by Bill Bradley
seductive scenario. American special forces descend by night on an
East European tyrant's palace. Dispatching his guards with pinpoint
marksmanship, they seize the despot, architect of an "ethnic cleansing"
campaign that killed 200,000, whisking him away to prison.
The president then makes a dramatic speech, declaring that never again will the United States stand by while ethnic conflict leads to mass murder. "Real peace," he intones, "is not just the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice."
If you think that sounds more like a Hollywood movie than anything that's likely to occur in the real-life conflict in Kosovo, you're right. The movie is Air Force One. Its president is Harrison Ford. And its biggest fan is Bill Clinton, who boasts that it was he who suggested to Ford that his celluloid vice president be a woman, and that Glenn Close play the role. In the movie's wake, Air Force One theme music became a staple at Democratic Party events around the country. By coincidence, a new geostrategic doctrine was already developing, a doctrine that bears more than a passing similarity to the one espoused by Harrison Ford, and which is playing out now in what has become the Balkans War.
Where are we going in the Balkans? If our intervention is successful -- and so far it has been anything but -- will it lead to more such wars around the planet?
As of this writing, the answers are still unclear. But what has become apparent is that the outcome of this, the first war fought with baby boomers at the helm, is going to be profoundly affected by the particular sensibilities of that generation of Americans, their peculiar brand of moralism and their love of expansive rhetoric such as that set forth in Air Force One.
Kosovo may have been a debacle waiting to happen, for Clinton has
intervened militarily more often, and to far less strategic effect, than
Ronald Reagan or George Bush. After liberal humanitarian concerns driven by
heart-rending pictures led him to a small disaster with ground troops in
Somalia and incomplete success in Haiti, he pulled back to the push-button
war of air strikes and cruise missiles, taking pleasure in the Tom
Clancy-ish feel and PR success of technowar, believing that new "smart
weapons" could reverse the truism that bombing alone can't win a war. On
that faith, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright declared that Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic would swiftly capitulate.
Weeks of failed Balkans bombing and hollow rhetoric about making Milosevic Exhibit A of what will no longer be tolerated in the new world order distract from the daunting reality that pre-NATO Kosovo was actually one of the lesser ethnic/religious conflicts in the world. More than a dozen feature casualties dwarfing those in Kosovo before the NATO air strikes began; only a few were graced by U.S. military intervention or the presence of Christiane Amanpour and her CNN camera crew.
But if Kosovo is somehow transformed from what it has been so far -- an embarrassing strategic defeat, a veritable case study in the tragedy of unintended consequences -- into a victory achieved without a tremendous loss in American blood and treasure, it is intended to be something much more than a one-time intervention. Namely, a model for an expansive new doctrine melding the liberal moralism of the baby boomer generation with the superpower-led realpolitik of globalist economics.
As Clinton put it on April 15 before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in San Francisco: "At the end of the 20th century, we face a great battle between the forces of integration and the forces of disintegration, the forces of globalism vs. tribalism, of oppression against empowerment." Translation? The forces of "globalism, integration and empowerment" extolled by the president are multinational capital, media and business joined with U.S.-led transnational political structures on trade, human rights and military affairs. The enemy forces of "disintegration, tribalism and oppression" are nationalists in countries resisting U.S.-based enterprise or lacking large markets, troublesome ethnic and religious movements and governments whose internal doings offend our civilized sensibilities.
If that doesn't sound expansive enough, consider Clinton's remarks in another San Francisco speech, this one on February 26: "It's easy to say that we really have no interest in who lives in this or that valley in Bosnia, or who owns a strip of brushland in the Horn of Africa, or some piece of parched earth by the Jordan River. But the true measure of our interests lies not in how small or distant these places are, or in whether we have trouble pronouncing their names. The question we must ask is, what are the consequences to our security of letting conflicts fester and spread?"
That is the question, and -- though the president labored falsely in his address to the nation last month to cast ethnic conflict in the Balkans as the cause of World War I (actually the result of great powers becoming entangled in Balkans politics, as we are now) and World War II (the Balkans were irrelevant) -- it's clear that in Kosovo the White House has set a low threshold for intervention. This obscure province of Yugoslavia possesses no compelling resources or technology. Its control by Milosevic, as distinguished from Kuwait's control by Saddam Hussein in 1990, is not a credible threat to global security. Yugoslavia under Milosevic, unlike Germany under Hitler, is not an expansionist power. Kosovo is not the Sudetenland, annexed by Nazi Germany under a spurious pretext; it is part of a sovereign country and a millennial cradle of Serb culture.
of which is to say that Milosevic is anything but one of the world's
true bad guys, in a world with a great many bad guys. So how did this latest
iteration of the old conflict between Orthodox Christian Serbs and ethnic
Albanian Muslims begin, and how did we get into the middle of it? The New
York Times reports that, "The killing in Kosovo began in earnest in February
1998, when the Serbs retaliated for rebel attacks on policemen with brutal
operations of their own in the Drenica area. Members of the Kosovo
Liberation Army and their families were slain."
The fighting and killing spread from there as 1998 wore on. By last summer, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) had taken 40 percent of Kosovo. The Yugoslav army retaliated with a major offensive. Some 2,500 people were killed last year in the accelerating civil war, most of them ethnic Albanians. Of course, 2,500 deaths, many of them in war, do not a genocide make. The propagandists who claim that the brutality of a one-sided civil war and an obviously planned expulsion of ethnic Albanians from the country constitute genocide do violence to the English language.
