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the NATO military action against Serbia.
by Simon Jenkins
Nato's moral morass
The spin from Washington is clear. Tony Blair can talk about an air war and a just war, but he must not mention a real one. Real wars kill our people. Mr Blair must go on fighting his war from 15,000ft. The target list must be intensified. The crusade against President Milosevic must be sustained, but not where it might be won, on the ground. Morals are fine for speeches, but in action pragmatism is all.
Britain appears to be alone in Nato in its eagerness to invade Kosovo. President Clinton finds the idea unpalatable and Italy, France and Germany regard it as "off the agenda". Nato proceeds to dither, while intelligence reports that Mr Milosevic has more troops in Kosovo than when the bombing began. Speaking to the American media last week, the Prime Minister barely concealed his frustration at his colleagues' refusal to carry war to its logical next stage, to expel Serb forces from Kosovo and repatriate the Kosovans. He is Prometheus chained to the Nato rock, while a defiant Mr Milosevic gnaws at his vitals.
In this I have some sympathy with Mr Blair. Any belief that Mr Milosevic would sooner or later invite Nato to invade his country was wishful thinking and bombers' rhetoric. Mr Blair now realises this. If Nato was serious about protecting the Kosovans, it would have rushed the rapid reaction force into Pristina last winter when Belgrade was clearly reneging on the October deal and before most of the Yugoslav Army had moved into the province. Nato's much-vaunted "rapid deployment capability" should have proved its mettle. Such an assault would have been no more illegal than the present one, and would have been far more "just", in securing a humanitarian goal against a clearly mendacious Belgrade.
Yet this course of action was never on. One of the more sickening spectacles of the past fortnight has been liberal hawks deriding the conduct of the war "so far", a war they wanted high off the ground, clean, technological and with no Nato dead. They would never have allowed Mr Blair to do the only logical thing, which was to invade. He and they fell on the necks of the air-war lobby, happy to believe yet again that a few Tomahawks would bring a dictator swiftly to his knees. They claimed that Belgrade might even welcome a few bombs so as to help Mr Milosevic to sell a retreat from Kosovo to the mob. The same naivety must underlie the Cabinet's present faith in the Apache helicopter to somehow get them off the hook. The fact is that every Nato country has always been ready for bombing but not for war.
Mr Blair is said to be taking advice on what to do next from Baroness Thatcher, victor of the Falklands. I know what she will be telling him: get out and bully the pathetic Americans into action or the pathetic Europeans will never toe the line. He should beware such advice. There is no parallel with the Falklands, where national humiliation was at stake, where war was approved by the United Nations and where the military objective was crystal clear. (And even Lady Thatcher did not bomb Buenos Aires.) None of this applies in Kosovo, where the mission creep is as eerie as the method creep. I am averse to treating a newspaper postbag, a BBC phone-in log or the London conversation circuit as bellwethers of public opinion. I can only report that this war is leaving thousands of patriotic people baffled, concerned and even outraged. And all Mr Blair can say by way of consolation is that it is about morality.
In his Chicago speech last week, Mr Blair appeared to be redrawing the boundaries of British foreign policy in one sweep. He sought a new justification for military intervention against states committing "appalling crimes", and a basis for moral wars against dictators generally. But there are two sorts of morality applied to war. There is a just war conducted for the survival of the state or against a threat to world peace, in which every sinew must be tuned to the goal of victory. Nothing suggests that Nato (other than Mr Blair) sees Kosovo remotely in these terms. Nato's air war is the most tentative, and ineffective, form of engagement, however awful its destruction.
Quite separate are limited wars, fought in accordance with proportionality, in which military behaviour is restricted by moral considerations. As General Frank Kitson has written of such "policing" encounters, moral restriction makes them very hard to fight, yet restriction is vital if moral supremacy is to be maintained. Last month, Nato behaved accordingly. It said it would scrupulously avoid civilian targets or risking civilian lives. It would tell the truth, respect democratic debate and confine its aggression to achieving specific goals. For instance, it did not seek Kosovan independence of Yugoslavia or the otherthrow of Mr Milosevic.
