Not Good

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Wed Mar 31 07:30:25 PST 1999

The announcement this a.m. or last night that NATO would begin bombing inside Belgrade is not encouraging. Given the vastly over-hyped precision of so-called smart weapons, we can be confident that such tactics will result in civilian casualties. Even if the bombs were perfectly smart, we're still talking about secretaries and janitors being killed. This tactic is not worthy of support.

Even worse, however, the resort to such a move at this time in my view diminishes the possibility of any real peace-keeping operation, meaning ground troops that protect Kosovari from Serbs, and which continuously liquidate Serb military assets and personnel, both official and paramilitary. (Yes, you have to shoot people to keep the peace.)

Arguments about what the best diplomatic or political tactic would have been two weeks ago are sadly beside the point right now, except as grist for a historical indictment of U.S./EU policy (and there sure is plenty of grist). Any peace initiative that would freeze the Serb personnel in Kosovo would be welcome, but I can't see any. Any agreement to stop bombing without some way of guaranteeing an end to ethnic cleansing is just a green light for murder and mayhem inside Kosovo. The only real peace initiative is a demonstrable withdrawal of Serbs from the region; for me that would justify a call for a halt to all bombing.

On the ground in the U.S., the left is completely irrelevant to this affair. Most Americans oppose intervention (or will come to oppose it as the policy unwinds into obvious failure) because this is not perceived as a U.S. interest, material or strategic. I expect it to cost Democrats the election, paving the way for the party that knows how to do imperialism right. The further the victims are from being white and fair-haired, the more the general public's humanitarian interest, never much to begin with, wanes. That's the opportunistic element in the left's automatic condemnation of U.S. imperialism -- the impulse to stay out of this, by and large, is not a progressive one. Public disapproval of the action is no victory for the left, even if it turns out to be the right conclusion.

A useful aspect of all this is seeing how a variety of left viewpoints develop and are expressed -- all the varieties of rhetorical excess, credulous cross-posting of obviously biased and sometimes wacky sources, resort to ad hominem argument, resurrection of hackneyed revolutionary doctrines, etc. It really is a test of character, in its own way. I don't at all mean that everybody on one side is a shit and on the other a saint. But much has been revealed. Most gratifying is that there are some people I like a lot more (not necessarily on my side) because I think I know them a little better.



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