by Randolph T. Holhut
So, we're again killing
for peace. It's been
a familiar pattern over the last few years; a pattern of
selective morality by the U.S., of genocides that are acceptable and those
that are not, of quick, low-risk military adventures and nation-building
when it suits us.
There are plenty of countries in the world that are run by governments abuse human rights. But we can't shoot cruise missiles at places such as Egypt, Israel and Turkey, because they get hundred of millions of dollars in U.S. aid.
Nobody likes governments that torture and kill their citizens, unless they are run by leaders we approve of. And if we don't approve, if they are in a place of little value to the U.S. (think Rwanda or other African nations), the slaughter will take place without interference.
If Americans see enough ghastly pictures of genocide on the TV, they will support doing something to stop the killing. Unless, of course, Americans get killed. Then, like Lebanon in 1983 or Sudan in 1993, we'll run at the first sign of unacceptable casualties.
In short, the Indonesian government can kill hundreds of thousands in East Timor with scarcely a ripple of protest. Ditto for the decades of slaughter in Guatemala or the overthrow of governments in Chile or Iran. All these things happened with this country's support, because it suited our "national interests."
Yugoslavia falls into the other category. There's no oil or other natural resources to exploit. There's no significant strategic importance or threat to the U.S. All is at stake is another genocide, only it's white Europeans killing each other instead of Africans or Asians.
this sound too cynical? Not to me. The past performance of
the U.S. on the international stage since the end of WWII confirms
this belief that the Balkans conflict is just the latest in a series of
ill-advised, ill-justified foreign adventures.
We're in the easy stage of this fight. It's been a push-button war of sanitized killing with bombs and cruise missiles. But just dropping bombs will not achieve the objective of keeping the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians from killing each other in Kosovo.
The U.S. dumped millions of tons of bombs on North Vietnam, and they prevailed. The Germans bombed London day and night for months. The English prevailed. So what happens if we bomb the Serbs for weeks, and nothing happens? Will we have to send in 200,000 troops to invade Yugoslavia, as NATO has estimated?
And then there's the worst case scenarios. A wider war that spreads into Greece, Macedonia and Turkey -- three countries sympathetic to the Serbs' plight. NATO has already made promises to Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia to support these nations if they are threatened by Yugoslavia. Russia may decide it wants to arm the Serbs in this fight. What then?
NATO has already apparently usurped the role of the United Nations. With the UN's Security Council deeply divided, NATO has gone off on its own with a campaign that may or may not necessarily be legal under international law.
These are the things that concern me most about this war. We are getting involved in a civil war in a region where fighting has gone on for hundreds of years and the grudges run unimaginably deep. We are dropping bombs on a sovereign nation and doing so with only slightly more international support than we got for bombing Iraq in December. It's a situation that is more volatile than President Clinton is letting on.
Over 200,000 people have died in the fragments of the old Yugoslavia in this decade. We've spent three years and over $12 billion on trying to make things safe enough in Bosnia for it to become a viable country. Nothing of the kind has happened yet, and it's universally acknowledged that if the U.S. troops leave Bosnia, the civil war will reignite. Peace has to be more than just the absence of war.
While all civilized peoples agree there should be zero tolerance for genocide, killing for peace should be recognized as the oxymoron that it is. I have no idea if this war in the Balkans will resolve anything. I do know that the longer the war goes on, the less chance that anything good will come of it.
March 29, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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