The politics of strength: Humanitarian intervention, pretexts and the alternatives

By Johan Galtung

Written January 2002

1.  The issue: humanitarian intervention in Yugoslavia
We cannot stand by, watching a government committing serious crimes against humanity, even genocide, on its own population.

Certainly not! The doctrine of national sovereignty “within recognized borders”, like the doctrine of patria potesta giving the pater familias a carte blanche for terrorism within the walls of a recognized home, are cultural crimes against humanity, drawing artificial borders for human solidarity, delivering the subjects to the dominio of whoever are the tyrants.  The Roman law construct relating owners to whatever can be owned paved the way for such institutionalized crimes against humanity as slavery and colonialism. The problem arises when “whatever can be owned” includes human beings, for almost any definition of “ownership”.  The individual ownership takes precedence over the communal.

Humanitarian intervention, in all such cases, coming to the assistance of human beings in distress, is a human duty, flowing from norms of solidarity with human beings anywhere, regardless of artificial borders.  Of course, if action under that heading is done for such selfish goals as access to raw materials or to establish military bases, it should be better known as conquest.  But abuse is no excuse for doing nothing. Two wrongs do not make one right.

However, hypocrisy notwithstanding, there are basic problems:

[1] Could the crimes have causes that could be removed without outside intervention, like by solving an underlying conflict?

[2] Are there peaceful alternatives to military intervention?

[3] Is the military intervention adequate for humanitarian ends, or could the “side-effect” costs even outweigh humanitarian benefits?

Standing by, watching, is not an option; intervention has today high level legitimacy.55  But these issues have to be confronted by getting out of the dualist straitjacket of nothing vs military intervention.

2.  Humanitarian Intervention = Humanitarianism + Interventionism

We are dealing with a verbal molecule, “humanitarian intervention”.(1)  Following the cartesian dictum of subdividing entities we explore, and the chemistry dictum of having a look at the atoms constituting a compound to get more insight into the molecule, we start with “humanitarian” and “intervention”.  Of course, this has to be done mindful of the fact that a whole may be more than the sum of its parts.  There may be something sui generis we lose by this approach.  The approach is certainly not sufficient.  But it may be necessary, even indispensable.

There is a tradition of humanitarianism expressed in an article by Jon M. Ebersole who played a key role in the “Mohonk Criteria for humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies” (2).  The criteria, adapted by a broadly based conference, are five: (3)

[1] Humanity: Human suffering should be addressed wherever it is found. The dignity and rights of all victims must be respected.

[2] Impartiality. Humanitarian assistance should be provided without discriminating as to ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political opinions, race or religion. Relief of the suffering of individuals must be guided solely by their needs, and priority must be given the most urgent cases of distress.

[3]  Neutrality. Humanitarian assistance should be provided without engaging in hostilities or taking sides in controversies of a political, religious or ideological nature.

[4]  Independence. The independence of action by humanitarian agencies should not be infringed on or unduly influenced by political, military or other interests.

[5]  Empowerment.  Humanitarian assistance should strive to revitalize local institutions, enabling them to provide for the needs of the affected community.  Humanitarian assistance should provide a solid first step on the continuum of emergency relief, rehabilitation, reconstruction and development.

The criteria fit into a long lasting humanitarian tradition associated with such NGOs such as the Red Cross, (4)  but also with states, big and small, in nature-made and in man-made disasters.  The Mohonk criteria mark a news phase, as did DMTP, the Disaster Management Training Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

But we also sense a gendering of the issue: the Mohonk criteria address suffering “wherever it is found”.  The trigger for action is a basic human need insulted, the need for physical well-being.  According to Carol Gilligan (5), this compassion is more frequently found among women. Men tend to be steered by other and more abstract principles, more removed from basic needs.

