Russia & US Abuse UN Veto Power

Inter Press Service February 27, 2024: How both Russia and the United States abuse their veto power at the United Nations
(Dr. Stephen Zunes is quoted midway).
Russia vs Ukraine and Israel vs Hamas—have exposed once again the stark reality that the UN, created 79 years ago to maintain international peace and security, has failed in its political mission – while its credibility is at stake. Russia is accused of violating the UN charter by invading a sovereign nation state and causing hundreds and thousands of deaths over two years — with no signs of a peaceful settlement. Accusations against Israel include war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and disproportionate killings of over 30,000 civilians, mostly women and children in Gaza, in retaliation for 1,200 killings by Hamas last October. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has taken a rightful stand on the two conflicts, has been criticized by both countries, with Israel calling for his resignation while ignoring his request for a meeting or a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. [Source]

NATO’s Rush to War in Yugoslavia

‘NATO’s Rush to War in Yugoslavia’, Peace Review 11:3 (Fall 1999): 447-454.

The United States-led war against Yugoslavia continued for more than ten weeks despite the many ways it could have been avoided or ended sooner, and despite the opposition and uneasiness it generated even among its initial supporters. This essay outlines some of the reasons why the war was wrong from a moral, legal and utilitarian perspective.

A Tragic Miscalculation

There is little hope that Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic’s cease fire overtures mount to anything significant. Indeed, he has largely won the war on the ground. By contrast, NATO bombs have done a lot of damage, but have little more to show.

Indeed, NATO’s bombing campaign against Yugoslavia tragically illustrates the limits of air power, however massive and well-coordinated, in achieving political goals. As many of those knowledgeable of the region predicted, the bombing has hardened the position of the Yugoslav government, marginalized Serbian moderates, and threatened the stability of neighboring countries. Most tragically, unable to effective challenge NATO air power, the Serbs have turned on those most vulnerable — the very Kosovar Albanians we were supposedly trying to protect.

There is little question that the NATO air strikes precipitated the ethnic cleansing and other Serbian atrocities against the Kosovar Albanian population. NATO claims otherwise, of course, but what else could they say? Admit that they made a mistake with untold tragic consequences? Milosevic may have indeed desired such ethnic cleansing all along. Yet, by ordering the evacuation of the unarmed monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, NATO gave him the opportunity. By bombing Yugoslavia, they gave him nothing to lose.

NATO seems to think that if bombing doesn’t work, just bomb some more. This is has nothing to do with stopping Serbian atrocities against the Kosvar Albanians. This is simply foreign policy by catharsis, an act of frustration. Destroying bridges in northern Yugoslavia and other attacks against the country’s civilian infrastructure will not stop the horrific ethnic cleansing hundreds of miles to the south. Escalating the bombing will only escalate the killing of Serbs and ethnic Albanians alike.

Milosevic’s power is based upon his manipulation of the Serbs’ historic sense of victimhood. Their songs and epic poems portray a willingness to be martyred for the fatherland. NATO bombing plays right into the dictator’s hands, strengthening his popular support and hardening his position as the bombing escalates and the civilian death toll rises. The country’s pro-democracy movement ( once the greatest hope for pluralism and tolerance ) has been set back by a decade or more. Ironically, the anti-Milosevic forces are centered in Belgrade and other urban areas which are the principal targets of the bombing.

Meanwhile, not only has the bombing precipitated the massacres and ethnic cleansing of Kosova Albanians, the bombing is destabilizing the region rather than stabilizing it. Macedonia’s delicate ethnic balance is threatened by the influx of ethnic Albanian refugees, Montenegro’s efforts and democratization in danger and Serb forces have lobbed shells into Albania, a poor country overwhlemed by their fleeing Kosavar brethren.

The bombing campaign has so little to show for it, some pundits are now justifying the continuation of air strikes largely on the grounds that is necessary to maintain NATO’s credibility. This appears to be cirular logic, however, because NATO’s continuation in the post-Cold War era is based in large part on its supposed need to to intervene in just such conflicts. The Clinton Administration, along with its NATO allies, are digging themselves into a deeper and deeper hole. Sending ground troops may be starting to look less politically risky than escalating an ineffectual and increasingly controversial bombing campaign. By the time forces are mobilized for such an assault, however, the Serbs may have reduced Kosovo to a wasteland.

Historians will likely see Clinton’s war against Yugoslavia as a bigger mark against his presidency than his impeachment. Ignoring the advice of virtually everyone familiar with the Balkans, he has led a NATO bombing campaign which has achieved the opposite of its stated goals and has no end in sight.

The best the United States and its allies can hope to do at this point is to arrange a cease fire on all sides where both the NATO bombing and the Serbian offensive in Kosovo stops. A beefed-up OSCE monitoring group could then be returned to Kosovo and the repatriation of refugees would begin. A new round of negotiations, which would include the Serbs of Kosovo, the Serbian church and other non-governmental organizations which could challenge the paramountcy of President Slobodan Milosevic.

