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
World War II, however, compelled Thomas to change his position. "Many Americans in the ’20s and ’30s learned to regret our entry [into World War I] and adopted a too-simple belief that any war would be caused by rival imperialisms and ‘merchants of death,’" Thomas recalled in the ’60s.
Whether today’s anti-war activists rethink their position remains to be seen. And it’s true that some doubts about the Kosovo war — a morally based conflict fought in a morally questionable way — are entirely well-founded.
V. For War
For the military historian, Kosovo will be notable for being the first conflict ever waged, and won, entirely by air. That is certainly how the Air Force would have us think of it, though in fact it wasn’t until the KLA infantry retook territory in the war’s final two weeks, forcing the Yugoslav army to come out of its bunkers, that the air war seriously decimated the Serbs’ army.
The high-tech and high-altitude nature of NATO’s war (the planes never flew lower than 15,000 feet) compelled a change in the war’s objective, however. On the day the war began, President Clinton stated that we fought to protect the Albanians against ethnic cleansing. In fact, the ethnic cleansing continued apace — indeed, greatly accelerated — while we took out strategic targets (bases, refineries, factories) in Serbia. Rather than subject NATO pilots, much less NATO ground forces, to a significant risk, we ended up defending the principle of defending a people, rather than defending the people themselves.
That is not in itself a morally negligible position. In the end, NATO did reverse the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo — after the fact. It is, however, a morally compromised position, one that intervenes on behalf of survivors, rather than running the risk of stopping the attacks they survived.
The brave new war that NATO fought not only perforce changed the war’s objective; it actually changed warfare itself. With the no-casualty war, the war without risk, we move onto new and shaky terrain. It certainly makes war politically easier to wage, most particularly a war that is tangential to the national interest, that has only limited popular support. It could facilitate another "human rights" war such as Kosovo. But it could facilitate a dirtier war, one fought for narrow economic interests that generate little public sympathy.
Finally, the very thing that made this war politically sustainable is precisely what made it morally offensive. In Kosovo, we eliminated the most fundamental deterrent to military action: the prospect of one’s own losses. Within the limits of a high-altitude war, which technology had made far more effective than ever before, the restraints on NATO were entirely self-imposed. War is always inhumane, but this kind of war is also inhuman. It is godlike — or diabolical.
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