My reply to Mladen's first letter

This was my reply to Mladen.

Mladen,

Thank you for your letter. You've reinforced my belief that there were grave mistakes made in Kosovo, and I suspect more mistakes are still being made.

I'm somewhat familiar with the geography of the area. I spent a year in high school in Melk a.d. Donau (Danube) in Austria, and traveled through Yugoslavia in 1981. My clearest memories are of Split and Beograd, since we spent the most time in those cities. I remember the country and people fondly. I regret to say that my only memories of Novi Sad are signs on the highway as we were traveling from Beograd to Budapest.

While the bombing was going on, President Clinton was often on TV telling us that "We have no ill will toward the people of Yugoslavia; we're just trying to hurt Milosevic," while it was clear even from the sanitized (censored) coverage that was available on CNN that it was the people of Yugoslavia that were being hurt, rather than the leaders.

Having the US act as the world's policeman is frightening for a number of reasons. The first is that it is (in my view) a waste of my taxes which could be used in much more productive ways. The second is that it sets a dangerous precedent. If the US gets used to acting as the police, that can lead to a contempt for the rest of the world, seeing leaders of other countries as "hoodlums" or "criminals". Such an attitude would be extremely dangerous, since it would discourage people from questioning such "police actions". I think it is a slippery slope and we should be very careful about starting down that path.

I agree that it is very hard to understand other people. Since the US got involved in Kosovo, I've been studying the history of the region again (my previous studies were in high school, more than fifteen years ago). My goal was to gain enough understanding that I might be able to comment intelligently about the action.

The thing that is most striking to me is the ignorance of our leaders about the larger issues involved in Yugoslavia. Their understanding of the situation seemed woefully incomplete. Given how little time they (and most Americans) had to educate themselves and the general lack of knowledge in this country of other parts of the world, their ignorance is understandable. I only hope that with the spread of the Internet, Americans will learn to take a more global view.

If you would allow me to publish your letter as one of my web-pages about Kosovo, I would appreciate it. It speaks more strongly to some of the issues than anything I could write. If you have other links you think I should add, I would appreciate those as well. It may not change anything today, but making such information available may educate a few people. Over time, such education may help improve the world a little.

Thank you again for your letter. Best wishes for you and your country.

-Dave Polaschek

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