Recent actions, and justifications, indicate severe "morals creep" on Nato's part. Spokesmen are displaying that hazard of a war that is not going well, of measuring their own deeds against the enemy's standards. The accidental bombing of a commuter train and a tractor convoy was plainly the result of pilots being ordered to fly too high to identify their targets visually. Yet Nato said that the deaths were "really" caused by Mr Milosevic's ethnic cleansing. Asked to justify the conflagration of a civilian chemicals factory, the Defence Secretary, George Robertson, merely said it was no worse than Mr Milosevic's burning of Kosovan villages. Explaining the attempt to kill Mr Milosevic at night in his family home as an attack on a "command and control centre" was spin worthy of Mr Milosevic himself. I still cannot believe that the Prime Minister approved it.
Last week's killing of between 15 and 20 staff at the
Belgrade television building came after specific assurances from Nato's
spokesman Jamie Shea that they were not a target. Either he was lying or
he was being lied to by his superiors. The British International Development
Minister, Clare Short, claimed that the staff were "legitimate targets"
since the station had refused Nato's fanciful demand that it broadcast
six hours of "Western programmes" in place of its own propaganda. By no
known definition of war were these civilians classifiable as combatants.
Yet they were treated by Nato's targeters as the equivalent of spies, executed
without trial. Nato did not apologise for killing them, but appeared to
seek moral equivalence between their deaths and Mr Milosevic's recent killing
of a dissident editor.
So deep is this ethical morass that Robin Cook could yesterday go on radio to castigate as "brutal" Mr Milosevic's sending of soldiers to occupy a TV station. The Serbian President dispatched his troops to the outlet supported by his critic, Vuk Draskovic. This is the rival station to the one the Foreign Secretary had just bombed, killing half its occupants. In the ruthless media politics of Belgrade, Mr Milosevic is a comparative softie.
Mr Cook and Ms Short ask us to accept that, because Western journalists are on the side of right and Serbs on the side of wrong, the premeditated killing of the latter is a "just act". The massacre stopped broadcasts for just six hours, and risked the life of every Western reporter in Yugoslavia. I cannot see the proportionality, let alone the morality, in this. Targeting civilians remains wrong, and it is no good ministers repeating that the Kosovans were civilians too. It is an odd "just" war that seeks an equivalence of mayhem in others' conflicts.
Military intervention in Yugoslavia was wrong from the
start. But even now it must be "moral" or it is mindless. I know the war's
macho supporters will dismiss this ethical nicety as defeatist. Nato must
win. People will get hurt. Every Serb is a legitimate target and we need
to remember only that Mr Milosevic is worse than us. I disagree. The warmonger
cannot plead a moral end and deny morality a role in the means. He cannot
summon the nation to a just war, and say justice is for wimps. Any British
war should be better than that.
by Simon Jenkins
Three strikes and out
There are three Kosovan wars running at present. Nato has lost the first, the second is still being fought, and the third has not properly begun. Since conflict takes a mounting toll on reason, we must struggle to keep these wars distinct.
War A: This began in January with Nato warning President Milosevic against "a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo". Mr Milosevic declined to be warned. Despite intelligence of his aggressive intent against the Kosovan Albanians, Nato's military response was hesitant. It already had 2,000 ground monitors in Kosovo and had placed a 10,000-strong Nato intervention force in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Amid much confusion during the Lewinsky affair, President Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, threatened Mr Milosevic not just with sanctions but with a bombing war if he failed to grant Kosovo "partial autonomy". In March this threat had to be honoured.
Whether Mr Milosevic's Operation Horseshoe - the methodical cleansing of Kosovo - predated the January ultimatum is unclear. What is beyond doubt is that Nato knew of his readiness to visit on the Albanians what Croatia had visited on the Krajina Serbs in 1994-95. After the clearing of Krajina, some 250,000 evicted Serbs descended on Belgrade and demanded Mr Milosevic's head. Having lost Krajina, he was not going to lose Kosovo.
