War - Boomerang Against the West
April 30, 1999
"NATO's war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
(FRY) is not comparable with the Vietnam war, with bombing
Iraq or throwing cruise missiles on Sudan or Afghanistan. In
a more fundamental way, it threatens major Western
institutions, economies and Western leadership. With that
much at stake, Western governments have long forgotten what
the original problem was. Perhaps this is the reason why
NATO now defines itself as a player that does not negotiate
and thus has only the hammer left in its toolbox. That's the
opposite of statesmanship," says TFF director Jan Oberg.
"Whether or not we support NATO's bombing, we must be aware
of the risks and potential costs to the West itself. Our
politicians seem not to be aware of how big they could be.
Therefore, I believe it's time to show some civil courage
and engage in solid damage-limitation both for the Balkans
and for ourselves, otherwise this could go madly wrong,"
Oberg warns. "The critical 'boomerang' effects I mention in
this PressInfo and PressInfo # 66 do not have to happen, but
they are probable enough to merit serious consideration -
and more so with a ground war approaching."
1. NATO's credibility seriously impaired
After March 24, there must be serious doubts about NATO's
identity as a defensive alliance, as an organization for
peace and stability. - Instead of seeing military targets,
the Western audience sees bridges, schools, villages, media
stations, factories, government houses etc. being destroyed.
- NATO has handled its information dissemination in a way
that makes even convinced pro-NATO people and media
skeptical. - The successive calling in of more planes,
helicopters and forces indicates a lack of advance planning,
and there is no unity in the alliance about what to do after
bombing. - The alliance created the humanitarian catastrophe
it aimed to prevent, it ignored warnings that NATO bombs
would make Serbs expel every Albanian they could find. -
Europe, if not the entire international system, is
indisputably less stable after March 24 than
2. NATO's expansion may come to a halt
Whether in public or not, the youngest NATO members now ask
themselves at least four questions: 1) How may this crisis
draw us ever deeper into a quagmire we never expected or
wanted to be part of? 2) What will it cost us to be in
solidarity with NATO's leadership while having little
influence on it? 3) What protection can WE actually expect
now when we see that the West is not willing to deploy
ground forces or otherwise make sacrifices for the noble
cause of saving people and protecting human rights? How safe
are we actually in NATO should we be attacked? And 4) What
compensation will we get for letting NATO use our territory,
for respecting sanctions and now an oil embargo? New and
prospective members see the treatment of Macedonia as a
3. US leadership questioned
Few are able to see the goals, the means-end relations and
the place of this war within an overall consistent US
foreign policy concept and strategy. There is a nagging
feeling that the West has made a blunder, that President
Clinton was 'distracted' by the Lewinsky affair when NATO's
war was discussed, that CIA misjudged that Milosevic would
give in after a few days. - The Rambouillet process is now
revealed worldwide to have been a purely manipulative
operation aimed at getting NATO in and further demonizing
Yugoslavia - If the US intended to support the
Kosovo-Albanian project of Kosova, that project is now
slowly but surely being physically destroyed. - If this goes
wrong it could even decide who will be the next president of
the United States. - While President Clinton points his
fingers at 'hopeful' splits in the Yugoslav government, he
is having a hard time obtaining support from Capitol Hill.
'Stop the Bombing' demonstrations worldwide fundamentally
question the wisdom of NATO's policies.
4. EU's common foreign and security policy
NATO's war could well decide the fate of several European
governments, too. The stated 'resolve' and 'rock hard' unity
in the EU and NATO sounds more like invocation than reality.
Greece, Italy, France, Germany have considerable inner
conflict; the splits will grow with the number of days this
continues. Public opinion is mobilizing. Since 1990 the
European Union has used former Yugoslavia as a kind of
guinea-pig for its 'common foreign and security policy'
concept. And since the witless, premature recognition of
Slovenia and Croatia that policy exhibits a string of pearls
of conflict-management failures. Where is Europe heading if
what we see these weeks in ex-Yugoslavia is an expression of
the common foreign and security policy of the EU?
5. A broader and deeper Atlantic
NATO's war is predominantly that of the US and Britain.
Washington has repeatedly reminded Europeans how they have
been unable to handle the problems in their own backyard and
otherwise get their acts together. Thus, the US 'had to'
take the lead in Dayton, in virtually all international
missions in the region, in SFOR, in the military build-up of
Croatia, half of Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania, in the UN in
Croatia, in OSCE's Kosovo mission, in the Contact Group. And
now in the war against FRY. Washington's teaching the EU the
lesson that it is not for long going to be a 'superpower' is
bound to create resentment in various European circles -
compounded by the fact that it is the US that destroys FRY
and will hand over to the EU to pay for its
6. Toward a new Cold War
There are limits to how long time you can say to the
Russians that we want them inside, we want to listen and
consult - and then do exactly what you please and ignore
their interests, views and fears. This goes for the promise
to help them while the net outflow of capital from Russia to
the West since 1989 is about 250 bn $. It goes for united
Germany in NATO, for the 'formal' NATO expansion, the
handling of Bosnia, the Rambouillet process and now the flat
'no' to Russian mediation attempts in the Kosovo crisis.
