What's America doing in Yugoslavia?
The Clinton Administration claims its aims are humanitarian. Cynics say the
real aim is to get at Eastern Europe's resources. America's real goals are much
more far reaching.
Humanitarian concerns on the part of the Clinton Administration and NATO can be
dismissed immediately. The NATO forces in less than two weeks of bombing doubled
the number of Kosovan refugees who had fled the country's turmoil over the previous
year. If helping these people were NATO's aim they would not have embarked on
the only course guraranteed to worsen their suffering.
At the same time it is too narrow to say that the US is really after the
Caucasian oil or Russian resources. In their boardrooms US monopoly
capitalists are doubtless drooling over the superprofits they can extract from
those regions, but I don't think Clinton and Co. -- the political leaders --
are consciously pursuing those aims directly.
I imagine that they think in terms of a "power vacuum" that has emerged in
Eastern Europe (including the former USSR) and they are eager to take
advantage of the weakness of the Russians to seize what they can now before
the Russians bounce back. Of course ideologically, they would be thinking in
terms of the expansion of "democracy" -- a notion which they regularly equate
with whatever the US wants.
This war is, in other words, a case of "Drang nach Osten" in the best Teutonic
tradition (even if Clinton is Scottish, Irish, English or whatever, by
descent). Throughout the Cold War the US thought in terms of power and power
vacuums and I believe that's still the leadership's mentality. They want to
extend the blessings of "freedom" i.e., the capitalist way of life, to
everybody AND insure that the profits from those blessings flow to American
banks safe and secure under NATO military protection from potential threats.
Whether military or diplomatic means can bring this off depends on the nature
of the resistance that the US encounters.
So a few weeks ago in Missouri, Madelaine Albright cried "Hallelulia" as NATO
bloodlessly conquered and annexed Czechia, Poland, and Hungary.
According to an Itar-TASS release of some days ago, Macedonia is eager to
speed up its entry into Nato, and reportedly Bulgaria is intent upon joining
the Atlantic Alliance too. In fact a Pravda dispatch yesterday (Friday, 16
April 1996) quoted a "social-ecological association" called the Antiwar
Committee regarding the potential threat that the US bombing poses to the
Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria near the Yugoslav border
(particularly since three stray bombs or missles have landed in Bulgaria since
the war began). Pravda quoted the ecology experts as noting that there is an
airfield near the reactor which is officially not being used by the
belligerents, but which villagers report has up to 30 planes landing and
taking off each night. So I suspect that Bulgaria's leadership is already
obliging the US, at considerable risk to its own population.
In addition, a couple weeks ago an Itar-TASS dispatch spoke of how Poland will
intercede on Lithuania's behalf at the 50th anniversary celebration of NATO in
Washington to get that Baltic country into the aggressive alliance. The Poles
and Lithuanians have already set up some joint military unit of a couple
hundred men, the release said. Interestingly, the unit's operational language
is to be English.
Finally, in other evidence of US fanatical expansionism, I read in today's
issue of the Lebanese paper as-Safir that one of Iran's leading clerics in his
Friday sermon yesterday, denounced plans for the US to set up a base in
Azerbaidzhan. Now, I hadn't heard about such plans but I know that the
Azerbaidzhan regime has been very cozy with the Turkish regime, and that means
with the US/NATO.
Put all this together and you get a real effort by the US to fill in by
whatever means in the places from which the USSR has pulled out. For various
reasons, some regimes are more accommodating to the US than others.
One reason for those regimes (bourgeois now, don't forget) could be plain old
money. The Macedonian leadership just before the latest war, severed ties
with China in order to recognize the militarized islet of Taiwan as the
representative of a billion Chinese. Was this move the result of
soul-searching on the part of Macedonian Asian specialists? Hardly. The
diplomatic regression was followed immediately by a big Taiwanese grant of
money to the impoverished Balkan nation.
(Incidentally, when Jordan's pretty new queen Rania visited Macedonia with a
bunch of money for the Kosovar refugees there, the Macedonian government
grabbed half of it, again according to a report in as-Safir! They must really
be strapped for cash!)
Obviously the nationalist government of Milosevic is not one of the more
accommodating regimes, as far as the US is concerned. The same goes for
Lukashenko in Byelorus'. He too has often been criticised for "human rights
violations." In US eyes, the "danger" of these "rogue regimes" that balk at
accepting American leadership is that they could pose as alternate sources of
power in their respective regions.