Thus, “one prominent American expert questioned some of the basic, time-honored principles which form the basis of humanitarian action”, formulating what in that perspective is a very male view: (6)

Impartiality and neutrality, when applied in cases such as Bosnia, can be counterproductive.  For example, while giving Serbs humanitarian aid under the principle of neutrality, the United Nations has essentially legitimized the Serbs’ claim that they, not the Bosnians, are victims. Furthermore, by providing the humanitarian assistance, they have freed the Serbs’ resources, such as fuel and food, to supply their troops in forward areas.  In many cases there are clear examples of right and wrong in international conflicts and in those the questions of impartiality and neutrality need to be examined much harder.

The abstract principles in the text are certainly old, if not necessarily time-honored: “the Serbs” as a general category, lumping all together with no distinction between perpetrators of suffering and “innocent victims/civilians/by-standers”, but then “right and wrong”.  From this there is but a small step to a distinction between “worthy and unworthy” victims, internally displaced person (IDPs), refugees.  No general human compassion.

Then the tradition of interventionism, today, after the Second World War, particularly associated with the USA.  But the colonial powers practiced punitive expeditions, intervening militarily across borders (there are also internal military interventions), with overwhelming force, to stop violence whether it was [1] committed by those in power, [2] directed against those in power, like themselves or [3] among others.

Stopping violence certainly has humanitarian aspects simply by ending suffering from more violence. The problem is how the suffering from violence already committed is handled.  Is there a distinction between “worthy” and “unworthy” victims?  There is, if interventionists take sides. By definition they are against the violent group if there is only one; often in favor of one against other(s) if there are two or more; and, indeed, in favor of themselves.  The “punishment expedition” makes a very clear distinction between “right” and “wrong”; at least clear in the eyes of the intervening beholder.  This is the old English tradition, and it is worth looking at for the major interventionist actor today, the United States of America.

Grossman (7) lists 134 military interventions by the USA for the 111 years period 1890-2001.  Blum (8) lists 67 from 1945 (Grossman has 56), with 25 cases of bombing, 35 of attempted or successful assassinations of political leaders, 23 of perverting elections abroad.  The point of gravity for all these activities has moved, in the analysis of the present author (9), from East Asia (till the mid-1970s) via Latin America (till the late 1980s) to West Asia, and then on to Central Asia.  The total violence, overt and covert (CIA+) is overwhelming.  If we count at least ten bereaved – next of kin, near friends – for each person killed, most of them in need of assistance and add the number of wounded, then there is certainly a case for humanitarianism in connection with these interventions.

Humanitarian intervention is located at the crossroads between these two traditions; humanitarianism to protect people against gross human rights violations by its own government, and cross-border interventionism.  The problem is how this is done in political and military reality, and more particularly, which tradition prevails, humanitarianism or interventionism.

Linda Ryan, in “Narcissus Empire” (19) explores the “theaters of humanitarian intervention” and gives a perspective on that reality:

• Iraq 1991: 180 000 killed by the “international community” in the Gulf war and 80%  of the country’s infrastructure destroyed, at an estimated cost of $ 150 billion.

• Somalia 1993: 4000 killed by UN troops over 12 months; 700 on one night, 5 September.  (Humanitarian prose is interesting:
“We’re not inflicting pain on these fuckers”, Clinton said — “When people kill us they should be killed in greater numbers. I believe in killing people who try to hurt you. And I can’t believe we are being pushed around by these two-bit pricks” (from George Stephanopoulos, All Too Human).

• Iraq 1992-99: At least some 500 000 dead due to lack of basic foods and medicine under the UN regime of economic sanctions. Air raids continued.

• Yugoslavia 1999: 2000 civilians and 600 military personnel in NATO bombings that destroyed 44% of the country’s industry.

She then quotes an exchange between a pilot and AWACS (from the US journal of International Strategic Studies Association):

Pilot:  Under me columns of cars, some kind of tractors.  What is it?  Requesting instructions.

AWACS:  Do you see tanks?  Repeat, where are the tanks?

Pilot:  I see tractors – –

AWACS:  What kind of strange convoy is this? Civilians?  Damn, this is all the Serbs’ doing.  Destroy the target.

