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Some Academics Confused Why U.S. Went to Kosovo, Not Other Areas

Posted March 28, 1999

— Despite growing reports of atrocities in Kosovo, the White House says there are no plans to send in ground troops. The NATO bombing campaign is aimed to end what is being called "ethnic cleansing."

The big fear expressed over Kosovo is it will turn into another Holocaust. Many countries, to this day, regret not acting faster to prevent that genocide.

Still, there are questions about the way the West is acting now, since there are many other acts of genocide where the U.S. did not intervene.

Some Western officials have begun using the word genocide to describe the situation in Kosovo as allegations of atrocities and mass killings mount.

"I think the whole academic community that has anything to do with the Balkans is in a state of shock right now," said assistant Slavic professor Robert Greenberg.

What confounds academics, including Greenberg, is the way the West will respond to Kosovo, but not get involved in other situations involving genocide.

"There's a double standard that applies," said Greenberg.

Greenberg says even though the West does not have strong economic ties to the Balkans, history obliges the U.S. to intervene in this crisis.

"I guess being so close to other NATO countries and in a volatile region of Europe, a place which has been the scene of violence over this century, I guess we feared that this place was too dangerous, that we can't let it just happen," said Greenberg.

Dr. Owen Kalinga, an African history professor, lived under an oppressive regime in Africa before coming to the U.S. He believes the threat of mass killings in Kosovo is a greater priority than the same atrocities in the Congo just because of location.

"Many authorities in Europe and America see Africa as somewhere very far, a distant place. They see the conflicts in Africa as tribal," said Kalinga.

Kalinga says the West needs to be consistent.

"As human beings, whether we are African or European or American, we should find the means of establishing order in that part of the world," said Kalinga.

There is a long list of places where the West did not get involved as much as the U.S. is in Kosovo including Cambodia, Tibet and Rwanda.

The U.S. did attempt a different kind of humanitarian aid in Somalia with disastrous military results.

Kalinga suggests our experience in Somalia may have soured the West on further missions in Africa.

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