Ivo Skoric on Sat, 3 Apr 1999 23:15:14 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Stability & Security

Extension of Stability & Security

What do Lyndon Johnson and Adolf Hitler have in common? They are
both being compared to Bill Clinton for what he's done (or for what
he has not done) in the Balkans recently. Certain Congressional
Republicans draw the Clinton-Johnson parallel hinting that Clinton
is dragging the country in a prolonged vietnamesque involvement
overseas. Now that they lost their legal case to oust him from the
office - which by the way costed the taxpayer nearly as much as the
stealth fighter that crashed over Bujanovci - they have to find some
other way. Particularly amusing is to hear such accusations of
adventurism from a character like Ollie North, the key player in the
Iran- Contra scandal. The comparison to Hitler, of course, comes
from the Serbian TV. Many other things come from Serbian TV: like
they say that Albanians are leaving Kosovo because of NATO air
strikes. And the Serbs believe.

In the spirit of the headline for this article (which I borrowed
from some bloke from Brookings Institute, who used the phrase to
describe the substance of the NATO presence in the region), now, in
the second week of the strikes, 1700 sorties and 100 cruise missiles
later it is time to evaluate the action. So far, NATO carries the
military victory, but overall winner - if you count political gains
and losses - is undeniably Slobodan Milosevic. Here is why: 	

NATO decimated Serbian military-industrial complex (Zastava, 
Kragujevac; Utva, Pancevo; etc.), destroyed Yugoslav Army air-bases 
and missile storage places, seriously damaged Yugoslav Army anti-air 
defense capability, and ruined the re-supply routes (like by blowing 
the bridge over Danube in Novi Sad NATO cut of both the road and 
river route between Russia and Serbia [although it would be more 
logical to concentrate on targets on Romanian side of Danube, since 
Romania is more likely to let Russian weapons through, given that 
Hungary is now a NATO member]) - therefore Yugoslav Army is 
debilitated in the big picture and incapacitated for a long fight. 
On the other hand, while Yugoslav Army, despite all the NATO 
efforts, is not nearly running out of ammo on Kosovo, Pentagon is 
already running out of cruise missiles, reportedly. 	

NATO action was designed with one purpose, which NATO countries 
political leaders repeated relentlessly: to prevent the humanitarian 
disaster - in the form of the flood of refugees from Kosovo. However, 
this is precisely what we have now: Montenegro, Albania and 
particularly Macedonia are overwhelmed with Albanians from Kosovo. 
European NATO members already committed 50 million DM and the US is 
going to send $50M to help about refugees. As NATO bombed targets 
important for the Yugoslav Army's future ability to fight, Yugoslav 
Army helped by paramilitaries like Arkan's Tigers, stepped up its 
present offensive in Kosovo: villages suspected of being KLA safe 
havens are systematically shelled to oblivion, Albanian professionals 
and intellectuals suspected of being in line to assume political role 
in an eventually independent Kosova are executed (teachers are hanged
in front of their students; some however pop back up to life, just
to spite Western media that just reported their deaths), Albanians
in Prishtina are told better to leave (leaflets with KLA insignia,
but actually made up by Serbian propaganda artists, are inviting
people to leave; Serb authorities are planning to "evacuate" all of
them by trainload, reminding me of a bygone era), Albanian refugees
are stripped of their identity papers (even car plates) at the
border and the records (like birth certificates) are destroyed in
their hometowns - with the aim to erase their identity as Yugoslav
citizens and prevent them of ever coming back... In reality, the
claim of 90% Albanian population in Kosovo is farther from the truth
every passing day. NATO air strikes so far failed both to prevent
the humanitarian disaster and to stop the ethnic cleansing: in fact
both the humanitarian disaster and the ethnic cleansing increased
after the air strikes. Also, foreshadowing the Phase 3 of NATO
strikes, to prevent NATO of destroying their means of destruction of
Kosovo Albanians, Yugoslav Army decided to do the same thing they
did in Bosnia: use Albanian civilians as human shields around the YA
heavy weaponry in Kosovo. 	