Pilot:  What should  I destroy?  Tractors? Repeat, I do not see any tanks.  Request additional instructions.

AWACS:  This is a – completely legitimate military target.  Destroy the target.  Repeat.. destroy the target.

Pilot:  Okay, copy.  Launching.

In this last lethal exchange the AWACS control officer has become a victim of the West’s own  propaganda about the Serbs, having dehumanized them so that there are no human Serbs left.  The pilot, at 3000 feet having a closer view, but is overruled and does the killing. With that comment the problem has been formulated.  It is like the controversies over capitalism and socialism: are we talking about ideas or about “really existing capitalism” and “really existing socialism”?

3.   Too soft humanitarianism, or too hard interventionism?

A false dilemma.  There is more than a too soft humanitarianism to stay the hand of an oppressor committing crimes of war, crimes against humanity and/or genocide, and a too hard interventionism “by all necessary means” (UN phrasing, lifted from Clausewitz) committing these crimes or bordering on them.

Doing nothing, like in Rwanda, is not even an option worth discussing, coming, as it usually does, out of a disconcern, a lack of empathy with human suffering often related to high social (racial, national, class, gender) distance, and steep declines in human solidarity.  Imagine many whiter nuns had been killed…

We are not talking about letting Auschwitz happen by not even bombing the rail tracks like in World War II.  But “standing by, watching”, is used as a contrast to military intervention, legitimizing the latter in the light of the obvious immorality, illegitimacy, even illegality of the former.  Not to mention the stupidity bordering on feeblemindedness of seeing only these two options.

This author’s basic position is the refusal to be caught on the horn of such false dilemmas, with its implicit or even explicit tertium non datur, quartum non datur; no third, fourth alternative.  Using the terms above we see which categories are missing: hard humanitarianism and soft interventionism.  Humanitarian assistance, protected by UN peacekeeping, or simply by observers capable of reporting, are concrete operationalizations of  both of them, in concrete situations.

That they may not work in all cases is as little reason to throw them out as to throw out a drug that is not a cure-all.  More important is to have a very broad spectrum of action/reaction options when intolerable suffering unfolds, protected by “sovereign” borders.  We shall argue later that soft interventionism would probably have worked in Kosovo/a.

However, there is another approach to the tertium. Violence is often a symptom of conflicts badly handled.  Violence may be stopped, there may be a cease-fire.  But unresolved, untransformed conflicts tend to erupt as violence again.  And then again.  And again.

When governments and the UN intervene they follow a common pattern: first a ceasefire, then bring the parties together after the violence, then solve the conflict.  But this pattern has a built-in major error of the cart-before-the-horse variety.  A ceasefire often means victory for the status quo party.  Nothing has been changed after untold suffering. Usually arms are hidden for the case that no solution emerges.  Meeting “at the table” easily becomes an empty ritual dictated by the interventionist.

The search for a solution should be everybody’s task long before violence makes everything much worse.  Parties should meet if not at the governmental, at least at the nongovernmental level. And the arms and the violence, may simply wither away, faced with compelling solutions. The condition is a solution-oriented journalism and culture in general.

But a two-point “humanitarian interventionism” versus “do nothing” discourse hides an even worse danger than ruling out the search for a creative third option.  Intervention may also be chosen, not because it is superior to nothing as a way of coming to grips with “human suffering – – wherever it can be found”, but to promote some other goal or goals, using the suffering of Other for the benefit of Self.

Hard intervention may be chosen over soft humanitarianism because it serves other goals held by the intervening power, whether it leads to decreasing or increasing suffering.  The distinction between worthy and unworthy victims is important to produce a positive moral balance because unworthy victims do not have to be counted. And humanitarian assistance may be chosen over hard intervention if the party one wants to see in power seems to be winning, with the same comment as above.

4.  Text, subtext, supertext, context, pretext – and post-text

In the beginning is the text from some power. Texts should no be taken lightly; they may simply mean what they say, like “intervention to protect people against gross human rights violations by its own government”. That may be sincerely promoted and  valued. But to assume that it is the only goal presupposes single-mindedness against the thesis that humans can have more than one motive for any act (Avicenna).  There are also limits to the naivete permitted.

