April 24, 1999
For those of you who are still preoccupied with the war exerted on Serbia by the Western Powers and largely being carried out by the US Armed forces, it should be increasingly explicit that we are witnessing a botched policy, an unplanned strategy and a grim escalation of the conflict on the part of the Western Powers.
Certainly, there are those who will claim that it's much too soon to assess the situation, that we are in the early stages of the campaign, that it's only 31 days since we started the operation. Those high-minded people will explain to you that you need to be patient, that time is on the side of the NATO forces, that "we will prevail" in the words of NSA Samuel Berger and other NATO leaders.
Undoubtedly, this is correct. We will prevail indeed.
Now, you may want to ask yourself what prevailing means in the present context. Will we prevail in avoiding the flood of refugees, which was one of NATO's initial objectives (a rhetorical question, obviously)? Will we prevail in having a NATO occupation force in a permissive Kosovar environment and will we prevail in degrading Serbia's armed forces? And, above all--once this series of tragic events abates--will we prevail in helping "its people [in the Balkans] build a region of multi-ethnic democracies, a community that upholds standards of human rights, a community in which borders are open to people in trade, where nations cooperate to make war unthinkable," in the words of President Clinton when he spoke to members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors in San Francisco on April 15?
Really, think of it, what is the meaning of the intransitive verb "prevail"? According to the American Heritage Dictionary, it means, 1. To be greater in strength or influence; triumph: prevailed against great odds; will prevail over the enemy. 2. To be or become effective; win out. 3. To be most common and frequent; be predominant. 4. To be in force, use, or effect; be current. And, as a phrasal verb, prevail on (or upon), it means to persuade successfully. Please, ponder the meaning for a moment, before reading further.
Now, do you think that we have prevailed in Iraq? Do you think that we have prevailed in Afghanistan? In Bosnia? Undeniably, from a power perspective -- a military power perspective -- we have somewhat prevailed, we prevailed over the enemy. And we have a greater influence all over the world to fulfill Mr. Clinton's vision of seeing that "borders are open to people of trade." In Iraq, we thwarted the regional ambitions of an Arab regime which would have threatened the security of Israel; in Afghanistan we saw to it that our nemesis, the former Soviet Union, would be plagued in its own Vietnam; in Bosnia, we sided and armed the Croats and the Bosnians against Serbia. We have troops all over the Persian Gulf and recurring ethnic cleansing against various minorities (e.g. the Kurds), we have troops in a de-facto partitioned Bosnia to prevent the dissolution of the country as well as the resumption of war, and the Taliban regime presides over the ashes of Afghanistan...
Any sign of democracy there, any multi-ethnic democracy, any community that upholds standards of human rights there?
If this is our definition of prevailing, then, there is little doubt that the Western Powers can prevail over the Serbian regime. NATO can bomb Serbia back into the Middle Ages. No doubt there. As Mr. Thomas L. Friedman, the Foreign Affairs Editorialist of The New York Times, wrote on April 23, "...Let's at least have a real war...It should be lights out in Belgrade: every power grid, water pipe, bridge, road and war-related factory has to be targeted...the stakes have to be clear: Every week you [Serbs] ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too...Give war a chance...." Give war a chance, give war a chance... the latest slogan to build the bridge to the 21st century! Has Mr. Friedman any idea of the monumental folly his despicable comments entail? It's no wonder that so many countries around the world are developing or acquiring nuclear and biological arsenals.
Officialdom has framed the debate in humanitarian terms. This, after all, is a "humanitarian war". First, NATO started its bombing campaign so that the Kosovars of Muslim Albanian descent would not be expelled by Serbian forces. Within days the exact opposite occurred. It does not seem that we have prevailed as far as this objective is concerned. Now, NATO has escalated the conflict so that the hundreds of thousands of refugees can return. That is a new objective. And return to what, if we may ask? To an autonomous province under the protection of NATO forces? A second objective gone down the drain. We are now scrambling to include the Russians in a somewhat vaguely phrased "NATO-led international settlement." We have no sense of what the next step is going to be except, as Mr. Berger said so eloquently, if it does not work, "we'll keep bombing". Well, it's not working after 31 days. So, we keep bombing in the name of humanity, and we feel comfortable with the fact that it was presumed the Serbian regime would rush to the diplomatic table once the bombing got started. Oh well, another strategic planning and thinking gone astray. So, remains the degradation of the Serbian armed forces and here, like in Iraq, we are undoubtedly prevailing over the enemy.
Admirable results which in the name of humanity bring forth the devastation of both Serbia and Kosovo, hordes of refuges with nowhere to go and even less to go back to, hatred further rooted for decades to come, more military expenditures--that is more canons and less butter, huge reconstruction needs that will be forgotten as soon as the next crisis comes to the forefront or the western economies take a dive, a totally balkanized Balkans, ethnically and religiously partitioned, under the protection of NATO, the dangers of a potential nationalistic reaction from Russia.
Note for those who may feel distressed by this commentator's apparent disregard for the human tragedy occurring in Kosovo: Where were you during the Rwandan genocide? Why don't you take a stand in Sudan where close to 2 million people have been killed in the past 16 years, where over 2.5 million are presently facing starvation and millions more have been displaced? What do you say and do about the Kurds, and the Palestinians, and the East-Timoreses, and, and, and? Mr. L. Eagleburger, the former Secretary of State under the Bush Administration, commented a couple of weeks ago that in the back of his neck he felt a sense of racism surrounding this entire operation (regretfully, I do not have his exact quote) inferring that the main reason the Western Powers were embarked in the current conflict was due to color and geography. In a world where we can proclaim the end of history one day, where it can depend on what the meaning of "is" is the next day, where our idea of freedom is to have metal detectors and armed guards in our schools, don't you think it's about time to start looking at our repeated asinine behaviors?