It was less than a decade ago that then-President Bill Clinton launched a military strike into a part of Yugoslavia called Kosovo. Even though it's relatively recent history, most people don't know the basics of a conflict that, in retrospect, was a microcosm of the current war on terrorism and how American foreign policy screwed up in so many ways. And since it was "so long ago" not many people are willing to go back and research it. I'm going to try to explain the Kosovo debacle as briefly as I can.
The two factions involved in the war in Kosovo, aside from NATO, were the Serbians and the Albanians. The Serbs are white Christians, and the Albanians are Muslim with some ties to al Qaeda. The strife between these two groups started over a thousand years ago and rages on today, even if we don't hear much out of that neck of the woods as much as we used to. At the time we got involved in Kosovo, the Serbian leader Slobodon Milosevic was accused of "ethnic cleansing" the Albanians in Kosovo and Bosnia. This got the attention of NATO, worried that Milosevic would become another Hitler, so they called in the United States to lead the charge against Milosevic.
But the roots of our involvement in Kosovo started a bit earlier than this. In January 1999, Clinton was quoted as being worried about his historical record as President and, get this, wishing for a war because he believed war made for great Presidents. Then, when our European allies came by with their concerns about Milosevic, Clinton had his war and Europe had its military to handle the situation.
Of course, no one asked the Albanians if they wanted our help. They didn't, and obviously neither did the Serbs.
Not to mention, there was the al Qaeda angle to consider. One of the ways al Qaeda makes money is through the trafficking of drugs, more precisely heroin. To make heroin, you need to grow poppies. And guess what grows in Kosovo. Poppies. Therefore, al Qaeda and their allies within the Albanian side of the conflict had a vested interest in beating back the Serbs, who were actively involved in fighting off the Muslim drug trade in Kosovo.
Of course, we didn't pay attention to that side because at the time Americans weren't concerned about international terrorism, even though we recognized al Qaeda was a terrorist group. Whether Clinton and his advisors researched this side of the Kosovo conflict is uncertain, but given how Clinton's foreign policy revolved around good photo ops instead of solid policy, I would have to say no. This combination of ego-driven policy combined with utter ignorance of the implications got us involved in a truly unnecessary war.
What about the "ethnic cleansing"? Just a fancy way to spin civil war. Could Milosevic been another Hitler? Not really, considering he was at best a regional power. Mass graves? More like mass fraud because reporters admitted they moved bodies in the graves to give the impression of more bodies. Every reason given to go into Kosovo got shot down as the truth became known, which is why the Clinton Administration kept changing their goals. First it was to take down Milosevic. Then it was to stop the ethnic cleansing. Then it was to bring stability to the region. But all of it was a bunch of lies.
But at least we won, right? Not so much. Two members of our military lost their lives in a helicopter crash because they were overtired due to orders given by the military at the order of the Clinton Administration. Bombing runs from higher than normal levels lead to the killing of many civillians, including those at the Chinese embassy in Kosovo and a bridge where Albanian refugees were travelling to get out of Kosovo. And after six months of combat, we pulled out claiming victory. Meanwhile, Milosevic stayed in power a full year after we "won" and we turned around and paid him to rebuild Kosovo. It wasn't until the people rose up and threw him out of the country after he refused to step down after losing an election that he was removed. And the "ethnic cleansing" that got us into Kosovo? It was still going on, but this time it was the Albanians doing the killing instead of the Serbs.
In other words, we helped al Qaeda and the Muslims at the expense of the forces fighting against them. And Osama Bin Laden saw all of it and our tepid response to what they were doing in Kosovo. Is it any wonder Bin Laden said that we would grow tired of combat? We pretty much proved it for him! A stronger, smarter strategy in Kosovo would have sent a message that we wouldn't let a terrorist organization keep its hold in Eastern Europe or elsewhere, but that didn't happen. Instead, we came off as weak, inept, and gutless.
And thanks to the Kosovo debacle, we're having to make up for lost time in the war against terrorism and from a position of weakness. It didn't have to happen, but it did, and now we're reaping the results of our folly with negative results that can be summarized with one date.