Bruce Sterling on Sun, 20 Jun 1999 23:18:15 +0200

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Syndicate: recriminations versus prognostications

>"for example "insomnia" disappearing, & Bruce Sterling firing opinions
>from Texas, where among other things he scribbles about high-tech war"

Yeah.  Speaking of which,  is 'insomnia' still alive?  Anybody have any

To join the interesting Syndicate debate on moral responsibility, I can only
concur that trying to avert future ghastly acts is a vastly more worthy act
than moaning over the many, many past ones.   After all, history only moves
in one direction.  Given time, the human race can only accumulate more
crimes.     "Australian" people, for instance, can only wring their hands
over a mere three or four centuries' worth of various national-identity
enormities.  If "Australia" were eight centuries old instead, would a
newborn baby Australian be twice as weighed-down with Australian historical
guilt (perhaps even as badly-off morally as "Austrians")?   When do we get
to draw two red lines under history and bury that which is dead within us?

At this historical point, personally, I feel quite inclined to grant the
"German people," whoever the heck they are, a blanket moral amnesty for the
twentieth century.  With the New Year 2000, acts of benign forgiveness and
heartfelt reconciliation are in order.   No, not for any dark, revanchist
Yugoslavs, but for *Germans.*  I must say that I have the kindliest feelings
toward Germans, after this particular European war.   After all, the Germans
a very different people now than they were 50 years ago; their country has
doubled in size, they're run by pinko green peaceniks who bet their
political futures on a struggle against European ethnic cleansing, they're
picking up big financial tabs for the necessary reconstruction, what the
heck more do we want from Germans?   

I therefore constructively pledge that I am going to make a personal moral
effort to no longer make any wounding remarks about the untoward deeds of
the grandparents of 21st century Germans.    Henceforth, when "Godwin's Law"
Internet flame wars degenerate into accusations of Nazidom, flame wars
should instead degenerate into accusations of  Serbian ethnic cleansing.
If we really need an ethnic group to glow in our moral darkness for the next
fifty years, we've got them.   Welcome to the barrel, Serbia.

As for the United States and its lively domestic history of ethnic
cleansing, people around the world should just plain *know better* than to
provoke a shootout with a superpower who proudly names its weapons of
battlefield destruction after the very people it ethnically cleansed --
"tomahawks" -- "Apaches. "    This is not unthinking blundering irony here,
this is a very scary *message.*   People with this kind of schizoid
ahistorical ability should not be provoked by mere Europeans.   

Really, let's face it,  it's not that difficult to get Americans not to bomb
you.  Most people on Earth haven't been bombed by  Americans in over fifty
years.   Worst of all, if you're a minor power,  the Americans can bomb the
daylights out of you, and you can't do anything more effective about it than
to drag your casualties in front of CNN.   What is the military point?
You're *crazy* to fool with these people.

*The world has the advantage of a battlefield lull now.   But the military
realpolitik of this situation is that the  United States blew the living
daylights out of a minor regional power without losing a single soldier.
This can only encourage the United States.  The greater Balkans war is not
over, of course.   NATO may well "lose the peace" if one too many Marines
steps on a punjee stick.   But we do have a breathing space, and rather than
rehearse recriminations, we'd be better off to rehearse what comes next.  

*And what comes next?   *Bombing campaigns* and Tomahawks by the basketfull,
that's what comes next.   It's dead obvious.   Given any breakdown in the
Balkans,   the kneejerk response of the American military will be to blow up
Serbia, again, *ten times harder,* *ten times faster,*  with *less* need to
ask permission of anybody,  and with a yawning public indifference to
Serbian civilian casualties.   Contrary to urgent Serbian propaganda, nobody
much in the US feels at all morally panicked because a living hell broke out
on the ground in Kosova "after the American bombing started."  Even if
American air strikes killed Kosovars galore during the ghastly Serbian
pogrom, what the hell is that to Americans?  Americans will fight a war in
Europe down to the last Kosovar any day that you please. 

The United States Air Force is not one whit demoralized by the public
sufferings of Serbians.   Americans in general are serenely undisturbed by
the fact that NATO smashed Serbian  bridges, and refineries, and the
occasional maternity hospital, while the Serbs were bulldozing Kosovar
villages wholesale.  Americans have quite a large historical tolerance for
randomly blowing the shit out of alien people by remote control.   Americans
do this all the time, they're  very used to it.  The Americans are just not
going to get all upset about it, and nobody should realistically expect this
of the Americans.    

And the Serbian response to NATO air war has been hugely *encouraging* to
this American behavior.    Now America knows what to do with Serbians.

I predict that our next Balkans spectacle will not be cruise missiles,
however.  It will be the amazing scene of NATO powers flying bread to hungry
Serbians who have no jobs.  The Serbs won't eat the bread, of course -- the
Serbs are far too proud -- but they'll eat the bread after it's stolen by
the Milosevic family mafia, and ritually re-labelled.   Then it will become
Serbian moral-victory miracle bread.  That bread jumped spontaneously out of
the holy Serbian soil around the heroically defended graveyards.

Bon appetit.

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