In the meantime, NATO countries should provide for temporary political asylum for Serbian soldiers who refuse to support Milosevic’s war machine. The United States should increase its humanitarian aid, including paying back its debt to the United Nations, equivalent to only a few days of the air war, which has been crippling the relief efforts of the UN High Commission on Refugees. The Clinton Administration should support the democratic Serbs and Montenegrans challenging Milosevic’s ethnic chauvinism and militarism as well as the remaining Kosovar Albanians still favoring nonviolent resistance.

Ultimately, this tragic miscalculation may force us to critically re-evaluate the bipartisan consensus in Washington which still believes that preserving Cold War-era military alliances and military budgets really supports U.S. policy interests or promotes peace and stability in the world. Perhaps this would be the only good which might arise from this fiasco.

Bombing Is Not The Answer

The ongoing threats of NATO air strikes against Serbia to end the Milosevic regime’s repression against Kosovo’s Albanian majority is a prime example of the wrong policy at the wrong time.

The cause is certainly just: The Serbian authorities have imposed an apartheid-style system on the country’s ethnic Albanian majority and have severely suppressed cultural and political rights. However, this suppression has been ongoing since Milosevic revoked Kosovo’s autonomy in 1989. Until a year ago, the Kosovars waged their struggle nonviolently, using strikes, boycotts, peaceful demonstrations, and alternative institutions–indeed, it was one of the most widespread, comprehensive and sustained nonviolent campaigns since Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence earlier this century. However, the world chose to ignore the Kosovars’ nonviolent movement.

Only after a shadowy armed group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army emerged about a year ago did the world media, the Clinton Administration and other Western governments finally take notice.

By waiting for the emergence of a guerrilla group before seeking a solution, the West gave Slobodan Milosevic the opportunity to crack down with an even greater level of savagery than before. The delay has allowed the Kosovar movement to be taken over by armed ultra-nationalists who are far less ready to compromise or guarantee the rights of the Serbian minority in an autonomous or independent Kosovo.

It is a tragedy on which the West squandered a full eight years when preventative diplomacy could have worked. It has also given oppressed people around the world a very bad message: in order to get the West to pay attention to your plight, you need to take up arms.

There are problems with current NATO strategy that run deeper than its belated response to the problem.

The threatened bombing has led to the withdrawal of the unarmed OSCE monitors, which served as at least a partial deterrent to the worst Serb atrocities. As predicted, violence against the civilian population has dramatically increased with their departure. Unable to effectively challenged NATO air power, the Serbs will likely take their vengeance on the unarmed ethnic Albanian population should the bombing commence.

The root of the Kosovar crisis, as was the root of the Bosnian tragedy, is the extreme Serb ethno-nationalism that emerged from the collapse of Yugoslavia. The paranoid view of Serbia as a besieged, isolated, and threatened nation put forward by Milosevic and other Serbian demagogues has brought untold tragedy to a once peaceful–if mildly autocratic–multi-ethnic federated system. The best way to undermine such dangerous ideologues is through supporting the growth of a more pluralistic Serbian society, such as encouraging Serbia’s burgeoning pro-democracy movement.

Instead, the threat of military action only reinforces the Serb’s self-perception that they are a people under siege, playing right into the hands of Serbian ultranationalists.

Furthermore, as any authority on conflict resolution can attest, workable conflict resolution cannot come from a pre-packaged “settlement” imposed from the outside through threat of force. True conflict resolution can only come from the interested parties themselves. At best, an imposed Western formula on Kosovo will result in an uneasy truce in a badly divided society that will not heal the wounds, encourage democracy, or lead to real peace.

There are also questions about the Clinton administration’s motivations. One does not have to be a Serb apologist to wonder why the U.S. so forcefully pushes for the same rights for Kosovars in Serbia that they oppose for the similarly suppressed Kurds in Turkey. Indeed, the record of both the current and previous U.S. administrations of supporting repressive armies against occupied and indigenous peoples is scandalous.

This has led to uncharitable speculation that Clinton may be motivated less out of concern for human rights than by a desperate search for a post-cold war mission for NATO or perhaps even an effort to destroy what remains of Yugoslavia, one of the last European holdouts to an neo-liberal global order. This has prompted some on the American and European left to make an unfortunate alliance with Serbian ethno-fascists.

There are still other choices besides bombing and doing nothing.

There could be the deployment of a large-scale, unarmed multinational force to both monitor the situation and physically intervene to discourage bloodshed. Direct contact between the Albanian and Serbian communities within Kosovo could be facilitated to work out a settlement that would meet the legitimate needs of both. Greater support could be given to democratic forces within Serbia. A more creative and flexible, yet rigorous, enforcement of economic sanctions against Serbia could be imposed, as well as re-enforcing the arms embargo against both sides.

On the eve of a new century, the people of the United States and Europe should not be forced by their governments to choose between abandoning an entire people to terror and repression or the unwise utilization of military power.