Failure to achieve objectives immediately discouraged some allies and 
deeply divided others. Greece was against the strikes from the 
beginning. They would like this one even better: Macedonians demand 
NATO membership on the grounds that they already became a NATO 
"satellite" by giving up their country as a base for NATO troops - 
but without NATO's pledge to protect them from Serbian vengeance. 
Given the capture of three American soldiers on Yugoslav-Macedonian 
border, NATO is not doing the best possible job of securing 
Macedonian border, or its own border patrols for that matter. 
Italians are more and more annoyed to be the air-base for NATO air 
strikes. Casual "bird watchers" are replaced by angry slogan shouting 
protesters at Aviano. Italian defense minister underscores that no 
Italian aircraft is involved in the strikes. In Germany, the 
government coalition of Social-Democrats and The Greens is in crisis, 
since The Greens, who built their political basis by opposing U.S. 
nuclear missiles in Germany, are now completely opposed to the NATO 
air strikes. The value of Euro is consistently lower than expected in 
reference to the American dollar since the beginning of the strikes - 
this, also, does not make European allies cheerful. And the French 
want to join Russians in the effort to renew the diplomatic path to 
find the solution to the Kosovo crisis. NATO is back to its Anglo- 
Saxon core. 	

Two of the three American soldiers captured on the 
Yugoslav-Macedonian border, however, have last names that are all but 
Anglo-Saxon: Gonzales and Ramirez (the third, Stone, appears to be 
more bruised in the picture; I wonder if this is yet another clever 
Serbian propaganda ploy...) - reflecting the reality of the American 
armed forces. Middle class families in the U.S. do not want their 
kids in the army, they thing that is a step down on social status 
ladder. So, the army is filled by the underprivileged kids, mostly 
from minority (Black and Hispanic) background, who make use of the 
Army's offer to pay for their college tuition. I can't get Enrique 
out of my head. He was a lifeguard at the place where I also worked 
as a lifeguard some years ago, before he joined the Marines. I joked 
with him how he'd end up in Bosnia, and taught him a curse or two. 

Serbs, unlike NATO, were never as united as they are now. 
Government, opposition, alternative- everybody is against the strikes 
(and the strikes in downtown Belgrade won't help that). Hooligans 
destroyed McDonalds in Belgrade in a protest against the American 
way. Around the world Serbs organize demonstrations, which sometimes 
end up violently. It seems that there are Serbs in every major 
Western city. Albanians, with some delay, now organize 
counter-demonstrations in support of NATO. It seems that there are 
Albanians in every major Western city, too. In New York you can see a 
"Thank You Americans!" banner in nearly every Pizza parlor. The 
possibility of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations turning to 
violence terrifies city officials in the West, however - to the point 
that some Mayors (like the one in Brussels) banned any public 
assembly altogether. Not only that Milosevic's recalcitrance made 
NATO fail in its objectives, but it also brought a rift between NATO 
countries while bringing unity to the Serbs, and now it even 
threatens to impose itself over the cherished Western values like the 
freedom of assembly. 	

Russia played its cold war gambit well: since Primakov turned the 
things around, having Milosevic "proposing" truce (that NATO 
countries tried to get Milosevic to sign in Rambouillet in the first 
place), the Western media appeared with headlines like - "NATO 
rejects Milosevic's proposal" or "NATO can't accept..." - making the 
NATO use negative expressions, suggesting that Milosevic again is, 
maybe, a good guy, slightly misunderstood in his intentions (so they 
have to be interpreted by Russians), but a peace loving individual 
nevertheless. Angry Russian opposition to NATO strikes (withdrawing 
from Partnership For Peace), did not prevent Russia of taking the IMF 
loan ($15B) and also did not prevent Russia on signing the uranium 
deal with the U.S. (Russia will sell high quantity of its enriched 
uranium to the U.S.). Behind the cold war facade necessary to placate 
domestic politics, Russia still knows what is good for her, and there 
seem to be no imminent danger of the World War III. Still, Russia is 
sending some of its Black Sea fleet to Mediterranean in the response 
to NATO action against Yugoslavia. Clinton called the move 
"unhelpful." On the other hand Russian Navy must be totally bored 
sitting in the port all the time, so a little cruise over 
Mediterranean might be in place. 	

