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Bartlett unsure about next move in Kosovo

April 08, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Concluding that the first two weeks of the air war against Yugoslavia have vindicated his opposition to military intervention, U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett now finds himself with a dilemma over what should be done next.

Now that the United States is involved, Bartlett, R-Md., said he is not sure what course of action the nation should take next. He acknowledged that in Washington and throughout the country sentiment is growing in support of ground troops in Kosovo.

"The mood is now swinging," he said.

Bartlett said Congress, not President Clinton, should decide what the next step should be.

In past military engagements ordered by Republican presidents, it generally was congressional Democrats who argued that the Constitution prohibited presidents from making war. Now, it is Republican critics urging that Congress be given a larger voice.

Bartlett said there is no hypocrisy on his part; he said he opposes presidential war-making regardless of party.

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But he made a distinction between an action like Kosovo and limited strikes that require secrecy, like President Reagan's invasion of Grenada and the Bush administration's apprehension of Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

The crisis points up a need to clarify the president's powers during international conflicts, Bartlett said. The chief executive needs the flexibility to act during true national emergencies, such as responding to a nuclear attack, he said.

"No one wants to tie the president's hands," he said.

Bartlett said he was skeptical about the use of airstrikes to deter Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. He noted that the United States dropped more bombs on North Vietnam during that conflict than both sides dropped during World War II.

Now, the opposite of Clinton's objectives has occurred, Bartlett said.

Bartlett said Congress would have to weigh the tradeoffs between the atrocities Serbian forces have committed against the danger of becoming embroiled in a quagmire.

Although he would not commit to a firm stand for or against, Bartlett questioned why the United States has singled out the Serbs while ignoring other atrocities around the globe.

"What we've picked out is this one little spot which is no worse than many others," he said. "This was a sovereign country with a civil war."

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