The following essay has several aims: to respond to the current excitement concerning General Mladic’s arrest, the nature of Western interventionism, not only in Serbia, but wherever they choose in the world, and to partially review John Norris’s Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo (I didn’t get a chance to read the entire book. It was on loan from the library but that doesn’t matter. It is pure CNN propoganda. If you watched any of the news concerning the Balkans in the past ten years, or read an issue of Time on some such matter, you can predict, almost word-for-word (since the media operates via sloganeering) what Norris will say.
Mladic, Srebenica, and War Crimes
The one area of the war that always gets mentioned is the final Serb assault on the town of Srebenica, with the alleged slaughter of 7,000 Muslim men and boys. Several things must be noted: 1) it is acknowledged that 7,000 men of the Bosnian Muslim infantry were executed in military fashion; 2) Muslims recruit boys to fight for them; 3) the town was not surrounded by the Serbs, thus allowing noncombatants to leave the city; 4) given that the city was controlled by Muslims gang leaders, many Muslims actually deserted to the Serb camp—this fact alone demonstrates how untenable the Hague narrative is: if the Serbs simply wanted to ethnically-cleanse the entire town, they would have done a better job of surrounding it and killing those leaving the city; 5) Alija Izetbegovic knew that he could never defeat the Serbian army alone and had to find a way to enlist outside help. The Clintonistas knew they couldn’t actually start attacking the Serbs without provocation. A deal was made: Izetbegovic would abandon his own people to be slaughtered, provoking international outcry and response.
What is Nationalism?
Christian conservatives in America, weary of the war-mongering of the past few generations, and rightly suspicious that many grass-roots Americans are identifying God and Country, decry this as “nationalism.” I maintain nothing is the sort. Nationalism springs from the ethnos and is an organic development of the community. Nationalism is certainly not this American phenomenon for several reasons: 1) America has no identifiabl “ethnos” (aside, perhaps, from the vague “white” and “black” races, but even then that is highly disputable), and 2) what these conservative Christians are rightly decrying is the neo-con/neo-lib projection of late 20th century market values over other communal and religious traditions. Therefore, nationalism is not what these conservatives fear, for what they fear is actually trying to destroy nationalism! (for the ultimate proof of this, consider how the media, whether right-wing or left-wing, condemns any kind of “bad guy” as an “ultra-nationalist).
Kosovo: The Coming Russian Confrontation
Norris, John. Collision Course: Nato, Russia, and Kosovo. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005.
This book is essentially a manifesto for neo-liberal interventionism. It makes little attempt at objectivity. The leaders of the Slavic world can do nothing correctly, except as they agree to Western dictums. The book itself is quite valuable, if not necessarily for the reasons the author and publisher think: it documents the inevitable failure of a country (e.g., empire) trying to impose outside values upon traditional and regional communities.
In many ways the book summarizes the lead-up to the war, the nature of the Allied coalition, and the political consequences throughout and following the war. This review will largely avoid those issues as they are thoroughly covered elsewhere. Rather, the reviewing will focus on insights from Norris’ experiences and thoughts resulting from those insights.
The book begins on a painful note. The author of the foreword, Strobe Talbott, is acting like a Clintonian cheerleader. He is guilty of “loaded language” and bias. His particular argument asks, quite rightly, what should be the conditions for empire, I mean, intervention. He notes that military force should only be used when diplomatic means are exhausted, that it guarantees safety to both the “victims” of the aggression and the regular citizenry, and that it ensures stability in the region. Talbott claims it gloriously met all of those goals. The truth, though, is that NATO failed in all of the above: It was the Russians, not NATO bombers, that brought Milosevic to the table; the United States rejected numerous diplomatic proposals from the Bosnian Serbs and actually urged Izetbegovic to reject peace and go to war[i] (!), and Serbs living in Bosnia and Kosovo today are facing a genuine ethnic cleansing on the level of which Milosevic was accused.
