Denouncing Serb 'Genocide' Sharpens U.S. Dilemma

  • Share
  • Read Later
"Genocide" isn't a word spoken lightly in world affairs, because of the moral imperative for action it creates. White House spokesman Joe Lockhart and his State Department counterpart James Rubin on Wednesday both used the word -- qualified by terms such "possible" and "may be unfolding" -- to describe the Serb offensive in Kosovo, raising the question of how far Washington will go to stop Milosevic. The statements are based on mounting evidence that the Serb forces may be systematically killing ethnic Albanian males, creating concentration camps and stripping refugees of any documentation testifying to their Kosovar identity.

Crying "genocide" may sharpen Washington's dilemma over its refusal to consider sending in ground forces. "After the Holocaust we said 'Never again,' and it's clear that the only way to stop this is if we send in ground troops," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "So if we define this as genocide, the question becomes why aren't we doing that which is within our power to do to stop it?" The U.S. and its NATO allies, however, remain firm in their decision to limit themselves to an air war. The reason? Says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson, "Every U.S. president knows that it's a lot easier to wring your hands about people dying in a distant country than it is to send Americans to die there."

Discuss the issues>>