Whom NATO fought against during its Balkan War is more or less undisputed. Whether called 'Serbia,' 'the former Yugoslavia' or simply 'Milosevic,' the target was a sovereign power ruling over part of the Balkan peninsula. The power of this state was reduced through extensive damage to its means of power and to its resources, human and otherwise. At least one thing can be disputed, however. The official explanation of the civilian human damage --- that it was 'collateral,' a side-effect of military strategy --- is nonsense. The readiness of Serbia's population to bear the burdens of war and take up arms for the nation was a key military resource, so that damage to the people's morale and even existence made a lot of sense, a 'legitimate' target as the military spokesmen would put it. NATO's pride over its 'surgical' warfare was not disturbed by the growing numbers of civilian casualties. One could hardly detect any apology; really, they got what they deserved as far as NATO was concerned. At no time did the Serbian people ever put up much opposition to their nation's Kosovo policy, either before or during the war. Furthermore these people had obviously chosen this offending regime, at least to the same extent that any of the democratic regimes within NATO itself are chosen by the people. The people of Yugoslavia have been officially notified that they have to bear the consequences as long as they continue to follow Milosevic as their leader.
What NATO did not fight for during its Balkan War consists of all the officially proclaimed reasons: to stop a 'human rights catastrophe' for example. The West's first warnings to Yugoslavian President Milosevic concerned nothing but Yugoslavia's efforts to eradicate the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a group dedicated to carving out a new state by violent means on the basis of an Albanian ethnicity. By challenging Yugoslavia's use of force within its own boundaries, which means challenging Yugoslavian sovereignty, the NATO countries encouraged the KLA to pursue its own objectives, thereby encouraging a violent internal struggle which NATO itself could make use of. And this is quite typical. There are always minorities within nations which can come to the conclusion that a different national arrangement would work out advantageously, because all states are in the business of handing out disadvantages --- what else could a monopoly of force be good for! When NATO decides to destabilize a region, it promotes whatever local antagonisms it finds on the scene. If not, then the opposite. Thus it is no hypocrisy to find Kosovar Albanians in dire need of 'human rights' while Turkey's Kurds, Basques under Spanish rule and Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland are properly repressed. The West has long been using the complaints of Yugoslavia's Albanian citizens about second-class treatment compared to their Serbian compatriots as a lever to interfere in Yugoslavian affairs. And one can only speculate about the course of things if the KLA had not finally been convinced to sign the Rambouillet accord, acknowledging NATO's supremacy in Kosovo and thereby providing NATO with some victims of 'human rights abuses' to allegedly fight for and only one enemy to fight against rather than two. Far from 'saving lives in Kosovo,' NATO could have easily predicted ---if they so cared! --- that its all-out bombing attacks would have, as indeed they did, intensified Serbian action against the KLA, as well as against the population from which they drew their support. And finally, an air war could not possibly protect, nor be intended to protect the Albanian Kosovars from 'ethnic cleansing,' and NATO made perfectly clear its refusal to alter its military strategy to do so.
NATO was also not fighting for Kosovo's refugees. No one can say that NATO bombing did not contribute to the creation of the throngs pouring out of Kosovo. These poor souls have been treated rather shabbily by NATO. According to plan, NATO has refused them asylum in the West, causing instability in neighboring states; forced them to go home to a devastated land to be the citizens which every country needs if it is to be one; and in general used them as pawns, as a perpetual pretext for further intimidation and war. It is clear enough that the 'human rights' they will finally enjoy have nothing to do with living a decent life, but are only about being ruled in the 'right way' by the 'right' power.