Yet Nato removed the monitors and aid workers from Kosovo. Both groups had served as witnesses and partial restraints on Serb (and Kosovo Liberation Army) atrocities. They were probably the outside world's best hope of impeding Mr Milosevic's grim determination. As it was, far from impeding the disaster, Nato's strategy gave the Serbs a "permissive environment" for the ethnic cleansing.
The cleansing has not been, as Nato spokesmen claim, the worst humanitarian outrage since the Second World War, an exaggeration many Africans and Asians might consider racist. However, it has been brutal and horrific to witness, and holds a peculiar abhorrence to Europeans within the memory of Hitler's war. As of yesterday, more than half the Albanian population of Kosovo has been expelled from the province. The rest have probably been killed or are being held hostage. Mr Milosevic's Operation Horseshoe may be a sick and hollow victory over a burnt and empty land. But for Serb nationalists the securing of Kosovo is a triumph, achieved while the mightiest armed force in the world did nothing but dally and bomb. Nato pledged to draw the line against Mr Milosevic in Kosovo, and did not do so. Nato sent in monitors, then withdrew them. Nato sent reinforcements to Macedonia but left them setting up camps for victims of a war Nato half-threatened but would not fight. War A has been lost.
War B: This is a quite separate war. It is being waged at a vertical distance of 15,000ft over War A and mostly in the Danube basin 200 miles from Kosovo. It is a classic air war, in pursuit not of territory but of a political goal, as in Iraq, to get a regime to change its mind. As a result, its objectives tend to be hazy and shifting. Air defences and other military targets are bombed first. As these targets are exhausted "target drift" starts, leading to a drift in objectives. Since War A is all but over, there seems little point in risking pilots by attacking the Yugoslav Army in the field. Nato is now powerless to stop ethnic cleansing, unless it can induce Mr Milosevic to change his mind.
Targets are thus extended to non-military sites, to blocking the Danube and to destroying chemical factories, fertiliser plants, roads and bridges. Nato is seeking to impose a crippling economic burden on the Yugoslav people - we hear no more about "just bombing Milosevic" - in the hope of turning them against their elected Government and forcing Mr Milosevic from power. Hence the toxic cloud over Belgrade. Hence the emphasis on Nato's "credibility", as if credibility lay in demonstrating the sheer potency of Nato's weapons.
Such political objectives are notoriously hard to control.
They depend on an accurate reading of the internal politics of a State
under siege. Victories are measured not in burning tanks or factories but
in morale, propaganda and power play. Last week War B briefly intruded
on the tail-end of War A, when Nato bombed a refugee convoy. Spin-doctors
sought to dismiss it as an accident of war and attacked the media, including
reporters working against ferocious odds in Belgrade. But in wars such
as War B, collateral damage is always a victory for the enemy. The success
of a sortie is measured not in hits but in media coups de thêatre.
Nato's Jamie Shea is a frontline general.
This second war has not yet been won or lost. It is conceivable, but unlikely, that history could be stood on its head and Yugoslavia be the first country bombed into changing its Government. Other apologists suggest that bombing might "soften up" Mr Milosevic for some Russian-UN deal, to get him to readmit an Albanian resettlement monitoring force into Kosovo. I still think a version of this is the most plausible outcome of War B, but it would be hard to avoid calling it another defeat. Nato would have fought its way back to much the same trench as it was in last October. Or Nato might simply continue its act of punishment until it has made Belgrade another Stalingrad.
This "Stone Age" strategy, launched with similar conviction on Vietnam, is the logical consequence of credibility and a "just war" taking precedence over common sense. To call this winning War B would be absurd.
War C: This is the war that dares Nato to breathe its name. Despite denials, a force of 80,000 troops appears to be moving into position to invade Kosovo and set up what would amount to a Western military protectorate. This involves abandoning Nato's pledge that it would send in soldiers only after a negotiated settlement, once considered a legal necessity for such intervention. It flatly contradicts Robin Cook's assurance, repeated yesterday, that "We're not going to fight our way in. We've made that very clear from the start. It would involve too many casualties." Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have pledged likewise. Yet War C's sabre-rattling gives Mr Milosevic every inducement to prepare his people and his army for an invasion. He is now mining the roads and appears to be holding back tens of thousands of refugees as potential human shields.
