Saturday, February 23, 2008

War Against Serbia

The War against Serbia: Illusion Versus Realityby Ivan Eland
This article appeared on on May 3, 1999
The war against Serbia is being billed as a humanitarian attempt by NATO to impair and reverse Slobodan Milosevic's brutal ethnic cleansing of Albanian Kosovars. That spin creates an illusion that obscures the real motivation behind the war. In fact, the war is really a U.S.-dominated military operation designed to safeguard perceived U.S. interests in the Balkan region. The illusion is perpetuated by several myths.
Myth 1: The war against Serbia is being spearheaded by NATO.
Although NATO headquarters in Brussels is buzzing with activity, the forces engaged in battle are primarily American. U.S. aircraft have been flying 90 percent of the combat missions. That percentage will increase further after the current buildup of aircraft, which involves a disproportionate number of American planes, is completed.
Any ground force used to attack Kosovo or Serbia would also be dominated by Americans. American units have the best equipment, training, doctrine, communications, intelligence and logistics. Furthermore, NATO would not demand that the three NATO countries closest to Serbia -- Hungary, Greece and Italy -- send ground forces to fight there. Even though Hungary is a new member of the alliance and should be eager to show its support for NATO activities, the Hungarians claim that they cannot be expected to send troops to fight against a Serb army that includes a significant Hungarian minority. Greece, with a population that is orthodox Christian and pro-Serb, and Italy, which has a left-leaning government that is squeamish about NATO military actions, have pledged humanitarian and logistical support but would not be expected to help with the ground attack. Curiously, the United States -- half a world a way -- is more concerned about Milosevic's actions in Kosovo than are his neighbors.
Myth 2: Humanitarian concerns are driving the war against Serbia.
Although the recent case of genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of almost a million people, dwarfing the number killed in the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, the United States did not intervene. Moreover, the United States regularly, if tacitly, accepts brutal conduct by other regimes against their own people if it coincides with perceived U.S. interests.
The United States tacitly accepted Russia's attempt to brutally suppress the Chechen rebellion because of fears that Russia would disintegrate if other minority groups imitated the Chechens. In the Krajina region of Croatia, the United States tacitly accepted Croatia's ethnic cleansing of 300,000 Serbs because the killing weakened the Serb position in that country and in neighboring Bosnia. Because Turkey is a U.S. ally, the United States not only accepted the Turkish regime's brutal repression of the Kurdish minority (another conflict in which casualties have been much greater than those in Kosovo) but actively aided Ankara by helping apprehend the Kurdish leader Mohamad Ocalan.
In reality, the ostensible humanitarian justification for the war is secondary at best. It's the underlying perception that European security is threatened that's really driving this military intervention. The United States rarely intervenes militarily when there is no perception that its interests are at stake. So the military operation advertised as a NATO mission to relieve human suffering is actually a ham-handed U.S. attempt to defend perceived American security interests.
Those perceived interests flow from the Clinton administration's domino theory of instability and concerns about preserving NATO's credibility.
Instead of a fear of communism spreading from country to country, the administration's refurbished domino theory sees "instability" -- unless checked -- spreading and engulfing large parts of Europe. Instability has always existed in the volatile and remote Balkan nations, but it hasn't spread outside the region since 1914. The administration constantly alludes to the specter of World War I. But in the events leading up to that war, two powerful and hostile alliances exploited instability in the region -- a situation much different from the one that exists today. At present, instability in the Balkans has no relationship to American vital interests.
And getting into a war to preserve "NATO's credibility" sounds eerily like the "peace with honor" justification that kept the United States bogged down in Vietnam for an extra five years. In Vietnam, over a seven-year period, the average tonnage of bombs dropped per month was almost double that dropped per month during Desert Storm, which was in turn much greater than the tonnage dropped on Serbia and Kosovo during the past month. Seven years of pounding from the air did not dissuade the North Vietnamese from their battle to unify Vietnam (nor did an air onslaught alone persuade Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait). It's doubtful that a few months of far less intense attacks on Serbia will stop the Serbs' nationalistic effort to maintain the unity of Serbia.
In the end, the United States would have had more honor had it withdrawn earlier from Vietnam. Similarly, NATO will retain at least some credibility if it drops the pretenses, cuts its losses and negotiates a settlement with Milosevic before many more lives are lost in a ground war for dubious goals in a remote land.