What NATO did fight for during its Balkan War was the West's program to establish its control over the use of force by states everywhere in the world, the 'new world order.' Yugoslavia became a 'problem' for the West when, after the death of Yugoslavian President Tito, local political interests began to think of forming new states in opposition to the Yugoslavian national interest, contradicting the West's claim to decide this kind of thing itself. Exactly how this 'problem' was to be 'solved,' including the Balkan War, was not determined in advance; nonetheless the twists and turns of the 'solution' followed a logical course. First Germany decided to recognize new sovereignties, then the chief European powers agreed with this 'solution' --- but only on the basis of subsuming Germany's political will under a joint European will. Then the United States agreed --- but only on the basis of subsuming Europe's political will under its own. On this basis, with a bit of violence among the affected parties, and by NATO against most of the parties under the banner of the 'right of self-determination of the people,' the new states of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia were created, making Yugoslavia 'former.' At each stage NATO decided what was to be, vetoing Croatian forces interested in annexing Bosnian territory, attacking Yugoslavian forces with a corresponding interest in Serbian regions of Croatia and Bosnia, and creating out of Bosnia a weird quasi-state under 'international' administration against the Moslem interest in a real state for themselves. And when after all this Kosovar Albanians got the idea of nationhood for themselves, the West demanded recognition by all parties of its own right to 'solve' this 'problem' too. It took a war for Yugoslavia to recognize the relativity of its sovereignty; NATO members of course would never dream of treating their collective sovereignty as anything but absolute: getting rid of obstacles to this ideal is the first business of NATO power --- unfortunately for Yugoslavia
What NATO has brought about by its Balkan War is a brutal clarification of world power. The West has freed itself from the United Nations, an institution in which its own power in the form of an 'international community' is necessarily somewhat relative. The 'right of self-determination of the people' enshrined in the UN charter has been superseded --- at least in this case and for the first time ever and too bad for Yugoslavia --- by 'human rights.' All nations and would-be nations have been taught a lesson about sovereignty. Territorial boundaries, amounts of power, and when and against whom force can be used --- these concerns are the responsibility of the West as a matter of right. Thus we have all now had the privilege of witnessing a 'humanitarian' war against a people who need 'democracy' and against the 'dictator' they keep on electing.
The West has also freed itself from Russia, the remains of a former world-power which is not 'former' enough for Western tastes. Russia played a rather peculiar role in the Balkan War. Its claim for continued world-power status alongside of and in cooperation with the West was challenged. Russian complaints about NATO aggression in Yugoslavia, as well as threats to do something about it, were simply brushed off by Western statesmen. On the other hand, Russian offers in the form of demands to assist NATO in the diplomatic phase, as well as in implementing NATO's peace with a military presence, were accepted in principle. The principle, that 'Russia has a role to play,' gives a positive diplomatic form to the Western goal --- quite negative as far as Russian power is concerned --- for the complete submission of Russia into the 'new world order.' Russia has not been allowed to decide anything, including administering its own sector in Kosovo, and has recognized this. How Russian political life will react to this recognition is uncertain and remains a 'problem' for the West. The extreme view from western commentators, that Russian participation has 'tainted' NATO's real victory, only reflects the idealistic annoyance that the former superpower has been dragging out its too-slow and not-steady-enough march to take up its rightful position as a fully-developed and de-armed member of the third world.
The clarification of the pecking orders with Europe and within the West as whole is also an important result of the war. Germany has been recognized as a military power to match its economic successes, bombing and occupying foreign soil for the first time since the end of the last world war --- not on its own, but only as part of a collective European power. On the other hand, the European Union, having challenged the United States economically with a new currency and politically by asserting its responsibility for Yugoslavia, has gotten a decisive response. The Balkan War had all the earmarks of an American-led operation. Engaging in a massive and qualitatively superior air campaign was something only America could pull off. European suggestions and prognostications about the course of the war or avoiding or shortening the war or compromising slightly with Milosevic or allowing the Russians a bit more diplomatic leeway to deviate from NATO's demands --- all were simply brushed off by the American leaders. America has questioned the pecking order within NATO and has given its answer. It has re-established its military presence within Europe for the foreseeable future, teaching Europeans an important lesson: they cannot rely on their economic strength to pursue their imperialistic dreams without a corresponding military force outside of American participation and control.
© GegenStandpunkt 1999