The problem is not mixed motives, spoken or unspoken, however, but

[1] whether interventionism is adequate for humanitarian goals,
[2] whether interventionism serves extra-humanitarian goals;
[3] whether extra-humanitarian goals counteract humanitarianism
[4] whether alternatives to interventionism have been considered, and tried and with what results.

We then mean by
Text: conscious, open, statement of means and humanitarian goals
Subtext: conscious, but hidden, extra-humanitarian goals
Supertext: conscious but hidden Big Power demands
Deep text: subconscious hidden goals, unreflected, except under the 3C conditions: crisis, complexity and (need for) consensus.
Context: all the conditions in time and space, history/future and structure/culture that influence the other four texts.
Pretext: when the sum of sub-, super-, deep-, con-texts predict action better than the text, then the text is (at least partly) a pretext.

Texts are available as speeches, press releases, propaganda.  Sub- and supertexts are inferred from leaks, past behavior, archives.  Deep texts are inferred from analysis of national/elite culture.  Contexts are inferred from national/elite interests analysis. Pretext hypotheses have to be inferred from the balance. Deep texts may include martyrdom/narcissism/paranoia for many Serbs, and megalomaniac, invincible God/Yahweh self-images for many Americans.  The context would include ex-Yugoslavia and the Balkans for Serbs and Eastern Europe/Central Asia/”World island” (Mackinder) geopolitics for Americans. However, this is not the place for any details about that kind of background analysis since there are many other entries on this blog about it.

How do we analyze when texts of humanitarian intervention start emerging?

With an open mind, assuming neither Pretext! nor Honest! We bridge the “gap” between intentionalism and consequentialism, and between state of mind/Gesinnung and state of action/Handlung, with a “both-and”.  Military intervention opens for both ad bellum and in bello analysis, with bellum iustum criteria for the former, and Geneva conventions for the latter.  They are there to be used.

The problem with ad bellum analysis are the many hypotheses, especially the “proportionality of the means employed relative to the evil to be abolished” thesis. This becomes even more problematic and meaningless if some victims are considered so unworthy that their suffering can be disregarded. A deeper problem, however, is that this type of cost-benefit analysis, including the in bello consequences/effects calls for a corresponding analysis for the alternative(s); usually missing.

But that is also insufficient.  We also need an analysis of short and long term consequences of possible extra-humanitarian goals, spoken or not, conscious or not; in humanitarian terms.

For an analysis of NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia we need a plausible range of motives, at least one plausible alternative course of action, and an assessment of plausible consequences.  The first two were prepared (by this author) before that war and cannot be accused of l’ésprit d’éscalier; the third right after.

5.  Plausible motives for the US/UK-NATO 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia

When two countries, USA/UK, with a track record of being among the most belligerent countries in the world, but also among the most able to legitimize their belligerence, launch one more war, then we are entitled to ask for motives, for subtexts, and not only for the frequently published and broadcast texts. A plausible list:

• A sincere wish to stop Serbian violence against Albanians and to secure for the Albanians a safe future. The means would include acceptance of the Rambouillet diktat after the pain limit has been reached, withdrawal of Serbian forces, a NATO protectorate in Kosovo, safe return of the refugees, and, possibly, independence.  Problems: the Rambouillet diktat (11) does not give the Kosovars independence, the protectorate may last long under guerrilla warfare, violent Kosovars may also terrorize the population and fight among themselves, Kosovo may be close to uninhabitable.

• Given that the means chosen may be neither efficacious nor efficient.  The goal may be laudable and the means stupid.  Could there be some other, less honorable motives that would make the means chosen look more brilliant?  How to judge NATO in general, the USA/UK in particular and indeed the USA: is it honorable but stupid, or rather criminal and as such brilliant?

