De Wijk works at the Clingendael institute for Foreign Affairs. Interview in De Volkskrant by Toine Heijmans, April 17 1999, translated by Thomas Cool. 

"A non-Western view gets you further"

He was actually writing a book on the peculiar Western idea of military intervention, and the Kosovo crisis develops. An excellent example of what he intended to say, and he doesn't have to rewrite a page. Already fifteen years ago Rob de Wijk warned for the risks of bombing and humanitarian interventions, and the defence specialist at Clingendael starts looking to be right on this. 

He had already stated it, in his Ph. D. thesis, in 1989. And exactly in this manner he predicted it in October last year: Milosevic will wreak havoc in Kosovo and bring NATO to the brink of a ground war. "After the event more and more people are against the strikes. But with me you can read up on it." 

It is not clearvoyance, he says, only a matter of clear reasoning. "I try to think as Milosevic, as bad as he is - and this gets you far. Dictators think differently, they consider the long term. They don't have to deal with the media or a parliament. NATO only considers the short term, is only occupied with itself. With a few good hits on Yugoslavia w'll stop this, is the idea. Always the same mistake." 

He hardly sees his room in the Clingendael mansion any more. The war has taken over his life, from eight thirty in the morning till one thirty in the night. Many journalists on the telephone, sometimes pairs of them, radio, drives to the studio's in Hilversum and back. He has become a TV personality thanks to the NOVA program where he analyses events almost daily. 

The book and other scientific research will have to wait. "I bring all the junk along, from one place to the other, but I don't mind, I enjoy the hectics." 

He also enjoys to put his views before the public. Call it his mission, as he sees it himself. "My mission is to emphasise on and on that you need a sound analysis. Think without emotion. Of course it is distressing what happens over there. But I try to keep a distance, regard it purely professionally. The war doesn't tear up my life. I see the struggle of someone like Freek de Jonge. But then I think: Consider it from another side. Take a non-Western point of view, and you get further." 

"Breaking the will of a people with military force, that seems plausible, but it does not work and it has never worked in the past. How many bombs have not fallen on Vietnam, on Coventry, on Hamburg ? It is against the most elementary rules of fighting a war: political and military goals have to be in balance." 

His bureau full of faxes, clippings and internet prints. He keeps up with the situation in Yugoslavia primarily via the internet, and also he 'makes phonecalls'. "I am not that interested in details. That train that got bombarded, that is distressing, but I am more interested in the general picture. You can keep up with that." 

Telephone: "This is the (Dutch) World Broadcast. You are mr. De Wijk ?" 

While getting ample attention from the media, his views don't really penetrate into politics. And they are not likely to penetrate ever, says De Wijk. He has tried, as head of a think-tank on the Ministry of Defence, but it didn't succeed. Even his own party, Democrats 66, for which he even was a candidate for parliament, backs the NATO-strikes. "I've lost hope that it will ever be well." 

- Sounds bitter.

"No, that is not my nature. But I know how things work, as well in parliament as in the Ministry of Defence. I am an outcast for those who think that you can intervene on humanitarian grounds. Because I think that the national interest comes first. If that isn't the case, then we aren't willing to take risks. The situation is highly risky, it can escalate into a full blown Balkan war. That nobody wants to understand it does not make me bitter. It frustrates, at the most."