NATO’s war – Boomerang against the West (Part B)

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 66 – April 30, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

12. An increasingly authoritarian West
Look at the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of various influential Western dailies, watch debates on television, listen to new questions being asked by journalists. Surf Internet, read list servers, websites and discussion groups and one thing is abundantly clear: ordinary citizens throughout the West are increasingly skeptical. They see the ever widening gap between NATO and State Department news and other news. Many feel that bombing innocent civilians is just not right; common sense also tells that this is not the way to create trust between Albanians and Serbs – or for that matter between any conflicting parties. It all militates against all we know about human psychology.

The longer it takes, the more likely the momentum of that public protest. NATO country citizens will begin to ask: if a mistake like this could be made in this important field, are other mistakes also lurking in, say, globalization, in the more or less forced democratization, in the zeal with which Western human rights are used as a political tool? If we can’t trust NATO, can we trust the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, can we trust our own governments after this? Can we believe in security a la NATO and in further NATO expansion if this is what NATO does?

Government decision-makers meet these challenges either with silence or with counterattacks: we are at war, this is not the time to question and split our own ranks, fifth column activity cannot be tolerated. We must achieve our goals, no matter the cost. Too much is at stake. In short, democracy, the freedom of expression and the open society, the public discourse itself could well be curtailed in the West as this situation becomes more and more desperate. Quite a few media people already seem to practise self-censorship.

Also, let’s not forget that those who say that Milosevic is a new Hitler are leaders of countries which actively seek a kind of world dominance (economically, militarily, politically and culturally), which violate international law, which demonize a nation (Serbs, not Jews), and which possess mass destructive weapons. They commit aggression against a country that has not done to them what they do to it. They kill innocent civilians. They use propaganda and call it information. Blaming others for doing that is what psychologists call ‘projecting.’

NATO as an organization is beyond – and actively defies – any world democratic control. Truth is that no other organization, no government and no UN or other world body can force NATO to stop if its members want to continue.

All this could be seen as more threatening to international peace and world order – as simply more dangerous for the world – than whatever a (comparatively) petty authoritarian leader such as Milosevic and the separatist KLA/UCK do in the province of Kosovo.

13. Ever more weakening of the UN, OSCE and NGOs
The more NATO attempts to take over (see point 15), the less space and resources will be available for other actors. It remains to be seen what will be the longterm consequences for the mentioned organisations. If NATO fails in this mission, one way or the other, they might actually be strengthened. But where NATO has so far gone in, others have gone out. This is not good for the world, it is particularly bad from the point of view of the middle-sized and small nations.

14. Ruining the peace-making that has allegedly been achieved
The West is proud of the Dayton process. However, if it keeps on bombing FRY, the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina will hardly feel any obligation to remain there. If they see also that Kosovo-Albanians are, for all practical purposes, being helped to achieve their own state by NATO force, they will say goodbye to the Dayton process and to Bosnia. In addition, Republika Srpska has lost its most important economic ally, FRY, and social unrest already threatens throughout RS.

The West has been very proud because of the successful policy of ‘preventive diplomacy’ in FYROM/Macedonia. With the UN having been squeezed out there, with NATO having entered arrogantly and forcibly converted Macedonia to a FRY-hostile actor with 20.000 foreign troops there, the West has already destabilized the country, its delicate ethnic balance and its economy and violated its sovereignty as well as its good neighbourly relations – a case of ‘provocative diplomacy’ instead.

It should also be crystal clear by now that FRY will not accept NATO the peacekeeper after having been visited by NATO the destroyer.

15. Imperial overextension, the beginning of the end of Western strength
History’s empires have weakened and dissolved due to over-militarization, over-extension – wanting more than they could control, or ‘spreading thin’ – and due to a combination of hubris and human folly. NATO under US leadership now tries to be 1) a nuclear-based and conventional alliance geared to fighting wars, b) a political alliance keeping the West unified and protecting Western civilization, 3) a ‘world police’ outside its members borders, 4) a humanitarian and refugee-assisting organization, 5) a partnership structure for potential members and for confidence-building, 6) a trustworthy friend of Russia and China, 7) a negotiator, 8) a peacemaker, 9) a peace enforcer, 10) a reconstruction agency and 11) a cooperative partner with other organizations such as the OSCE, WEU, EU, etc. In addition, it’s members have global interests and promote economic (capitalist) globalization, Western human rights, democracy, civil society etc.

It is safe to predict that all this will not be possible at one and the same time without creating conflicts among its members and conflicts with the 170 or so non-NATO states around the world. In addition, there is no way NATO can issue guarantees to new formal members AND set up various types of ‘protectorates’ throughout the Balkans AND continue its policies vis-a-vis e.g. Iraq and North Korea AND fulfil its commitments to South-East Asia and Japan AND handle future emergency situations AND police a variety of low-intensity conflicts wherever they may appear tomorrow.