Political motives.  We see four different motives:
– Punish the Serbs for their past action, with the two goals of punishment: individual prevention (the Serbs will never try ethnic cleansing again) and general prevention (scare others). The Iraq 1991 campaign serves as a model: destroy military infrastructure, and then civilian infrastructure as it can also be used by the military (a truism).  Add to this economic sanctions, and Serbian children may soon die like Iraqi children do.
– Destroy Serbia by at least bombing it back to 1945 when Tito started reconstruction after the Second world war; detaching from Serbia Kosovo (mineral resources, a source of cultural identity), Vojvodina (bread basket) and Montenegro (access to Adria), leaving Serbia as a small country to eke out a mediocre existence;
– Secure the Western control post for the Eurasian continent, the Eastern post being in Japan-Taiwan-South Korea;
– The New World Military Order, substituting NATO/AMPO/TIAP for the UN Security Council, securing automatic US leadership for bombing, if needed, Russia, North Korea, Colombia with obedient “allies”.

Economic motives:
– Corridor 8, a Muslim/Russian-free oil pipeline from the Black Sea to Adria – through Georgia, from Sukhumi/Sochi to Varna/Burgos by ship and by pipeline through Bulgaria-Macedonia-Kosovo-Albania to Dürres/Flora–to use oil flow control for political pressure.
– Reconstruction contracts proportionate to the destruction wrought.  Alternative model: USA pays for the destruction and Europe pays for the reconstruction with sizeable contracts to US companies.
– The very rich mines in Kosovo/a, estimated being $ 5 billion
– Collection of Yugoslav debt that Yugoslavia is unable to pay.

Military motives:
– Testing and promoting old and new weapons,
– Testing the will and capacity of NATO allies
– Proving the necessity of military means for some political goals

Cultural motives:
– The cosmic drama: our God against theirs, whose is stronger?
– humiliating the enemy into submission.

And yet: Serbian resilience will easily outlast the US empire, as it did with the Ottoman empire.

6.  The Alternative: A peaceful outcome through a peaceful process

What would follow if there had been more decision-makers guided by conflict/peace than by threat/security, with the Serbs as the major threat?

A basic part of the idea of peace is the idea of equality, of the Golden Rule of doing to others what you would like them to do to you, of Kantianism. Concretely, what does this mean?

Equal recognition of equal suffering and equal rights for all: They are all victims – most of them more innocent than others – of situations most nations would find impossible.  They need compassion and help; not gunning and bombing. Divide them into “worthy” and “unworthy” victims, and peace becomes unattainable. They have all the same right to recognition, self-determination, and assistance.

Build on the Croatia-Bosnia/1995//Serbia-Kosovo/1999 symmetry: The 650,000 Serbian refugees in Serbia were in part driven out by Croatia/USA from Krajina/Slavonia August 1995. (12)  The Western media found little or no space for the suffering of the Serbs. Both must be recognized as basic problems, all must be guaranteed safe return. And then upgrade the status of Krajina/Slavonia in Croatia, and Kosovo/a in Serbia, possibly to republic status.

Could one imagine a possible quadrilateral deal? A (Croats) gives return and status to B (Serbs), B gives return/status to C (Albanians), C gives access to mineral resources/harbors to D (Slavic Muslims) and D inclusion of the Croat part of Bosnia/Herzegovina to A?

A Yugoslav community: If some autonomy is given to all minorities in Yugoslavia we end up with close to 15 parts.  “Jedinstvo”, a unitary or federal state, is out.  But “bratstvo”, a community of human rights respecting democracies, is not.

So much for a peace outcome.  For that to come about there also has to be a peace process.  Here is an image of a peace process:

• The killing on all sides stops, offensive NATO/Serbia/UCK forces are withdrawn, NATO from the Balkans; Serbian and UCK foces from Kosovo. UN forces with OSCE observers, with a composition acceptable to all parties, and in big numbers, take over.

• The UN Secretary General appoints a board of mediators known for wisdom and autonomy, like Jimmy Carter, Pérez de Cuéllar, Mikhail Gorbachov, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Mary Robinson, Richard von Weizsäcker, for one-on-one dialogues with all parties to identify acceptable and sustainable outcomes.