Serbs claim they `downed' another stealth plane, while the Pentagon 
still prefers to use the verb `crashed' in reference to the one and 
only stealth plane the Pentagon acknowledges as missing. The second 
Stealth plane was allegedly `downed' over Bosnia, and the wreckage 
was promptly surrounded by American troops preventing Serbian TV of 
taking a shot. Americans claim that NATO shot down about a half of 
Milosevic's MIG-29s (Serbian TV does not report any of that, 
naturally), two of them over Bosnia on route to bomb SFOR targets 
-apparently in retaliation. The F117 that crashed over Vojvodina, 
might have been a victim of mechanical failure, or shot down by a 
lucky shot. If, however, a second one is down, that would prove that 
F117 are not invisible any more, i.e. that the Serbs figured how to 
find their signature on the radar screen (maybe by comparing their 
radar screens to the records from Iraq - Yugoslav Army has 
long-standing good relations with Saddam Hussein). Such an 
information would be very useful for Russia and/or China and would 
seriously harm American conventional strategic superiority achieved 
by stealth technology. Clinton was obviously angry when he had to 
face the camera and say: yup, one of my invisible planes is down. 
Yugoslav Army mostly avoided using surface-to-air missiles against 
NATO planes - instead trying to intercept them with its fighter jets. 
Radar based air defense is useless against the air force equipped 
with stealth fighters armed with HARM missiles - knowing that 
Yugoslav Army did not turn it on. 

KLA lobbies for the NATO to send in ground forces, since it is losing 
the war against the Yugoslav Army. American people learned not to 
believe to their political leaders - so, despite that Clinton 
continues to repeat "No ground forces" mantra, CNN poll shows that 
79% of Americans expect that ground forces are going to be sent in. 
In the same poll, less and less Americans disapprove of the air 
strikes alone, and also argue that the U.S. should support the 
Albanian move for independence of Kosova. So far, the Administration 
contended that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia, and that they 
just want for Serbs to grant Albanians the broad autonomy policed by 
NATO. Deeper and deeper in war, the Administration apparently 
realized, that millions of dollars spent in missiles, bombs, lost 
aircraft, fuel, logistics - just to keep Kosovo in Serbia, would be 
an absurd investment - after all, Serbs were doing a pretty good job 
of keeping Kosovo in Serbia without the NATO help. However, as the 
time goes by, there is less and less NATO-friendly population in 
Kosovo (Albanians) on which the ground forces may rely, and Yugoslav 
Army becomes more entrenched, promising that ground forces will 
encounter casualties if they venture in. Trading American for 
Albanian lives is not an enviable job. 	

NATO expansion (which recently included Poland, Czech Republic and 
Hungary - Hungary being the only NATO country that does not have a 
land border with another NATO country) was meant as the "extension of 
stability and security" in Europe. However, with its first military 
action in history, NATO so far just brought instability and 
insecurity to the region of South-East Europe.

Paradoxically, the superpower of the world is losing the war against
a small rogue state. And that in spite of destroying its military
potential. Obviously, this suggests it is either time to stop or to
change the tactics. The U.S. opted to change the tactics (European
allies would rather stop): the A-10 Warthogs are in knocking down
tanks over Kosovo, and government buildings in downtown Belgrade are
the next cruise missile targets. Vatican, of all places (an ur-enemy
of Orthodox Serbs in the Serb nationalist mythology), came out
suggesting to NATO to cease air strikes over Easter weekend. Clinton
flatly rejected on grounds that such a pause would give a chance to
Serbs to continue the ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo. Excuse
me? Aren't they continuing that campaign right now despite the NATO
air strikes? Unless Clinton is prepared to follow with the ground
troops pretty soon and pretty aggressively, he'd better consider the
48 hours cease-fire, and have satellites and U-2s and Predators (the
unmanned spy-plane that CIA did not yet launch from Albania, due to
the guidance system failure...) watch whether Serbs would stop, as
Milosevic wowed through Primakov they would do. Because soon there
will be no more Albanians in Kosovo, and then the whole action would
be in vain. CNN and MSNBC, which now so hawkishly support Clinton on
the strikes, are not pliant sycophants as Serb TV, and if Clinton's
strikes prove to be a failure, they are going to have no mercy on
him. And, btw., mentioning the Serb TV, why is this weapon of
psychological warfare still on, as if a Tomahawk couldn't have been
used to knock down the TV tower on Avala and deprive Milosevic of
this important tool of his rule?!


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