16. However, the weapons manufacturers may thrive
There are at least two very influential groups who may see their interests satisfied. First, it’s those operating within the military-industrial-scientific complexes in the West and their arms dealers. Second, there are the transnational corporations and others in favour of spreading capitalism to every corner of the world.

The interests of the former is obvious. New NATO members now adapt to Western military standards, NATO operability etc. They want to modernize by buying the most sophisticated (and expensive) military equipment from leading Western nations. A war is an opportunity to test weapons and tactical and strategic concepts as well as to gain practical, rather than simulated, experience. It’s a ‘live’ chance to train international co-operation also with newcomers. It’s a drilling and disciplining opportunity. And with all the weapons and ammunition that is destroyed, replacement must be manufactured and sold. Furthermore, newly independent states will acquire their own military ‘national defence’ afterwards.

17. — and so may capitalism cum globalization
It must be remembered that capitalism’s essential problem, or contradiction, is overcapacity, overproduction, surplus capital in relation to the global base of consumption. The system’s ability to churn out more goods and services than is in demand – and people worldwide can pay for – is periodically out of sync. Thus, capital has to be destroyed to halt the in-built propensity to dump commodities at unprofitable prices.

Wars and military production are opportunities for such ‘waste’ production. The military market is monopsonistic, it has basically one buyer, the government. Thus it is outside the normal market and serve to absorb surplus capacity. War is a destruction of already produced commodities – and increases the demand when countries must be re-built. This demand increases overall prices and rub off on the civilian markets worldwide – that is, if the war is ‘big enough.’ Just think of tremendous resources, goods and services, that will be needed to rebuild FRY and perhaps other countries after months or years of systematic destruction. So, wars may help to periodically balance and calibrate global capitalism – which is not to say that it is the root cause of NATO’s aggression now.

This war comes in the midst of the most serious world economic crisis since the 1930s. Even with commodities dumped at ridiculously low prices in, say, Japan, consumers worldwide are hesitant to buy and world investments lack behind. Insecurity and fear are the catchwords. Although war also creates fear, a major war with cycles of destruction and re-construction of capital could be perceived as coming in handy from that point of view and peace-building serves to bring the devastated region into globalization and assign to it a role in the global economic division of labour.

In addition, when an area has been devastated – by itself and/or by outside forces – it can be taken over by the IMF and leading Western countries; marketization and privatization etc. can be introduced as ‘conditions’ for obtaining loans, entering finance institutions and, eventually, the EU. So, to be re-created you have to be destroyed first.

Do you think this is far-fetched? Well, that is presumably only because this type of factors are never touched upon in the media, some of which are controlled by transnational military and civilian corporations. Concretely, ask yourself why it is laid down in Bosnia’s constitution that it shall be a market economy and why the Rambouillet Dictate stipulated the same for Kosovo.

Says Dr. Oberg, “Look at the 15 first points above. It does not have to go that wrong. But it looks to me as if we are approaching a dangerous ‘chicken game’ between the United States and NATO on the one hand and Yugoslavia and its leadership on the other. They are like two car drivers racing against each other on the middle of a narrow road, hoping the other will pull the steering wheel last minute to avoid a a deadly collision. Before they started they both drank quite a lot of whisky and one of them (NATO) has already signalled its defiance by throwing the steering wheel out of the window…

With each bomb that falls on civilian and on military targets, the above-mentioned consequences become more likely, more pronounced and more costly. First and foremost, of course, we must be deeply concerned about the human costs in the region. But my sense is that this crisis is so serious that it will increasingly hit back as a boomerang on the West itself. That has not been highlighted in our media and debates.

I fail to see why citizens in NATO countries should allow that to happen. The governments of NATO countries, not the military, have made a very serious bombing blunder in the Balkans. To hide that – which is a human thing to try to do – they will tend to wildly exaggerate the problems and the ‘evilness’ of the Yugoslav leadership. This helps them deny (also to themselves) that in order to save NATO’s face and their own individual leadership, fundamental elements of Western civilization must be put at risk. And, thus, we are on slippery slope: the war itself becomes more important than what it was to be fought for in the first place.

TFF’s director concludes, “I think the best type of damage limitation we can do now to the Balkans and to ourselves is to appeal to common sense and genuine humanity among citizens, to actively demonstrate solidarity with all who suffer in all of the Balkans – for instance, by going there – and persuade our leaders to stop the bombing for a number of days to begin with and thus open a space for politics and a time for reflection.”

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