cj#943> AFSC/Peacework magazine: “Why are we in the Balkans?”


Richard Moore


                        Why are we in the Balkans?

        May 99          Joseph Gerson is Program Coordinator for AFSC's
                        New England Regional Office.
                        Clinton's bombing campaign has transformed a
         About          regional crisis into war for US and NATO
                        "credibility" that has the potential of
     Subscribe Now      escalating into a regional war and a US-Russian
                        nuclear confrontation. After repeatedly
       May Index        threatening the Milosevic government with NATO
                        bombing unless it accepted US terms at
      Back Issues       Rambouillet, Secretary of State Albright, Vice
                        President Gore, and others in the Clinton
     National AFSC      Administration insisted that they had to follow
                        through on their threats if US and NATO were to
      NERO Office       remain the dominant forces in 21st century
                        Europe. With the failure of the bombing campaign
   -------------------  and Yugoslavia's brutal purging of Kosovar
                        Albanians, the US and its allies are now
    American Friends    threatening bombing without end, a ground war,
   Service Committee    and a decades long military occupation to
                        preserve NATO's "credibility." They fear dominoes
   Peacework Magazine   falling across Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey,
                        Iraq, and oil-rich Caspian Sea nations.
    Patrica Watson,
         Editor         Those doing quick studies of Balkan history are
                        learning that many historic and inter-connected
      Sara Burke,       struggles are at work in this war. The abuses and
    Assistant Editor    legacies of six centuries of Ottoman,
                        Austro-Hungarian, and Nazi German conquests
      Pat Farren,       continue to take their tolls. Turks and Nazis
    Founding Editor     used ethnic Albanians to dominate and rule Serbs.
                        The Hapsburgs and Tito used Serbs to dominate
   2161 Massachusetts   ethnic Albanians. Postmodern economic globalism
          Ave.          is also a force. After Yugoslavia borrowed
     Cambridge, MA      heavily from the IMF and other international
         02140          financial institutions in the 1970s and "80s, the
                        IMF imposed structural adjustments on it. These
   Telephone number:    resulted in widespread economic insecurities
     (617) 661-6130     which, as in the past, proved to be fertile
                        ground for nationalists in Croatia, Slovenia,
      Fax number:       Serbia, Macedonia, and Kosovo. In Kosovo, the
    (617) 354-2832      Albanian ethnic majority, understandably seeking
                        to end decades of Serb domination, moved to gain
    e-mail address:     full control over the province.
                        Would that the West had supported the demands for
   -------------------  autonomy and the parallel governing structures
                        created in the late 1980s by the nonviolent
   Peacework has been   movement led by Ibrahim Rugova. Instead, the US
   published monthly    marginalized this movement at both Dayton and
   since 1972,          Rambouillet and helped to create and launch the
   intended to serve    Kosovo Liberation Army which, like the Milosevic
   as a source of       government, resorted to terrorism and human
   dependable           rights abuses.
   information to
   those who strive     Rarely are Balkan wars exclusively local, and
   for peace and        appearances often deceive. Building on a dynamic
   justice and are      that began with Chancellor Willy Brandt's
   committed to         "Ostpolitic," the US and Germany have been
   furthering the       working to extend NATO and globalized
   nonviolent social    "free-market" capitalism further east.
   change necessary     Milosevic's Yugoslavia has been seen as an
   to achieve them.     obstacle compounding Russian support for the
   Rooted in Quaker     corrupt and eastern-oriented regimes in Rumania
   values and           and Bulgaria. Thus, to weaken or remove the
   informed by AFSC     Yugoslav obstacle to NATO and "free market"
   experience and       expansion, Germany and the US, in violation of
   initiatives,         international law, encouraged Slovenia and
   Peacework offers a   Croatian secession-including Croatian ethnic
   forum for            purging of Serbs.
   fostering            It should also be remembered that even though the
   coalition-building   US has collaborated with Bonn and Berlin, an
   and teaching the     unstated purpose of the US-dominated NATO
   methods and          alliance since its founding continues to be
   strategies that      containing Germany. NATO is the essential
   work in the global   foundation of US dominance of western and central
   and local            Europe.
   Peacework seeks to   Other forces are also at work. Russia is the
   serve as an          traditional Pan-Slavic defender of Eastern
   incubator for        Orthodox Serbs. Despite Russian dependence on
   social               Western loans and technologies, NATO's expansion
   transformation,      and Russia's wounded super power identity are
   introducing a        spurring powerful nationalist sectors of the
   younger generation   Russian military and public to demand Russian
   to a deeper          intervention in the Balkan war. There is the
   analysis of          matter of oil, and "axiom #1" of US foreign
   problems and         policy: never to allow its enemies or allies to
   issues, reminding    gain independent access to Middle East oil-"the
   and re-inspiring     jugular vein of Western capitalism." In the
   long-term            tradition of WW I, should the war spread to
   activists,           Macedonia, Greece and Turkey are likely to
   encouraging the      intervene on opposing sides, destablizing and
   generations to       fracturing the northern and eastern flanks of the
   listen to each       oil-rich Middle East and Caspian Sea regions.
   other, and           Finally, the centuries-old struggles between
   creating space for   "Catholicism," "Eastern Orthodoxy," and "Islam"
   the voices of the    in the Balkans should not be underestimated.
                        The bombing campaign was initially advertised and
   Views expressed      continues to be supported, as a "humanitarian
   are those of the     intervention" to protect ethnic Albanian
   authors, not         Kosovars. Instead it has, obviously, made the
   necessarily of the   situation increasingly dangerous for all
   AFSC.                involved. Clinton was warned in advance. In
                        January and February, CIA Director Tenant and the
                        Joint Chiefs of Staff warned him that the
                        bombings would multiply the numbers of Albanian
                        Kosovars expelled. (Former UN refugee and
                        military officials state that the US/NATO order
                        for the withdrawal of 2000 OSCE observers in the
                        days immediately preceding the bombing campaign
                        made the scale of Milosevic's assault on
                        Albanians possible.) The bombings also provided
                        cover for Milosevic's forces to shut down
                        independent sources of information throughout
                        Yugoslavia and to repress democratic forces
                        challenging his rule in Montenegro and Serbia