War C was always rejected by Nato because democracy would
not wear it. Democracy apparently wanted Mr Milosevic to be stopped, but
cleanly and not at the expense of any Nato lives. Bombers are not allowed
to fly low: they can risk missing their targets but not getting killed.
Nato wants to seem tough, but tough at 15,000ft, not in a "bayonet, knife
and bullet war". That is why Nato would not fight War A. Because of that
timidity, democracy may now be asked to stomach the same war but at a vastly
higher cost. Nobody could say that War C is unwinnable. Kosovo is not the
same as Vietnam and if Nato cannot hold a province the size of Yorkshire
it is in dire straits. But a Nato-ruled Kosovo would be even more burnt
and barren than it is now.
Kosovo cannot be rendered "autonomously" Albanian, only autonomously Nato. War C cannot rectify War A. It could only be a war of punitive desperation. It would do little more than change the guard over Kosovo's empty fields and rotting corpses. They are Mr Milosevic's doing, for which his people and perhaps a court of law will one day hold him to account. Nato cannot be party to yet more killing.
Of these three wars, War C is the only one that is militarily
coherent, yet it is the maddest war of all. Mr Clinton and Mr Blair are
right on this: the cost is too great for the gain. So where has Nato's
hubris got us? I can hardly believe it. The turbulent 20th-century is about
to end on a note of stupendous irony: a worsted Nato pleading with Russia
to sue for peace.
Dr. Judah Tzoref Rehovot Israel (26 Apr 1999)
NATO military campaign against Yugoslavia is the most sweeping transgression ever implemented by the community of democratic nations against one of its members. What is the corporate frame of mind which justifies vandalizing Yugoslavia and slaying its citizens? The recipe responsible for the concoction of such global-scale blunder takes the following ingredients:
(a) overly inspirited world reformers (such as Clinton and Blair),
(b) total ignorance of the intricate Balkan saga, (c) the intoxicating flavor of unchallengeable military superiority,
(d) the prospects of testing newly-developed weaponry under real conditions.
NATOs aggression against Yugoslavia sets an unprecedented code of jungle in international relations, which puts all small democracies under a constant threat of lynch by organized gangs of nations. The impetuousness and extravagance of NATO military campaign calls for an international dialogue on the menace to world stability presented by multinational arms-accumulating organizations such as NATO. In fact,the very existence of NATO should be questioned and discussed by international forums.
The world has been witnessing an unholy alliance between NATO leadership and the Western media. The media fervently volunteered as the mouthpiece of NATO and has been preparing the ground for a large-scale massacre of Serbs by NATO forces.
Tendentious televised reports whipped up hysteria around
the Kosovo refugees.
Misrepresentations, horrifying canards and melodramatic commentaries have been unscrupulously used by the media to undermine the Serbian cause and cheapen the value of Serbian blood.
Far away from the world spotlights a systematic Albanian terrorism has forced droves of Serbs out of Kosovo for more than a century. But the consistent expatriation and liquidation of Serbs, which along with infiltration proved itself as an effective Albanian method to gain ethnic majority in Kosovo, appears to be less spectacular and photogenic than the sight of Albanian refugees. The propagandist traits in the American and West European media coverage of the Kosovo crisis have been too conspicuous to deny.
NATO leadership must be either too ignorant, incompetent
or possessed not to realize that an invasion of Yugoslavia is bound to
end up with a massacre of Serbs and a huge death toll of NATO forces. It
may be the disastrous effect of the Western media malpractice, which may
give NATO the wrong impression that the international public opinion is
ready for the slaughter of Serbs.
There is a deepening polarity between the worldwide public opinion and the determination of NATO leadership to carry through its senseless military campaign.
The history of Kosovo proves unequivocally that NATOs attempted solution will provide a perfect habitat for the continuation of Albanian terrorism and ethnic cleansing against the Serbs until the achievement of a purely Albanian State of Kosovo. The Serbs and the rest of the world cannot tolerate such solution. While NATO continues headlong with its military aggression against Yugoslavia, it pumps the entire world into a violent turbulence of unpredictable consequences.
Ph.D. Oxford University