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Date:  Sun, 9 May 1999 19:18:37 +0900
From: Michael Kepinski
To: Multiple recipients of NETSOURCE-L <netsource-l@mail.think.service>
Subject:  [NS] Degrading America (from The Nation)

It is early Sunday afternoon here in Rostock, Germany where I am spending
a few days on my way back home after visiting my family in Poland. The war
is much talked about, but I have noticed a strange dichotomy. Some people
seem completely oblivious and carefuly avoid any reference to it, others
bring it up as soon as they realise that I am from North America.
Evereybody wants to know what I think. This is a good opportunity to
discuss the complexity of the issue and I find Germans usually
well-informed though no less opinionated than my friends in the US.

Thanks to my German friends I have telnet access to the freenet, and high
speed access to the web, and usenet news. This has made it easy for me to
contribute some articles to the list at home. Here is another thoughtful
analysis. Michael

Thank you to Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.SPAMTRAP.missouri.edu>

The Nation
May 24, 1999

'Degrading' America
By Stephen F. Cohen

It is imperative to focus on the essential reason Americans must
unequivocally oppose the US-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. There are, of
course, many reasons-the five-week campaign having utterly failed in all
of its declared purposes. But for all its other failings, the US-led
bombing must be opposed first and foremost because it is a moral outrage.
By so greatly increasing the number of Kosovar victims and by having done
so recklessly without any precautionary steps to help them, the initiators
of the air war have compounded Milosevic's evil deeds and thus made the
United States deeply complicit in them.

Still more, the bombing and missile attacks are growing into an all-out
assault on the economic and other civilian underpinnings of Yugoslav
society. NATO sorties are literally demodernizing Serbia. Two or three
decades of its economic development-the foundation of the elementary
well-being of ordinary men, women and children-have already been

Nor is this high-tech savagery against a small country inadvertent or
without zealous US advocates. The NATO command's cruel euphemisms about
"collateral damage" are common military obfuscation. But there is also the
"liberal" bloodlust of the May 10 New Republic, which features an article
cheering the assault on civilians on the basis of Serbian "collective
guilt," and of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, on April 23, who
demands a "pulverizing" of the "Serbian nation" back to 1950 ("We can do
1389 too"), including Belgrade teenagers "still holding rock concerts" and
families "going out for Sunday merry-go-round rides." Such demands, widely
echoed elsewhere in the media and even by the White House press secretary,
in effect call upon the United States to commit what are legally defined
as war crimes.

The Clinton Administration bombers and their apologists must not be
allowed to represent the rest of us. They have imposed a moral barricade
on the soul of America, and to that barricade Americans must go in moral
opposition. The pulverizers' purported morality rests primarily on a
fraudulent analogy-equating Serbian treatment of Kosovar Albanians with
the Nazi extermination of Jews. The analogy wantonly debases the
historical reality and memory of the Holocaust: Milosevic's reign of
terror has turned most Kosovars into refugees fleeing toward sanctuaries;
Hitler gave most

European Jews no exit and turned them into ash. And even given Milosevic's
real atrocities, what has become of the American ethical axiom, Two wrongs
don't make a right? Or the central moral lesson of this awful political
century, that ends do not justify means?

In truth, US political and military leaders now care little about the
morality (or legality) of their actions in Yugoslavia, only the
"credibility of NATO." To this we must answer: We care more about the
moral reputation of America. In large parts of the world, it too has been
pulverized, certainly "degraded" much worse than Milosevic's capabilities.

Russia, which ought to be our greatest international concern, is the most
alarming example. Not long ago, millions of its citizens, particularly
young ones upon whom the Clinton Administration based its certitudes about
a pro-American Russia, saw the United States as an exemplar of civilized
political conduct. Now most of them see us as barbarians in the sky.

We must prove they are wrong by stopping the bombing of Yugoslavia before
the necessary political settlement is even harder to achieve, before the
only peace is that of the graveyard and moral redemption is impossible.


A war run by former pacifists for idealistic reasons, and conditioned by
the study of public opinion polls, is likely to be even more disastrous
than wars usually are. War is not an optional extra of diplomatic policy,
or a gesture of irritation at being unable to impose one's own power. It
should never be resorted to except under absolute necessity; neither
necessity nor common prudence dictated the Nato bombing of Yugoslavia
which has already produced the humanitarian catastrophe it was intended to

Least of all is war a good way of making peace. There are a few successful
wars in history which have achieved limited objectives in a relatively
short space of time; perhaps they include the Falklands conflict, or the
Prussian campaign against France in 1870. Most wars leave their original
objectives far behind. Already Nato's original objectives of enforcing the
Rambouillet agreement and preventing the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo are
dead and almost forgotten. Rambouillet has become a relevant footnote in
diplomatic history; the ethnic cleansing has happened. Now Nato has to
find a way to reach a peace settlement; the war itself has become the

The diplomatic, military and political strategies have all been
misconceived. The Nato political leaders understood neither the Balkans
nor the nature of war; they believed that war can be won, with no
casualties, from 15,000ft; they had no plan for the refugees, or any
alternative military plan if the bombing failed; they did not even foresee
the political differences that would divide Nato.