• The UN Secretary-General convenes a Conference for the Security and Cooperation in South East Europe (CSCSEE), with all parts of Yugoslavia, and all SE European countries as members, with such points on the agenda, pending the report from the team above.

• The Presidents of Slovenia and Macedonia convene a civil society conference, using expertise in all parts of Yugoslavia, to project images of future relations within ex-Yugoslavia, and does the same for future relations within South East Europe (in cooperation with, say, Hungary and Greece).

• The peoples of Yugoslavia are invited to participate in the peace process, forming multi-national dialogue groups all over, coming forward with concrete ideas based on local dialogues.

• Reconstruction is systematically used for reconciliation by having belligerent groups cooperating, doing the task together, not giving that enormous task away to outside entrepreneurs.

• If any border has to be drawn or redrawn the principles of the Danish-German 1920 Schleswig-Holstein partition are used.

This is for Yugoslavia in general, and in line with then UN Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar’s admonition to have a policy for Yugoslavia as a whole.  In fact, they never did and still do not.

Outside diplomacy and intervention followed in the wake of inside violence, not inside conflict – the Anglo-Americans often not even  aware of the difference.  The attention moved through Yugoslavia from Northwest till the Southeast. And in 1998/1999 the focus was on Kosovo/a, so an alternative also had to be specific to that issue.  That alternative certainly existed but always rejected by mainstream media before the war started 24/03/1999.

There were six points, dealing with violence and with conflict resolution in and around Kosovo/a:

[1]  Step up the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) from 1,200 5-10 times to 6,000-12,000. Mobile phones and binoculars, living in the villages, bringing in volunteers. Create a dense network.

[2]  See to it that they are genuine observers, not there to identify targets for a bombing campaign, with homing devices, including human contacts.

[3]  Extend the UN mandate closing not only the Macedonian-Kosovo border but also the Albanian-Kosovo border, as the US ambassador (Gelbard) had told Beograd that the USA was of the view that KLA were terrorists.  This was certainly also the Belgrade position.

[4]  Guaranteed return of all refugees and IDP to Kosovo/a, doing the same for Serbian refugees to Kraina, West and East Slavonia.

[5]  Put republic status for Kosovo/a inside Yugoslavia (like for Montenegro) on the agenda, with a deadline for negotiating the details; including the option of independence within X years if the arrangement is found unsatisfactory (X to be negotiated).  Massive UN peacekeeping forces would be necessary both places.

[6] Call a major UN Conference on Security and Cooperation in South East Europe (CSCSEE); including the possibility of close cooperation in the Serbia-Kosovo/a-Albania triangle.

Nothing like this six-point package (the basic point is the synergy effect of the six points) was tried.  The observers were ordered out and the place was made ready for bombing even if most of the bombing was in Serbia.  All the elements of a plan like this were well known to decision-makers, no great jump was needed to put them together as is attempted done here.  Alternative roads existed, but they were not traveled.

7.  And what was the outcome, the effects, the consequences?

The “Consequences of NATO’s War on Yugoslavia” conference in London already on 26 June 1999 highlighted the following:

– NATO state terrorism against Yugoslavia destroyed 300 factories and refineries, 190 educational establishments, 20 hospitals, 30 clinics, 60 bridges, 5 airports;

– to the estimated 2,000 deaths (600 military) and 6,000 wounded come those who die from destruction of health infrastructure.

– only 12-15 tanks (of 300 main battle tanks) were destroyed;

– almost all destruction was to public, not private enterprises;

– the US hatred of nonaligned/neutral countries may have been a factor in targeting Yugoslavia;

– some countries join NATO as an insurance against being bombed;

– November 1998-March 1999 there was no evidence of any ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Germany sent back 11,000 Kosovar refugees;

– the Spanish pilot Adolfo Luis Martin de la Hoz, in Articulo 20, 14 June 1999: “They are destroying the country, bombing it with novel weapons, toxic nervous gases, surface mines dropped with parachute bombs containing uranium, black napalm, sterilization chemicals, sprayings to poison the crops and weapons of which we even still do not know anything.  The North Americans are committing one of the biggest barbarities that can be committed against humanity” – he refused to bomb, so did his superior, a colonel – and both were removed.