Bosnia War

Under its nationalist president Franjo Tudjman (1922-), Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, provoking an immediate response from the federal military. Unlike the brief fighting in Slovenia, the other breakaway republic, the clashes between federal troops and republic defense forces in Croatia erupted into full-scale war. Federal ships off the coast fired on targets in Croatia, while Croatian forces blockaded federal barracks, cutting off utilities and food; besieged soldiers then shelled nearby civilian areas. In 1991 Serbs constituted one-eigth of the Croatian population; encouraged and armed by the federal military, Serb guerrillas took control of about one-third of the republic, driving out members of other ethnic groups. Some federal leaders in Belgrade (the Yugoslav capital) disagreed with the aggressive tactics of the army, which they saw as acting in the interests of its Serb officers and not of the country as a whole. In January 1992, after at least 10,000 people had died in Croatia and after 14 cease-fires had been broken, a United Nations-sponsored truce took hold. For nearly three years 14,000 UN peacekeeps maintained an uneasy standoff between the Croation defense forces and the rebel Serbs, who eventually declared their own republic of Krajina, consisting of the territory captured in 1991. As the July 1992 shelling of Dubrovnik by rebel Serbs shows, however, fighting never entirely stopped during those three years. At the same, neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina was also engulfed in war, and the Croats feared that Bosnian Serb advances in late 1944 would further embolden the Krajina Serbs. In May 1955 the Croatian army swept through one of the Krajina Serb enclaves, expelling the residents; the Serbs then sent missiles into the Croatian capital, Zagreb, killing a handful of people and injuring more than 150. The Serb retaliation did not halt the Croat offensive; by August Croation troops had retaken most of the Serb-held land and had sent more than 100,000 Serbs fleeing. The war in Croatian (along with the war in Bosnia) officially ended on December 14, 1995, when leaders of Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia signed the Dayton peace accords.
Last Update: December 16, 2000

US, NATO prepare public opinion for ground war against SerbiaBy the Editorial Board
30 March 1999
Less than one week ago, according to no less an authority than President Bill Clinton, most Americans had never heard of Kosovo and would not know where to find it on a world map.
Now, after several days of massive bombing, the escalating media campaign over the fate of the Kosovan Albanians is setting the stage for the commitment of US troops in the war against Serbia and the long-term military occupation of Kosovo.
In an article that is typical of what has been appearing in American newspapers and television over the last three days, Charles A. Kupchan, who served on the staff of the National Security Council during Clinton's first term, wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
"Now that the air campaign is underway, the president has no choice but to prepare the country and America's armed forces for a major ground war in the Balkans ...
"Air attacks will no doubt weaken Yugoslav defenses and soften up the units operating in and around Kosovo. But it may take ground forces to expel them from Kosovo and stop the killing of Albanians."
In interviews conducted on national television, two leading senators--Shelby of Alabama and McCain of Arizona--stated that the Clinton administration must be prepared to place troops on the ground in Kosovo. "I don't know myself of any war," Shelby said, "that's been totally won by air power." Warning that the desire to avoid casualties should not determine US strategic aims, McCain declared, "We're in it, and we have to win it. This means we have to exercise every option."
While the Clinton administration continues to state that it does not "intend" to order ground forces into battle, it has signaled an impending change in policy by claiming that the violence of Serb army attacks on Kosovan Albanians has come as a surprise. If this were true, it would mean that the policy pursued by the Clinton administration in launching the bombing was not merely reckless, but also extraordinarily stupid. It is, however, impossible to believe that the tragic events that have been the first fruits of this war were not foreseen by the US government.
The very nature of the US-NATO demands--that Serbia cede control of Kosovo, acquiesce in the expulsion of the Serb minority from the province, submit to foreign occupation and the destruction of its national sovereignty, and accept the revision of its international borders--could not but lead to an eruption of violence against the Kosovan Albanians once full-scale war broke out.
It is the height of cynicism for the United States to feign horrified surprise over the fate of the Kosovan Albanians when similar methods were employed by Croatia, with US political support and military assistance, during the Croatian offensive against Serbs in Krajina province in 1995. As even the New York Times admits, "the West looked the other way" as 200,000 Serbs were "ethnically cleansed" from Krajina and tens of thousands more were driven from their homes in Bosnia because the actions of Croatia served the strategic interests of the United States.
It would not be difficult to prove that the Clinton administration's invocation of "human rights" and "self-determination" as a justification for its onslaught against Serbia is shot through with duplicity and hypocrisy. (We invite our readers to review an earlier article, " Whom will the United States bomb next?")
But what concerns us here are the implications of the accelerating pace and escalating scale of US military violence. Serbia is the fourth country to have been bombed by the United States in less than seven months. Since August 1998, US cruise missiles and bombs have been launched against the Sudan, Afghanistan, and, of course, Iraq.
The war against Serbia promises to become the bloodiest and most ambitious exercise of all. This extraordinary projection of US military power portends a major turning point in the history of American imperialism.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, US government, military and academic think tanks have been engaged in a protracted debate over the extent and potential of American hegemony. A continuous source of frustration has been the persistent and widespread opposition within the United States, despite the outcome of the gulf war, to foreign military engagements.
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