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CENTRAL VIEW for Monday, July 5, 1999

by William Hamilton, Ph.D.

Clinton’s Balkan Legacy

At the outset of the U.S./NATO air attacks against the Christian Serbs, this observer warned such action would increase tensions between Greece and Turkey and weaken the eastern flank of NATO. That’s what is exactly what is happening.

Greece, a Christian nation -- orthodox -- you might say, is upset because the U.S. forced NATO into supporting the Muslim Kosovar Albanians and the Kosovar Liberation Army (KLA) while attacking the Christian Serbs. Turkey, of course, favored the Muslims.

While Greece and Turkey were among the original members of NATO united against the Soviet Evil Empire, they were always NATO’s odd couple. To join NATO they had to overlook centuries of bitter warfare. Some years ago, I almost saw this bitterness in action as we prepared for a NATO-sponsored exercise involving both Greek and Turkish forces.

I noted at the senior officer level, the Greeks and Turks appear to get along. But as one slides down the slope of education and training to Joe-Ouzo level, one finds they hate each other’s guts.

Both Greek and Turkish politicians must cater to the hatreds held by their common people and they do so by passing laws designed to placate their less-educated constituents. A Turkish law says anyone born in Turkey, even of Greek parents, can be conscripted into the Turkish Army.

One day we were flying in a Falcon Jet from Athens, Greece, to Izmir, Turkey, to coordinate an up-coming NATO exercise involving American, Greek, and Turkish airpower plus U.S. paratroopers and Turkish infantry.

As I was chatting with a U.S. Air Force major with a Greek name, he mentioned that he had been born in Turkey. One of my tasks as the Army’s ground liaison officer on that mission was to know something about local ground forces, to include their customs and traditions. I had read about the Turkish conscription law, but I wasn’t sure it would apply to a serving U.S. Air Force officer.

I made my way up to the cockpit to confer with our mission commander, Colonel Arthur F. George, a wonderful Air Force Colonel, who was wise in the ways of Greece, Turkey and Iran. When I told Colonel George the situation, he immediately issued orders that our Greek-American officer could not disembark when we reached Turkey and for the pilot to request an immediate clearance back to Greece.

We watched with relief as our Falcon Jet departed. Granted, we were short one staff officer for our meetings with the Turkish Air Staff. But that was better than running the risk that the Turkish authorities would discover his place of birth and throw him in the Turkish Army. The Turks would have had no choice. That was the law.

Back to Clinton’s Wag-the-Chinagate War on Sloboban Milosevic. The Greeks, in a rebuke to the U.S. and NATO, just announced they are going to sign a military alliance with Iran and Armenia. This is designed to bring the Christian Armenians to the west of Turkey and the non-Arab Iranians to the east of Turkey into closer military cooperation with Greece. The alliance sandwiches Turkey between Iran and Armenia and Greece.

Turkey and Greece only joined NATO because each felt threatened by the Evil Empire. With the USSR split-asunder and Russia now living off U.S. tax-payer pay-offs for being semi-good boys about Kosovo, most any pretext will send Greece and Turkey spinning out of the NATO orbit.

Mr. Clinton’s Balkan War has given NATO a new mission alright: trying to restore NATO’s eastern flank. Meanwhile, the details of how the Serbs have been and are being mistreated are beginning to surface. We backed the wrong side in a needless war and set off the worst kind of balance-of-power politics in the region. Some legacy, Mr. Clinton.

William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist, served six years with NATO Forces.

©1999-2017. American Press Syndicate.

Dr. Hamilton can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 2001
Granby, CO 80446

Email: william@central-view.com

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