Wednesday, August 25, 2004

On Clark and Shelton

I wrote this on the JRE blog on December 06, 2003, as a response to another blogger about the Shelton vs. Clark skirmish during the Democratic primaries:

From a thread on Shelton and Clark: I'm not sure how to feel about this, but I have always had this mistrust of generals (of any country). I do not think we need a Four-Star-President, like some poor small country after a military coup. But, with the whole US military/foreign policy in a big need of total re-thinking, I would not pick an officer for advice, but that's just me.... Prompted by someone on this blog who asked me the Clark question re Balkans, I did some research, and more I read stuff from that period and after, more I believe that Clark should go to The Hague but NOT as a witness. I'll try to get some links later. Somebody reprinted almost complete articles in a thread a few days ago that are pretty typical of the time. Reading "The New Military Humanism", a slim but energetic book by Noam Chomsky provides a lot of information about Clark within the whole context of Kosovo war, and also places that war within the bigger context of recent US foreign policy. I agree on Chomsky (being totally anti-intervention), but he did the hard work of getting the info together, so is still a good source, even if you do not agree with the conclusions he draws from it. I agree that the response was a smear, as it was not substantiated, yet I believe that it could be substantiated. Still, both generals are part of the same school of thought of US foreign and military policy, that needs to be re-thought in the light of end of Cold War, the Iraq war etc. As for what should have been done, it is similar to the question should we have gone to Iraq - quite useless at the present moment - it's done. For a detailed and very well-documented analysis of the whole Balkan issue in the 1990's up to, but not including Kosovo, read "Balkan Tragedy" by Susan Woodward. First, there was no 'good' side vs. 'bad' side - there were a couple of dozen sides, most of them more or less 'bad', including the US. Consulting leaders of democratic opposition on the ground, Balkan experts from around the world, historians etc. instead of State Department so-called experts in 1991 could have averted the whole thing: break-up of Yugoslavia, four wars, lengthy dictatorships of Milosevic, Tudjman and Izetbegovic, and formation of Al Qaida European HQ in Bosnia and Kosovo after the ouster of Taliban in Afghanistan. Even once the wars started, more could have been done if someone in The Administration took the trouble of learning about the region and making decisions based on knowldge and understading of the region instead of understanding of US interests alone. As for Kosovo, it happened at the time when the Democratic opposition was pushing a big ooomph to finally get rid of Milosevic. Bombing postponed the ouster by about a year and had a very negative effect on the opposition because their policies were perceived as traitorous due to being pro-Western, thus pro-enemy. The attacks, both by Milosevic police and by KLA terrorists (two groups of bad guys duking it out, while the civilians suffer) have been kept in check by UN peacekeepers, allowing for time for diplomacy to work through strengthening the opposition and aiding in Milosevic ouster. Just before the bombing the UN was pulled out. The attacks, from both sides, started again immediatelly. A few days AFTER the bombing started, Milosevic ordered for ouster of a million Albanians from Kosovo, mostly innocent civilians, of course. This push was not going to happen 'anyway' - it was a contingency plan in case the country gets attacked. We apparently have a contingency plan to attack Canada if it attacks us - does that mean we are going to implement that plan 'anyway'? The choice of targets was horrible - hospitals, etc were hit. Military targets were mostly missed, as the cardboard decoys cannot be recognized from such a high altitude. A bridge made of nylon ribbons was bombed more than 20 times on as many nights and rebuilt again every day. The TV tower on Mt.Avala south of Belgrade is a symbol akin to Staue of Liberty - it's gone. Wouldn't you be angry? Wouldn't you think that parties advocating friendhip with such an aggressor are traitors? Bombing strenghtened Milosevic for its duration as everyone 'rallied behind the President' as expected. It was a tough uphill battle for the opposition to re-start and mount a final decisive battle against Milosevic, and the bitter memories of bombing are still plaguing the country and making it difficult for opposition to push its agenda. The way media here has pushed the official version of the events, oversimplified, of course, many people here do not believe that anything but miltary force could have done a thing there. That is just not true - there were several points in time when the whole Balkan tragedy could have been stopped through diplomacy, but a combination of ineptness and various interests at home, such initiatives were unpalatable both to Bush Sr and Clinton administrations - they were waging wars for domestic audiences anyway.

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