strategy" that
policymakers referred to informally as "Status Quo Plus."

"We're just gerbils running on a wheel," Albright fumed outside the meeting,
convinced that no incremental effort would keep stop Kosovo's pent-up civil
war from exploding.

Even in the satellite age, White House decisions can be obsolete at birth.
What the principals did not know as they met is that 4,700 miles away, in a
Kosovo village called Racak, nearly four dozen civilians lay freshly dead in
a Serb massacre that would change everything.

A reconstruction of decisionmaking in Washington and Brussels, where NATO is
headquartered, suggests that Racak transformed the West's Balkan policy as
singular events seldom do. The atrocity, discovered the following day,
convinced the administration and then its NATO allies that a six-year effort
to bottle up the ethnic conflict in Kosovo was doomed. In the next two weeks,
they set aside the emphasis on containment that had grown over the years from
a one-sentence threat delivered Dec. 24, 1992. Instead they steered a more
ambitious course: to solve the Kosovo problem instead of keeping it safely

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