|Wednesday, September 15, 1999||
Volume 65, Issue 17
Whitlock on Clinton
Ed De La Garza
East Timor not a U.S. responsibility
East Timor, a small country in Indonesia, just off the coast of Australia, recently held elections resulting in independence for its citizens. The old regime, attempting to exert one final burst of control, began a violent rampage under the guise of "militias." These militias are little more than gangs, much like the Khmer Rouge -- or, to give it a more modern comparison, much like Slobodan Milosevic's thugs in Kosovo.
These militias, armed by the Indonesian army, have been fighting against the Falintil guerrillas, which have been attempting to gain freedom from Indonesia for the past 24 years. When a new government stepped in, the issue of independence was pushed to the forefront, causing the need for a vote. Although 78 percent of the voters supported independence, the people of East Timor remained fearful of retribution.
Indonesian President B.J. Habibie has backtracked and agreed to allow United Nations peacekeeping forces to intervene. This is all well and good, but surely the United Nations must have seen trouble brewing when Habibie had his own army attempt to keep the peace after the vote. You don't ask a thief to watch your valuables.
This may or may not have been preventable. However, no transition to independence has ever gone smoothly, especially in Southeast Asia. The United Nations could have acted before the turmoil. But then again, given its recent past interventions, that's par for the course.
However, this doesn't mean it's our problem. We can't possibly be everywhere at once. That's why the United Nations exists. Of course, it's a tragic thing, but by no means should the Clinton administration feel any added sense of duty.
The president has agreed to give aid, but it should end there. We don't belong in East Timor. The U.N. forces, on the other hand ...