Mikhail Gorbachev's vision of a common European house, an
upgraded OSCE, a reformed UN and a downgraded NATO to adapt
to the post-Cold War era was fundamentally sound and
innovative - but has been 'killed' by a triumphalist, almost
autistic, West. However, the exploitation of Russia's
general weakness now could be revenged the day Russia is not
so weak. Russia, China and others are likely to ask: Will
NATO one day try to do to us what it now does to FRY? And
then they will guard themselves and build counter alliances;
Russia quite understandably has now decided to upgrade its
7. Feeling of Western injustice, even
The world's most powerful alliance attempts to destroy a
small country. It does so by highly sophisticated technology
and from far-away places the FRY can not retaliate against.
It implies comparatively little risk; cruise missiles have
no pilots. It obviously aims at civilian targets - and it
has the economic and political clout to gang up many
neighbouring states by promising them money and attractive
club memberships if they back up NATO. Yugoslavia and its
Serbs has been object of economic sanctions since 1991,
demonized, isolated and humiliated in ways the West never
did vis-a-vis Pol Pot, South Africa, Sudan, China, Israel,
Turkey, African dictators such as Bokassa, Amin, Mobutu,
etc. All of them have violated human rights to a much larger
extent and/or invaded other countries which Yugoslavia has
not. Some may simply ask: Why FRY? Is this fair? Does
NATO have a good case here? Is this the way to teach our
children how to deal with our conflicts without violence as
President Clinton recently said was so important?
8. A much larger refugee problem ahead
We've seen the first wave out of Yugoslavia, predominantly
Albanians. The next wave will be of those hundreds of
thousands - if not millions - of Serbs, Croats, Hungarians,
Albanians, Montenegrins, Romas, Yugoslavs etc. in the rest
of FRY who will see no future there after NATO's devastation
and, possibly, ground war. Which European countries will
receive them, who will help Yugoslav youth to obtain
scholarships and educate themselves abroad? Whose labour
markets can absorb hundreds of thousands of people for years
ahead? There is hardly any doubt that all this will cause
cuts in welfare and social programmes throughout Europe and
that the influx of refugees will be perceived as highly
negative by many Europeans, particularly at the lower rungs
of the socio-economic ladder.
9. Aggravating the world economic crisis
The destruction of Yugoslavia is carried out predominantly
by the United States. But since this is Europe, the EU will
be the main agency to rebuild and reconstruct the Balkans.
In and of itself that will cost billions of dollars. Second,
countries such as Albania and Macedonia (FYROM) which host
refugees - and 'save' Europe from them - have a right to be
assisted. Third, countries that function as military bases
and bridgeheads will expect payment and protection for years
ahead. Fourth, regional countries around Yugoslavia which,
due to sanctions against Yugoslavia since 1991, have lost
billions of dollars and are now forced to (at least
officially) accept an oil embargo have a right to be
compensated. Countries such as Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary
will lose vital tourist income.
NATO made some promises at its recent 50th Anniversary
summit in Washington. But look at what the West promised
Russia since 1989 and look at how little neighbours of FRY
have received in compensation for the markets they have lost
due to the sanctions since 1991.
10. More social unrest, hate and terrorism
Destroying a country and the livelihood of 10 million people
is bound to have very serious social consequences. Social
unrest, a deep hate against everything Western, terrorism
directed against Western Europe and the US can not be
excluded. Throughout FRY thousands of children and youth
will hate the Western nations which destroyed their
fundamental values, hopes and opportunities. They will
remember, as they grow older, that we did not bomb only
military facilities and demonize Milosevic, but we turned a
multiethnic country into a 'pariah' and hoped they would be
foolish enough to believe us when Western leaders told them
that 'we are not in conflict with the citizens.'
11. Erosion of international normativity and law,
'humanitarian intervention' dead
Experts will keep on discussing whether what happens now
falls within international law and the UN Charter, or it
should have status of 'special case.' What cannot be
disputed is that NATO has violated its own Charter while
Yugoslavia threatens neither any NATO nor non-NATO
countries. By intervening here and doing nothing in
conflicts with much more serious human rights violations and
in wars with many times more casualties, the West teaches
the rest of the world that some lives are more important
than others. In short, the idea of 'humanitarian
intervention' is morally dead.
A series of human rights are violated by NATO, not the
least the so-called 'third generation' rights such as the
right to peace, to development and to a healthy environment.
It is increasingly obvious that the FRY citizens are victims
of the alliance's policies, whether intended or not.
Could it be that citizens around the world will feel
deeply disillusioned if - or when - they find out that this
whole action was not about saving refugees and averting a
humanitarian crisis but, rather, about power, strategic and
economic interests, deliberately creating a new 'fault line'
or Cold War, about undermining the UN and promoting an
all-powerful, uncontrollable NATO in the hands of a tiny
Western elite that professes to speak for all of the
international 'community' but has no mandate?
We are told that only military targets are on the list.
But with all the serious civilian casualties, we must begin
to ask: is NATO deeply incompetent or is the campaign
turning into one of terror bombing and collective
punishment? Citizens in the West have a right to believe
that their leaders don't degrade themselves to such moral
low ground. And lie about it."
© TFF 1999
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C o r r e c t i o n
PressInfo # 64 contained two mistakes. We meant to ask
why NATO - not Belgrade, of course - did not bomb earlier to
prevent ethnic cleansing. And KLA/UCK controlled 30% of the
Kosovo province, not of Yugoslavia. We apologize!