                        The inconsistencies and contradictions of US
                        policy are painfully obvious and lead to the
                        question: why Kosovo and not Kurdistan,
                        Palestine, or Indonesia. If it is incumbent on
                        the US to intervene militarily to protect people
                        from "humanitarian crises," why does the US
                        continue to support and arm Turkey whose war
                        against the Kurds has claimed tens of thousands
                        of lives, Israel whose ethnic purging of
                        Palestinians closely parallels that of Serbia in
                        Kosovo, and oil-rich and strategically located
                        Indonesia whose genocide and ethnic purging is
                        not limited to the people of East Timor. The
                        US/NATO doctrine of the right to intervene
                        militarily to prevent "humanitarian crises" and
                        in support of human rights could logically be
                        extended to justify any nation that dared to
                        attack the US for its continuing genocide of
                        Native Americans, the repression of Puerto Rican
                        nationalists, and the imprisonment of two million
                        people-most of whom are people of color.

                        There is growing agreement that the US/NATO
                        dimension of this Balkan war results from a
                        yet-to-be-codified Clinton Doctrine. Michael
                        Klare made an important contribution to our
                        understanding of the Doctrine in his April 19
                        editorial in The Nation. Klare described three
                        essential components to the Doctrine: 1) an
                        increasingly pessimistic appraisal of the global
                        security environment, 2) a vested US interest in
                        maintaining international stability, and 3) the
                        necessity for the US to maintain sufficient
                        forces to conduct simultaneous military
                        operations in widely separated areas of the world
                        against multiple adversaries.

                        A segment from Clinton's 1997 speech to the UN
                        General Assembly, which he has repeated on
                        numerous occasions, helps us understand the
                        simultaneous US bombing of Yugoslavia and Iraq:
                        "The forces of global integration [read
                        US-dominated global economy] are a great tide
                        inexorably wearing away the established order of
                        things...we must decide what will be left
                        in...while isolating those who would challenge
                        [us] from the outside." To this end, the US has
                        unilaterally, without UN sanction or declaration
                        of war, bombed Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and
                        Sudan within a six month period.

                        In what the US "national security" elite
                        understand as the "hegemonic moment" of the sole
                        remaining superpower, Secretary of State Albright
                        has joined Jessie Helms in circumventing and
                        undermining the UN. The lead editorial article of
                        the May/June edition of Foreign Affairs
                        celebrates that "The United States and NATO-with
                        little discussion and less fanfare-have
                        effectively abandoned the old UN Charter rules
                        that strictly limit international intervention in
                        local conflicts...in favor of a vague new system
                        that is much more tolerant of military
                        intervention but has few hard and fast
                        rules....Kosovo illustrates... America's new
                        willingness to do what it thinks
                        right-international law notwithstanding." As a
                        classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown
                        University's School of Foreign Service, I can
                        testify that we were taught that "International
                        law is what those who have the power to impose it
                        say it is."

                        While the US and NATO may be able to bomb
                        Yugoslavia back into the pre-industrial age,
                        along with Iraq, it is not at all clear that even
                        with this punishment, Bill Clinton can "right"
                        Slobodan Milosevic's wrongs. There is no NATO
                        consensus to move from aerial bombardments into
                        the quagmire of a ground war in Balkan mountains
                        that witnessed some of the most intense fighting
                        of WW II. And it is doubtful that the US'
                        European allies will tolerate the aerial savaging
                        of Yugoslavia as they have distant and Islamic

                        For these reasons, pacifists and practitioners of
                        "Realpolitic," including members of Congress from
                        both parties, are calling on the US to do no
                        further harm. We are doing our best to remind
                        people that political conflicts are ultimately
                        resolved through negotiations, not force, and we
                        are demanding an end to the killing and a return
                        to diplomacy, and to assist all people victimized
                        by the war. The outlines of a negotiated
                        settlement have been articulated, and they may
                        involve redrawing the map, to allow largely
                        homogenous Serbian, Croatian, Islamic Bosnian,
                        and Albanian nations to emerge. Russia is seen
                        widely as the nation best positioned to mediate
                        the conflict, and peace proposals have also been
                        proposed by Germany, Ukraine, the European Union,
                        and Secretary General Kofi Anan.

                        We must make our voices heard: Stop the bombing.
                        Stop the killing. Give peace a chance.

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