America wants to control the oil in the Middle East. That goes without
saying. But Iraq is a problem not because it might use its military might to
conquer Saudi Arabia but because a strong Arab regional power might embolden
other Arab regimes to take independent positions vis-a-vis Washington. The
prospect of this scared the shit out of the US in 1990. America was just
getting the dissintegrating Soviets out of the Middle East. The US was
looking forward to having a free hand in the Middle East (filling a new vacuum
there) and they were not about to let the "power vacuum" be filled by Iraq.
Hence the continuing war against Iraq, which in the form of a deadly embargo
has now killed off some two million Iraqis. Hence also the continued and
adamant US insistence upon a permanently disarmed Iraq.
As-Safir has brought out (perhaps as a subtle hint for those Arabs whose
Islamic sensibilities might sway them to support the cause of the Kosovars and
their American "allies") that Clinton, Albright and other US officials
continue to insist that they are against self-determination for Kosovo; that
they want autonomy for the Kosovar Albanians in a democratic Yugoslavia, and
more and more US officials talk about overthrowing Milosevic and even trying
him for war crimes.
Partly this is the typical demagogical technique of demonising your enemy;
personallising "him." It allows the extremely politically unaware American
public to "relate" to the war in ready-to-eat terms of who are the "good guys"
and who are the "bad guys". (I was in a book store the other day and saw the
cover of TIME magazine. Under Milosevic's portrait was the newsworthy
headline "The Face of Evil." Next on the magazine rack was Newsweek, I think,
which also sported a Milosevic picture. Its equally informative headline was
"Don't let the endgame be his." Obviously these are not news headlines but
poster slogans and the media are really stooping to new depths.)
But the personalisation of the conflict also allows the imperialists to insist
on the overthrow of leaders who, however democratic or popular they are or
aren't, have some sort of domestic power base. If the US succeeds in
overthrowing any of its demons -- as it did in Panama -- it will install some
pliant "democrat", i.e., someone who is ready to take orders from Washington,
(because, after all, who else is there for such a new leader to rely on?) The
Iraqi opposition bunch that met in London recently and plans more meetings
under US aegis in the US (and which has already got plans to train anti-Iraqi
commandos in Texas and in some Arabian Gulf country) have already committed
themselves to such things as "not being a threat to their neighbours" if and
when they take power. Concretely, this means letting the oil states
prostitute their unrenewable resource to the Americans without even a breath
of criticism AND making peace with "Israel." In other words, they are to act
as American political filling for the "power vacuum."
Milosevic is in the same boat with Saddam Husayn, another "monster" who must
be replaced to make the world "safe for democracy." The replacement of these
leaders by the US would signify another US/NATO conquest and would allow the
US to turn its attention to the next "monster" somewhere else -- in Byelorus',
Russia, India, China, . . . .
Ancilliary to filling "power vacuums" is the "need" for Washington to
strengthen itself in relation to its own NATO allies, so as to facilitate its
ongoing effort to impose what it calls democracy on the world. The US is no
longer so preemminently a predominant economic power, yet it remains the world
leader in the field of militarism. By dragging its pliant or naive European
allies along in this bloody campaign for "liberal democracy" in the Balkans,
it is accenting its armed strength at their economic expense. The dollar has
been doing well in international markets while the newborn Euro is in the
dumps due to the war. In addition, the Europeans will doubtless fork out lots
of funds to support the Kosovar refugees (whose numbers have more than doubled
since NATO began its mission to "save them") and must now amount to around a
million dependent souls. The American leaders do look out for their own
interests, like the good company board presidents that they are.
I recall it reported that the Gulf War of 1990-1991 was a net financial gain
for the US which had dunned all its allies for huge contributions for its
armed build up against Iraq, much of which never was actually used in the war
(or returned to the contributors). These funds remained on the American
ledgers as a plus.
As with all these events, this Balkan war is complex and has many angles. In
sum, though, I think it boils down to a US political-military effort to expand
its empire to include as much of the former socialist community as it can,
dividing and encircling what is left and threatening independent- minded third
world people in the bargain. The continued resistance of the Yugoslavs after
three and a half weeks under the bombs and the unyielding determination of the
Iraqis after nine years of crippling starvation and devastating air raids
offer some indication, however, that the US might be straining at the limits
of its power.
With revolutionary greetings!
18 April 1999