Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Area lawmakers agonize over military action




BY PAUL BARTON
Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — Cincinnati-area members of Congress agonized Tuesday about prospective U.S. military action in Kosovo.

        Some remained adamantly opposed while a few voiced reluctant support for an air campaign.

        One of the most stridently opposed was Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio. He denied his position had anything to do with his own Serbian ancestry.

        “Who knows how this thing could escalate?” Mr. Voinovich said. “It could escalate into something terrible.”

        While concerned about the killings of ethnic Albanians, Mr. Voinovich said there are many similar conflicts going on in the world and the United States cannot involve itself in all of them.

        “My question is: Are we there because CNN is there?”

        Mr. Voinovich also doubted bombing attacks would weaken the position of Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic. “I believe this will solidify him,” he said.

        After attending an administration briefing Tuesday, Mr. Voinovich said he could get no answer on how much a campaign might cost.

        Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, also opposed further military involvement in that region. “Principally, I am concerned that the administration does not have a realistic exit strategy,” he said.

        “I agree with (former Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger, who said he was very concerned about NATO forces becoming essentially a police force in Europe.”

        Similarly, Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, said: “The question is whether the (Clinton) administration, having failed to steer America clear of this no-win scenario, will provide our troops with clearly defined objectives and a comprehensive exit strategy to ensure this mission won't become a second Bosnia.”

        But Mr. Boehner also said: “The question is no longer whether America's intervention in Kosovo is necessary. Indeed, no moral nation can stand by idly when its troops are the last remining hope for preventing an international slaughter.”

        Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also said he thought the United States should act. “It is genocide in the heart of Europe — a flash point for two world wars,” he said.

        “We must pick the side of saving hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. We must support the president's decision to carry out a serious, sustained and successful air campaign.”

        Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, said he was not prepared to second guess. “I feel ... it is necessary for me to depend on those who are in the best position to assess the situation and develop the proper strategy.”

       



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