This was right after the war had ended on June 10 1999, quoted here to show how consequences were seen as they unfolded, not as an afterthought post facto.  What was not known in advance was the US/UK bombing strategy (to a large extent from the Italian Aviana base).  The texts were about precise hits with “smart bombs” of military targets, everything else was called “collateral damage”.  Reality was different. Either the bombs were not smart at all, or the damage to the civilian sector was intended, as pointed out in a statement by a US general (13). This is further elaborated by Michael Parenti(14).  And for the German involvement, there is the important book by Matthias Küntze (15). Consequences beyond Yugoslavia were pointed out that time.

What does this remind us of?  How many years have we been set back by this “democratic totalitarianism” (Zinoviev) by NATO? Possible answer: 60-70 years, back to 1931-1939.

The parallel that comes to mind, mentioned by Solzhenitsyn, is Hitler’s use of the national conflict between Sudeten-Germans and Czechs and the pressure on Czechoslovakia, with the support of England.  Japan’s attack on Manchuria in 1931 and Italy’s attack on Ethiopia 1935 were also against the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 (for which Briand got the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 and Kellogg in 1929). 62 states, among them all major powers, agreed to renounce war as a political instrument, and to settle all international disputes by peaceful means.  The exceptions were wars of self-defense or military obligations out of the League Covenant, the Monroe doctrine or alliance obligations. Similar to the UN Charter Article 2(4), with the same tird exceptions.

The three dictatorships brushed all League resolutions aside, lifted by their missions for a New Order. Their propaganda was as massive as the NATO propaganda. And force was on the side of those “above the law”, relying on “might is right”, like the Soviet Union also defying the League attacking Finland in 1939.

The follow-up was World War II. And how did it end? 14 years after Manchuria militarist Japan was defeated, 8 years after Ethiopia fascist Italy was out, 7 years after München nazi Germany was in ruins, 50 years after Finland death bells were tolling for bolshevik Russia. Those who fly above the law tend to fall deep. The USA, using NATO-AMPO-TIAP today act “above the law” to implement their New World Order. (16) And then they will decline and fall, allies will leave them.  And their Empire will crumble.

8.  Some reflections

Future historians will have much to sort out. Each point in the preceding three section can be justified, but this is not the place for that exploration.  The conclusion is certainly that
– Motives went far beyond protecting Kosovars against genocide.
– There was an alternative course of action.
– The short and long term consequences were/are very negative.

The hypothesis that the text to a large extent was a pretext is strengthened. But another hypothesis can also be entertained, in no way excluding the pretext hypothesis: incompetent, left-handed, bad politics from beginning to end, continuing up to our days with no basic Yugoslav problem solved at all except for Slovenia, never much of an issue in the first run anyhow.

There is nothing blindly “pro-Serbian” in these points, but an effort to correct for some of the massive Serbo-phobia found in the Western media, maybe particularly in the countries that think they lost the First World War (Habsburg Austria) and the Second World War (Nazi Germany) due to Serbian machinations and resistance rather than their own imperialism and failure to understand the counter-forces engendered, for instance by annexing B-i-H in 1908.

But the policy in, about, above Yugoslavia was not only in the hands of suspect Austrian/German circles with their own agendas, amply documented by, for instance, Matthias Küntzel in Der Weg in den Krieg (17).  History may have blinded rather than enlightened them.  For others there is no such excuse.  They were not blinded by history, but by their own submissiveness to power.


1. For an excellent more US-oriented analysis see Noam Chomsky, The New Military Humanism.  Lessons from Kosovo , Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1999.

2. Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3 1995, pp. 14-24.

