By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I feel for the Serbs who get killed accidentally by the NATO bombs, but I also want to remind you that what we went after is a killing machine, one which has proven itself by killing 300,000 people in Bosnia; by killing tens of thousands of people in Croatia and tens of thousands by now inside Kosovo.
I know a lot of Americans think of this as a Vietnam, but they are not parallel situations. In Kosovo, more than 90 percent of the people welcome intervention. I see this more as Kuwait, where we went in, we rolled this guy back, and we liberated Kuwait. I want democracy to work in the Balkans. The only obstacle to this democracy is, of course, Slobodan Milosevic.WEEKLY: What about the parallels to Vietnam? Even more broadly, are there parallels to any other intervention?STEEL: I’m not a Balkans expert, and I certainly don’t want to pretend to be one. But I’d like to address how I think this fits into the general framework of American foreign policy and what the United States is trying to do. Clearly, as has been expressed at this table and elsewhere, this is an issue that divides people who normally agree. And some people who are normally anti-interventionist want to intervene. I think that the basic reason for this is the ethnic element. Americans are superconscious about ethnicities, and we also have all kinds of Holocaust memories, and so, I think, we tend to see this as a primary factor in this case. I’m not convinced it is. I think it’s obviously an important one, but not, at least as policymakers see it, the primary one.
This war is a classic colonial war. It seems to me that the Serbs are doing something very similar to what the French were doing in Algeria. They want to retain a province with it. There’s an ethnic majority which has very different traditions and does not want to be a part of the Yugoslav state. And there has been a low-scale war going on there for some time. Both sides have committed acts of violence, and this is perfectly normal in a liberation war. What the Serbs seem to have been doing before the bombing began seems rather similar to what the French were doing in Algeria, for example. They were trying to break the back of the resistance through intimidation and terror. It wasn’t annihilation and it wasn’t mass expulsion. These things took place after the bombing, and have added, clearly, a new element. But I think this is a classic colonial war, and should be treated as such in terms of our response to it.
Now, on the response. Why did the United States choose to intervene in this war in the way that it did? Why make this a NATO issue? I think it’s because the primary concern was, precisely, NATO. I think that this is the dominant issue in American relations with Europe these days. NATO has been expanded in order that it can maintain its position as the key means by which the United States is involved in Europe. It’s obviously fulfilled its original mission, and it needs a new mission. So, as in the case of Bosnia, the United States has discouraged the Europeans from taking initiative on this. The primary concern, frankly, was not the welfare of the Kosovar Albanians but the cohesion of NATO. If the primary concern was the welfare of the Kosovar Albanians, then the greatest effort would be made in putting a ground force in Kosovo. The method chosen — to bomb sites in Serbia — is several steps removed from dealing with the problem in Kosovo. The bombing, meanwhile, has had negative effects: It’s unified, apparently, the Serbian people around Milosevic. To my mind, that just reinforces the notion that the primary concern was to show that NATO could act and the United States could lead NATO.MEYERSON: This may be a colonial war, with all the hatreds that involves, but outside powers have been known to intervene in colonial wars. If France hadn’t intervened in a colonial war between Britain and its colony, the United States would not be the United States. MARLA STONE: I’d like to make a point in favor of the intervention. The United States is a signatory to the genocide convention. That is a strong argument for intervention. WIENER: But I would challenge the idea that there’s genocide. What we have is a mass forced expulsion. I think it’s very important to distinguish that from genocide. The very fact that, when the trains arrive in Macedonia, there are people on them who are alive argues against mass genocide. STONE: Let’s talk about exactly what goes on in these villages. They have this down to an art form, where they go into a village, call the people in the village into the center of the town, divide the men and the women, and then shoot, in many cases, the military-aged men. They expel the women — you are correct, they don’t kill everyone; they put some women in rape camps. There are indicted war criminals from Bosnia who are now in Kosovo doing it again. So we now have itinerant perpetrators of what I call genocide. You disagree with me. But it is something extremely close to genocide whether or not some people get out alive. There is a plan to depopulate Kosovo, to destroy it culturally. We saw this in Bosnia. And now we are seeing it in Kosovo. HASANI: This is not exactly what happened to Jews under Hitler. But it is definitely genocide. I have a list from the Internet of 50 people, two families, all massacred — from children to pregnant women — and these were intentionally massacred. That’s genocide.