By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
III. For Europe
Whatever the cracks that the war drove within the governing coalitions of Western Europe, it also had the effect of accelerating the broad drive toward European unification. Which, in time, one can only hope, will render NATO redundant.
For, while Western Europe has adopted a common currency, and while many of its laws and regulations are set not by national governments but by the European Union (EU), when it comes to matters military, Europe is stuck in 1949. Bi zarre ly, 50 years after NATO was formed and 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe still turns to the U.S. to rattle, or thrust, its saber. This is a dependency, moreover, that the U.S. has fostered at every turn.
But the Kosovo war broke out in a Europe in which national elites are discussing unification with every other breath. Companies, and even stock exchanges, are merging across borders; monetary policy has been trusted to one supranational bank; unions are beginning to engage in cross-border bargaining; the same "Third-Way" political consultants shuttle from London to Bonn. When war came, this growing unity found expression in a common military policy as well: Rejecting both long-standing national traditions of indifference to Balkan Muslims, and left traditions of pacifistic nonintervention, the governments of the Euro center-left all did their bit.
Which, militarily, wasn’t all that much. For high-tech intelligence, command-and-control capacity, and Star Wars aerial bombardment, Europe still had to look — with some embarrassment — across the Atlantic. Even as the war went on, however, Europe’s prime ministers convened to create their own EU security structure for the continent — in effect, a European defense ministry — and appointed Javier Solana, the outgoing head of NATO, to run it. They further committed Europe to developing a military capacity that would obviate much, if not all, of their dependence on the U.S.
Ironically, the only war NATO has ever fought may some day be seen as its undoing. That would be a consummation devoutly to be wished. Europe needs a cop on its own beat — a local guy, not a world cop on call for all emergencies. The U.S. needs to redirect resources from military to civilian purposes. Global capital can only be checked by the kind of transnational regulation that, for the foreseeable future, only a unified, center-left Europe could conceivably provide. It needs a transnational state, and a self-sufficient European defense is a step in the right direction.
In European history, wars have sometimes provided the occasion for national unification — Bismarck certainly used them to that effect. In that sense, Kosovo may be one early step in a continent’s journey beyond nationhood.
IV. For the Left
However much the war may have unified Europe, it also revealed gaping rifts within both the American left and right. Conservatives resurrected their historic division — last seen during the run-up to World War II — between isolationists and interventionists. Liberals split along a hitherto undetected fault line that divided human-rights advocates from anti-interventionists.
Actually, if the discussions I had with friends and acquaintances were at all representative, the split occurred as much within individual liberals as between them. This was surely the reason why the anti-war forces never amounted to much, and why Americacampuses were quiet over the past three months. (And the culprit here is not student apathy: The campus anti-sweatshop movement was busily mounting protests and even the occasional building occupation all throughout the spring.)
The anti-war movement did demonstrate that it’s not just generals who are always fighting the last war. Many critics on both left and right saw in Kosovo the shadow of Vietnam. (Indeed, one of the culture shocks of the past few months has been to hear Republican congressmen quoting anti-war songs of the ’60s.) But the parallels turned out to be imprecise at best. What the U.S. was fighting in Vietnam was at least partly a national revolt of a vast segment of the population against colonialism. In Kosovo, there was also a national revolt of nearly an entire population — but it was that of the Albanians against the Serbs. Vietnam in 1965 was the 17th largest nation in the world. Yugoslavia in the early ’90s — the last time there was a reliable count — was the 70th largest. Strategically, that is, the equation of the two wars was nonsensical.
Morally, at least for the left, that equation was equally dubious. Ho Chi Minh’s communists were nobody’s liberal democrats, but neither were they ethnic cleansers driving an entire population before them. For some left-wing critics of the war, the immutable evil of U.S. intervention rendered superfluous any consideration of the party against whom we were intervening. At times they conveyed the impression that if David Duke managed to get himself a country, and was attacked by NATO for implementing policies that appall the left when Duke advocates them here at home, they would find more malice in NATO and more virtue in Duke than anyone had thought possible.
This isn’t the first time that the American anti-war movement has viewed a conflict almost entirely through the prism of a previous war. From the mid-’30s right up to Pearl Harbor, much of the American left argued that the coming war in Europe would be a replay of World War I: a bloodbath that pitted one capitalist power against another, to the benefit of munitions manufacturers and the detriment of workers everywhere. This was not the position of the Communist Party, whose stance toward the war was based totally on the shifting position of the Soviet Union, but it was the position of some of America’s most luminous moral lights — pacifist and socialist leader Norman Thomas first and foremost. When Thomas foresaw World War II, he saw again the trenches of Verdun — just as today’s anti-war activists saw a new round of Khe Sans and My Lais in America’s future. Neither generation of critics altered their equation to allow for a different kind of enemy or war.
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