The Balkans have been at war for as long as human history has been
recorded, and Balkan wars have an equally long record of atrocities. The
only prolonged periods of peace have been those in which a strong empire
has imposed stability. The Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Soviet empires
were able in their time to keep the peace in the Balkans, but when each of
these empires went into decline, the ethnic wars started again. In the
early 19th century the decline of the Ottoman Empire allowed Serbia and
Greece to claim independence, but that ushered in a hundred years of
Balkan wars, leading eventually to the great eruption of 1914.

Yugoslavia itself, established in 1919, was always more of a timebomb than
a nation. It contained at least six hostile ethnic groups, forced to live
inside its borders: Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims, Albanians
and Hungarians, as well as the smaller minorities. Tito, for his lifetime,
and the threat of Soviet power held those hostile people together in an
uneasy and resentful partnership. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, marking
the end of the Soviet Empire; in 1991 the Yugoslav civil war began.

Nato is not an empire; it cannot subdue the Balkans as the Emperor
Augustus or Stalin subdued them; Stalin had been given the consent of the
Western Allies at the Yalta Conference in 1945. Nato has neither the will
nor the unity to achieve so formidable and thankless a task. In the period
of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Nato did decide to push back the
Yalta frontiers of Russian influence, accepting Poland, the Czech Republic
and Hungary as members. That change in the balance of power in Central
Europe looks to be stable, but Nato could manage the much greater problems
of the Balkans only if it remained in cooperation with Russia.

If the diplomacy was flawed by a lack of understanding of Balkan history
and an arrogant disregard of Russia, the military strategy was almost
absurd. It depended on the belief that Milosevic could be forced to accept
the Rambouillet terms by bombing alone. So far as their biographies show,
neither President Clinton, Gerhard Schrder, the German Chancellor, nor
Tony Blair has experienced bombing. At the time of the Vietnam War, they
held pacifist views.

My own generation in Britain, Germany and Russia was exposed to bombs, as
I was myself in the Bristol blitz of 1940. Bombing is frightening; it
makes one angry; it strengthens the will to resist. The idea that the
Serbs would surrender Kosovo just because of Nato bombs could have been
accepted only by men with no personal experience of being bombed. This was
not a view taken by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, but their
warnings were overruled by the President.

Almost unbelievably, there was no contingency plan if the bombing failed,
as it was likely to do. From the beginning, Nato had ruled out a ground
invasion. Both the potential Nato staging posts for such an invasion,
Hungary and Greece, had strong reason to oppose it. Germany, France and
Italy all have left-wing coalition governments; the German Greens, and the
French and Italian communists, are uneasy about the air war and are
opposed to a ground war; these coalitions would not survive an invasion of
Kosovo. The United States remembers Vietnam. If bombing was likely to be
ineffective without a ground invasion, and a ground invasion was
unacceptable to almost every Nato power except Britain, Turkey and perhaps
Denmark, it made no sense to start the bombing.

The British Government bases its policy on the undoubted horror of the
ethnic cleansing and the plight of the refugees. The British public has
rightly been shocked by their suffering. Yet the argument that Nato had to
do something, when it is quite apparent that what Nato has actually done
has made things worse, is obviously false. Bombing has not been a policy,
but a substitute for having a policy.

Without peace, nothing can be done to help the very large number of
Albanians who are still inside Kosovo. There are probably between half a
million and a million of them. So long as the war goes on, their lives
will be intolerable, and presumably many more will try to leave. We do not
know where many of them are, or whether they have access to food,
medicines and shelter. If the war is not over before the autumn, tens of
thousands may die from exposure, malnutrition and disease.

From a humanitarian point of view, the war to date has been bad enough,
but a continuation of the war could be worse. There is also the risk of
rising civilian casualties from the bombing itself as Nato runs out of
prime military targets and perhaps runs low on precision missiles and
smart bombs. Dumb bombs dropped from a high level are notoriously
indiscriminate and murderous. However genuine the original humanitarian
motivations of the bombing, the humanitarian argument now calls for peace.

That is why it was so wrong-headed to push the Russians aside, and start a
war which the Russians believe to be an act of aggression, contrary to the
UN Charter. The Russians are now, if belatedly, recognised by Nato as the
only valid intermediaries. If peace is to be made, it will have to be
negotiated by the Russians on terms at least minimally acceptable to the
Serbs. The Nato spokesmen talk as though Nato could dictate the terms,
could "prevail" or "win" this most unwinnable of wars. In fact, Nato's
diplomatic position has weakened since the bombing started. The bombing
has, quite predictably, consolidated Milosevic's support and has used up
Nato's only credible military threat. It is the threat, not the use, of
military power, which achieves diplomatic objectives.

No doubt Nato still has strong bargaining weapons; the end of bombing is
one, money is another. Russia's economy needs a continued drip-feed of
dollars; Kosovo will need to be subsidised for a long time to come,
perhaps largely under the protection of Russian troops; the bridges over
the Danube will have to be rebuilt, and that should be done quickly, if
only for the sake of Bulgaria. Serbia still has reason to settle, but not
to surrender.

In 1648, after six years of the English Civil War, John Milton, a
supporter of Parliament, wanted peace; he wrote a sonnet to "Lord General
Fairfax at the siege of Colchester"; he hoped Fairfax could achieve peace.
One line of that sonnet sums up Nato's dilemma: "For what can war, but
endless war, still breed?" Wars breed wars; only peace breeds peace; what
good has the bombing done?

"Music is what makes us human. Songs are as important as our daily bread."

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