[Marxism] Perceptive analysis from a libertarian magazine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu May 27 08:03:15 MDT 2004


May 2004
Temporary Doves

Why are the architects of Kosovo so down on Gulf War II?
Matt Welch

Madam Secretary: A Memoir, by Madeleine Albright with Bill Woodward, New 
York: Miramax Books, 562 pages

The Bubble of American Supremacy: Correcting the Misuse of American 
Power, by George Soros, New York: Public Affairs, 207 pages

Winning Modern Wars: Iraq, Terrorism, and the American Empire, by Wesley 
K. Clark, New York: Public Affairs, 218 pages


Of all the historical precedents that paved the way for President George 
W. Bush’s war against Iraq, the most directly relevant was Bill 
Clinton’s 1999 bombing of the rump Yugoslavia.

Like Gulf War II, the 78-day NATO air campaign in Kosovo was waged 
without the explicit authorization of the United Nations. (Of the two, 
the Iraq war had much more of a U.N. mandate, through Resolution 1441, 
which gave Iraq a "final opportunity" -- one it did not take -- to 
comply fully with all previous Security Council resolutions or else face 
"serious consequences.") Like Iraq, Yugoslavia was a sovereign country 
that was bombed into submission for essentially internal infractions. 
Both wars were expressions of American exasperation at European 
impotence in the face of dictatorial slaughter. Slobodan Milosevic, like 
Saddam Hussein, was described as a modern-day Adolf Hitler, eager to 
practice genocide against minority tribes while scrambling for horrible 
weapons to menace peaceful neighbors. Supporters of both wars frequently 
invoked the Munich Agreement of 1938, in which the West appeased Hitler 
rather than defend allied Czechoslovakia. Opponents of both wars warned 
that the target countries were colonially conceived multi-ethnic basket 
cases not conducive to postwar democratization. And the United States 
led the fight against both dictators despite urgent warnings from 
antiwar activists and multilateralism enthusiasts that each new bomb 
would lower the threshold for waging modern war. Kosovo made Iraq possible.

So it is of pressing interest to see what the architects of Kosovo, and 
its predecessor campaign in Bosnia, have to say about Bush’s 
controversial war. As luck would have it, there are recent books from 
three key Yugoslavia warriors: Madeleine Albright, the Munich-haunted 
Czechoslovak émigré who was the most influential anti-Milosevic hawk in 
Clinton’s cabinet; George Soros, the Munich-haunted Hungarian émigré and 
billionaire philanthropist who was among the earliest and most 
influential nongovernmental voices to urge military action against Serb 
nationalists; and Wesley Clark, the retired supreme allied commander of 
NATO who directed the Kosovo War. Since Clark was one of the top four 
Democratic candidates for president, and Soros has redirected his 
considerable energy and at least $15 million to effect "regime change" 
in the United States, their distinction between Kosovo and Iraq arguably 
looms as the defining foreign policy difference between Democrats and 
Republicans in 2004. And for those of us who supported Clinton’s 
Wilsonianism but not Bush’s, these books should help answer two 
questions we really ought to be asking ourselves: Is our support for 
America’s activist role dependent on high moral principle, or is it 
tethered to partisan politics? And did we lower the bar for military 
intervention?

lbright’s Madam Secretary, a surprisingly intimate and detail-rich 
memoir, does the best job of laying out the philosophical groundwork for 
why Clinton suddenly reversed three years of muddling policy by getting 
violent with Milosevic in 1995. After four years of watching horrendous, 
evocative images of civilian slaughter and concentration camps on the 
European continent, Clinton was, she says, finally persuaded by the 
insistent voices around him whose lives had been directly mangled by Munich.

"When I was still a little girl," Albright writes in the preface, "my 
family was driven from its home twice, first by Fascists, then by 
Communists. While in office I was able to fight against ethnic cleansing 
in Yugoslavia, a country where I had lived as a child."

That kind of jarring juxtaposition of the personal and political runs 
throughout the book, making the story of Albright’s U.S. government 
service look like a Czech wish fulfillment fantasy. It also illustrates 
how the administration’s tilt toward Central Europe -- the White House 
was influenced also by Polish-born Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John 
Shalikashvili and by the president’s close relationship with Vaclav 
Havel -- focused attention on that part of the world, rather than on 
more genocidal hot spots such as Rwanda.

"In one of his books," Albright writes, her diplomat father Josef Korbel 
"quoted the Czechoslovak patriarch, Tomas Masaryk: ‘Love of one’s 
neighbor, of the nation, and of humanity imposes upon everyone the 
obligation to defend oneself and to resist evil constantly, at all 
times, and in all things.’ For me that obligation was triggered by the 
campaigns of brutality launched by Serb President Slobodan Milosevic."

Albright, who was U.N. ambassador in Clinton’s first term and secretary 
of state in the second, has spent a lifetime focused on the former East 
Bloc. She wrote her undergraduate honors thesis on Czechoslovakia’s 
postwar period, enrolled in graduate Soviet studies under Polish émigré 
Zbigniew Brzezinski, wrote her dissertation on the Prague Spring, won a 
Woodrow Wilson fellowship to document the Solidarity uprising in Poland, 
and was hired for her first government job by son-of-Polish-immigrants 
Ed Muskie. She describes her relationship with Havel as "one of the most 
precious friendships of my life" (the two have vacationed together in 
Bermuda) and confesses "mixed feelings" at turning down his suggestion 
to succeed him as Czech president. Famously, she discovered soon after 
being sworn in as secretary of state that she was Jewish, and that three 
of her Czech grandparents had been killed in concentration camps. As she 
was fond of telling State Department reporters, "Munich is my mindset."

Problem is, Munich has been the mind-set of just about every other 
administration in recent history, from Bush II back to Harry Truman, 
regardless of analogical accuracy. The ghost of Neville Chamberlain has 
been exhumed to justify American interventions in Korea, Iraq (twice), a 
ragbag of Third World hellholes, and Vietnam. Albright’s contemporaneous 
reaction to the Vietnam War neatly illustrates the limitations of 
letting Munich do the thinking for you: "For a long time it didn’t occur 
to me to question [it]," she says.

Evil is never in short supply, regrettably, and choosing which Hitler to 
confront is a complicated business, especially when you have the most 
powerful military in the history of the planet and the rest of the world 
obsesses about your strength. Albright’s approach to this dilemma was 
embodied in her famous comment to then-Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin 
Powell in 1995: "What are you saving this superb military for, Colin, if 
we can’t use it?" She consistently lobbied for the use of force -- 
threatening invasion of Haiti, bombing Milosevic to the negotiating 
table, levying and tightening sanctions all around the globe. When 
military adventures went awry, as in Somalia, the "firepower was 
insufficient." The failure to intervene in Rwanda? "My deepest regret." 
Did Albright worry much that an ever-more-activist America might 
encourage unhealthy dependency, sow global resentment, and create unholy 
temptation in the White House? Something close to the opposite: "For all 
the power of the United States," she laments at one point, "we were not 
able to dictate events."

full: http://www.reason.com/0405/cr.mw.temporary.shtml

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