Genocide, as we saw in Hitler's Holocaust, means the annihilation of an ethnic, religious or political group. However evil Milosevic is, that has clearly never been his policy, for he knows that actual genocide might well call down upon himself a thunder that no one around him could survive. A genocidal policy, such as that which lead to the Nazi massacre of six million Jews, would justify a limited nuclear strike to prevent it. Not even the biggest war hawks suggest that is called for in the present conflict, for they know that their rhetoric about genocide does not match Milosevic's reality, horrible though it is.
Horror, as it happens, is a happenstance of human affairs around the world. About 5.5 million people have been killed in ethnic and religious-based conflicts of the '90s, most of which the United States has chosen not to get involved in.
NATO says that 3,500 ethnic Albanians were killed in the Serbs' vastly accelerated ethnic cleansing campaign in the first month of the NATO assault. That's 1,000 more than were killed all last year in the one-sided civil war between Serb forces and the KLA.
Add to that total the several hundred civilians mistakenly killed in Kosovo and Serbia by U.S./NATO attacks, and the price tag for high-altitude/low-risk warfare goes up even more. Virtually nothing we have done in bombing Yugoslavia's economic and political infrastructure has gone after the actual forces in Kosovo carrying out the expulsions and killings, because U.S. and NATO leaders are afraid of suffering casualties.
But David Scheffer, America's ambassador-at-large for war crimes, while not criticizing administration policy, suggests the price tag may be more horrific yet, saying that as many as 100,000 Kosovar Albanians may have been massacred by Serbs since the NATO bombing began.
Other officials shy away from specific numbers, not to mention evidence, but keep up a steady drumbeat of instantly reported accusations of Serb massacres and atrocities.
Yet we won't use our strike planes in close-in attacks, because we don't want any U.S. casualties. And we are refusing to send transport planes over Kosovo to drop badly needed food and medical supplies to the imperiled refugees there, the very people for whom we supposedly undertook this war. "They are Milosevic's responsibility," said one Clinton administration official, citing fears that our planes might be shot down by Serb forces. This is cowardly nonsense. We are either there to save these people, in which case there is a genuine if arguably dumb moral rationale for this war, or we are not. If we are actually fighting to preserve our credibility after stumbling into a much bigger mess than anticipated, our refusal to risk American casualties now may well lead to far more casualties in the near future as cheap talk boosting the notion of a ground war takes hold, a point that the major media will not make.
Milosevic likely to be impressed by more saber-rattling from a White
House that refuses to risk American lives? Obviously not.
Clinton truly has become the avatar of Boomer War, using baby boomer moralism to justify a series of loud booms, usually signifying not much, around the world. Although he was anti-war in the '60s, when he feared serving in the military, Clinton has used the military more often than Ronald Reagan or George Bush. Most interventions have failed, but Clinton has paid no price because they look good on TV.
Clinton, in fact, has nearly exhausted our store of air-launched cruise missiles, using far more than the Pentagon ever anticipated; it is his weapon of choice -- easy, no risk, an impressive boom. They have rained on Iraq repeatedly throughout his presidency. Indeed, we are conducting a limited air war against Iraq right now, purportedly to force Saddam to allow inspections of his biochemical weapons program. It's accomplished nothing other than the end of the actual UN inspection program. Only in Bosnia did U.S. air strikes play a significant role in forcing a good result, the Dayton Peace Accord. But Clinton drew the wrong conclusion, ignoring the fact that the air strikes succeeded only because they supported a ground offensive by the Croatian Army.
Today the KLA, with reportedly strong ties to drug traffickers and Muslim fundamentalists, has been rolled up, decisively defeated despite the NATO air strikes. It controls no territory in Kosovo, and most of its members are in Albania, a country eager to drag NATO into the fray in furtherance of its own ethnic and religious agenda. The KLA boasts thousands of new volunteers, but they're not soldiers; they're a rabble with guns, KLA waiting to become KIA (Killed In Action) if they ever make it into Kosovo.
Having blundered into a losing war, the United States faces a series of poor choices.
And make no mistake, this is a U.S.-dominated war. Fully 70 percent of the combat planes are from the United States; over 80 percent of the combat missions are flown by U.S. pilots. If NATO's request for more than 300 additional U.S. planes is granted, we will have committed over 40 percent of our active Air Force and Navy air wings to the Balkans War. The United States and Britain, led by Clinton's friend, Tony Blair, are by far the most hardline of the 19-nation NATO alliance. The Europeans have ample forces of their own to take on Milosevic if they want to. But by their actions, their real interest seems to lie in punishing him with air strikes and seeking a negotiated solution, with Russia, whose expansionist communist past led to the creation of NATO, playing a leading role.
At this point, we would seem to have four options:
how this turns out, Clinton has handed the Republicans seeming
evidence for their ridiculous argument that $300 billion a year for the
military isn't enough.
And this war will certainly kick off a new technology race in NATO. In the future, "Those without U.S. technology may be flying blind in relation to those with it," warns Canada's NATO ambassador.
It's no accident that military contractors and global communications corporations dominated the host committee for NATO's 50th anniversary summit in Washington.
Whether the globalist arrogance of the United States and a few of its NATO allies, the expansive pop doctrine of Air Force One and real-world doctrine of Clinton and Albright, survive the war depends on whether the looming defeat is turned into a victory, which some would say is a good argument for defeat.
Instead of taking on the dangerously expandable role of GloboCop, our security doctrine should be quite different, though no more pacifist. As Gary Hart somewhat sardonically suggested, we should adopt the dictum of Chairman Mao: "We will resist hegemony without seeking hegemony."
This article originally appeared in Sacramento News and Review
June 3, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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