3. The meeting at Mohonk, NY, was the fourth in a series organized autumn 1993 by the Task Force on Ethical and Legal Issues in Humanitarian Assistance formed by the Programme on Humanitarian Assistance at the World Conference on Religion and Peace, an NGO.  Broadly based in participation the criteria have often served as a point of reference, as is also done here.

4. That symbol, however, is ambiguous, associated with assistance to civilian victims, but also with military units assisting the perpetrators, the military themselves.  To argue two different symbols in no way is to argue that military personnel should not also be relieved of their suffering.

5. Carol Gilligan, In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).

6. ibid., p. 15.  Whether the view is predominantly male or predominantly American is a moot point; the two categories obviously do not exclude each other (but may reinforce each other).

7.  “A Century of US Military Interventions from Wounded Knee to Afghanistan”, based on Congressional Records and the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service.

8. Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, Monroe MA: Common Courage Press, 2000.

9. See “September 11 2001: Diagnosis, Prognosis and Therapy” at published many places in many languages.

10. Linda Ryan, What is in a ‘mass grave’? Living Marxism, Issue 88, March 1996.

11. See Wilfried Graf, “Warum es keine Friedensverhandlungen gab”, in Bilek, Graf, Kramer eds., Welcher Friede? Lehren aus dem Krieg um Kosovo, Münster: Agenda verlag, 2000.

12. The major ethnic cleansing, entirely intended, in Yugoslavia was Operation Storm between 4 and 7 August 1995 on what under UN protection was called Sector North and South (Krajina), with the result that 200,000 Serbs left (of them at least 180,000 civilians), around 600 Serb civilians were killed, and at least 22,000  (Serb) houses were burnt and mined.  “All Serb mobile property was looted, the whole cattle fund was destroyed, as well as public utilities and infrastructure, and all memorials/monuments from WWII.  Industrial plants and factories, all schools, cultural objects, libraries, were also destroyed”.  See Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Military Operation Storm and Is Aftermath. Report, Zagreb: HHO, 2001, p. 135.

13. There is a rich literature on the effect of the US/NATO bombing. See, for instance, Zvetan Todorov, in Mémoire du mal. Tentation du bien Paris: Laffont, 2000, quoting General of the Air Force, Michael Short, and his famous “Hey Slobo-” statement, to the effect that Serbs will put pressure on Milosevic when their infra-structure (water and gasoline reserves, electric installations, transport, factories and hospitals, etc.)  no longer works (Todorov, p. 280; from Washington Post, 24 May 1999).  Also see Richter, Schmaling, Spoo; Die Wahrheit über den NATO-Krieg gegen Jugoslawien, Schkeuditz, 2000, Point 9 on pp. 24-5.

14. See the chapter “NATO’s War Crimes” (pp. 1214-129) in Michael Parenti, To Kill a Nation: The attack on Yugoslavia  London, New York:  Verso, 2000.  A reference to Captain (Martin)de la Hoz is found on pp. 122-123.  Parenti alleges (p. 123) that “NATO had devised the devilish technique of bombing a site, then waiting fifteen minutes-just time enough for rescue teams to arrive and start working-to hit the target a second time, killing many of the would=be rescuers, and making it extremely dangerous for teams to dig for survivors”.  General Wesley Clark is quoted  as saying that the aim of the air war was to “demolish, destroy, devastate, degrade, and ultimately eliminate the essential infrastructure of Yugoslavia”. Parenti also summarizes the situation very well: “- – the Albanian exodus from Kosovo began after the NATO bombings that  trampled on human dignity and human rights.  And at Rambouillet, it was the US that rejected “a perfectly peaceful” solution to the Kosovo conflict”.

15. Matthias Küntzel, Der Weg in den Krieg. Berlin: Elephantenverlag, 2000.

16. I did not foresee 11 September 2001, or not in exactly that shape, nor that a war in Afghanistan (highly predictable) would be linked to 11 September.  But the tacit warfare in Colombia has been going as “Plan Colombia” for some years, and so has the tension with North Korea.

17. Op.cit., Berlin: Elephanten Verlag, 2000.

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