Reading Between the Lines
While NATO was technically victorious, it nearly lost the war and created several far greater disasters. Many of the Allies did not even want to proceed with air strikes, and the more traditional and Christian members like Italy and Greece, nearly withdraw when NATO insisted on bombing Orthodox Christians during Pascha. Another point of contention was Russia. When Russia advised Serbia in this war, Russia was weak, bankrupt, and internally divided. That said, Russian special forces nearly captured several key airports in Kosovo. They actually could have done this quite easily, but Yeltsin was not committed. Had Russia proceeded, and American brass admits it could not have stopped Russia, then a combined Russian-Serbian movement would have easily won the war.[ii] Think about it for a second: if a poorly equipped, disillusioned Russian force under Yeltsin could have accomplished this, imagine what a modern Russian army under Putin could have done?[iii]
Had several Allies withdrawn from the campaign (which even US State officials expected them to do), combined with Russian forces seizing key Kosovar airports, along with NATO’s inability to decide on air strikes or sending ground troops, and with the general instability of the region (Norris, 30), NATO—or more precisely, the Anglo-Americans—would have lost this war. While sending ground troops would have ended the conflict quickly, the costs would have been enormous. The Serbs, holed up in the mountains, have a history of breaking empires. It would have been Afghanistan/Iraq to the nth power.
Presuppositions Determine Evidence
Despite the flaws and biases of this book, CNN, and the Clinton Administration, Serbophiles have to face up to the fact of genocide and war crimes. Did Milosevic carry out ethnic cleansing against the Albanians? Given the fact that the Hague could never decisively prove this at the ICC (along with Milosevic’s mysterious death), the answer has to be “no.” Were Serbs guilty of violence against the Albanians? Probably, but this was no different from the Allied treatment of German civilians during WWII (Dresden, anyone?).
As other CIA analysts (Schindler) have noted, Muslim forces have long used “safe havens” as staging points for attacks on Serb forces; therefore, when the Serbs retaliate, it seems like they are attacking civilians.
Despite the “CNN-idolizing” feel of the book, the author has correctly identified Kosovo has a symbolic defining point between East and West.[iv] In other words, the actions in Kosovo will determine not only Russia-America relations, but also how the “international community” can respond to situations within national borders.
The most obvious reason leading to American bombing is the alleged ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians by Milosevic. I say “alleged” because the charges against Milosevic were never proven at The Hague. (There is a reason Milosevic died under mysterious circumstances). In fact, one cannot escape the impression that the West orchestrated this war. The West routinely rejected halts to the bombing and rejected several overtures at peace, overtures largely favorable to NATO and brokered by Russia (p. 19-21).[v] As other analysts have made clear, NATO needed Kosovo as an oil transit.[vi] Accordingly, peace was unacceptable as long as Kosovo remained in Serb hands.
One other point of contention: The CIA had already identified the Kosovo Liberation Army as a terrorist group. Given that, how come Norris never discussed the criminal (and violently anti-American) actions of the KLA? The fact he doesn’t mention this shows how much this book is pure propaganda. (Milosevic pointed this out to Albright, which Albright derisively dismissed. One thinks the reason is obvious).
Given that this book is written by an “Establishment man,” and to a large degree, the author’s protests notwithstanding, this book unofficially represents the Western Establishment on interventionism. Given that high pedigree, high standards are required of the book. Unfortunately, this book fails on a scholarly level. I do not fault the author for citing sources—much of the information can be found elsewhere, and the author does give a thorough bibliography and an extensive index. Rather, the author uses loaded language on every page. I think if one looks beneath this language one sees a “quiet desperation.” The Clinton Administration must justify its position continually. Kosovo today is a failure by anyone’s reckoning. The administration knows it has broken international law in intervening, and the record since then is a poor one. In other words, the Regime (rightly) suspects its authority and dignity is now illegitimate and it lacks moral force for any of its actions. Clinton, Talbott, and Norris are right to be nervous. The international community and nationalists elsewhere are calling their bluff.
[i] Cf. John Schindler, Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al Qai’ida, and the Rise of Global Jihad. St. Paul: MN, Zenith Press, 2007.
[ii] And likely started a nuclear WWIII.
[iii] This is a very real question. The Kosovo question is still under discussion and NATO’s sabre-rattling towards Russia has not helped.
[iv] For more on the “East vs. West” conflict, see Samuel Huntingdon’s rightly famous The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York: Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 1996.
[v] One cannot help but see just how sick and evil Madeline Albright truly is. She refused peace at any price—refusing to even tell Milosevic how he could stop the war aside from the vague refrain “stop the killing.” Milosevic’s response to Albright was cold, brutal, and perfect: “Who is killing the Albanians when the bombs are falling?”
[vi] Cf. F. William Engdahl, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, Baton Rouge, LA: Third Millennium Press, 2009.