Post bellum

Although war is a great evil, it does have a great virtue: it can resolve political conflicts and lead to peace." There are not many full-fledged warmongers left in the United States and it is bracing to follow Edward Luttwak’s claims for the clarifying and settling effects of full-throttle warfare. "Give War a Chance" is the perverse headline the editors of Foreign Affairs (July/August 1999) have given his article, and that is the perverse argument Luttwak makes in lamenting the West’s current propensity to intervene in local wars before the belligerents exhaust themselves or one side emerges victorious.

By turns outrageous and fascinating, this line of thinking is also instructive. Commonweal supported the NATO intervention in Kosovo. And as difficult as peacemaking may prove to be now that American and European troops are on the ground, we still believe that the United States and its European allies chose the right course. For there were alternatives in Kosovo, and Luttwak’s position is one of them: "Give war a chance." In this view, the West should have allowed the Serb forces-the Yugoslav army, the paramilitaries, and the police-and the Albanians-civilians and the KLA-to fight to the death. It doesn’t take much to imagine what would have happened. Bosnia all over again.

Even Bill Clinton, who temporized over the Balkans in his first term, now recognizes his mistake. At a June 26 press conference,...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.