Resisting Stolen Elections: Lessons from the Philippines, Serbia, Ukraine, and Gambia

[ICNC October 23, 2020] Discussion has grown for months about how the upcoming U.S. election results could be contested and possibly subverted. No one knows for certain what will happen, but there are precedents we can learn from about how attempts to overturn election results have been stopped. Four cases in recent decades—one in Southeast Asia, one in Africa and the other two in Eastern Europe—involved an incumbent president or party attempting to steal an election only to have it reversed through large-scale nonviolent direct action. This article looks at these cases, and identifies key lessons. [FULL LINK]

Putin’s U.S. Defenders

The Progressive September 15, 2016
After experiencing decades of rightwing attacks for being “soft” on Moscow, progressives may be feeling a bit of whiplash as they witness prominent conservatives—with Donald Trump in the lead—heaping praise upon an autocratic Russian leader. Trump has praised President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who tolerates little dissent, for his “very strong control over a country.” Putin has returned the favor by strongly endorsing Trump.

The Good News and the Bad News About Turkey’s Attempted Coup

Huffington Post & CommonDreams.org July 19, 2016
The survival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Welfare Party of an attempted coup last week is a mixed blessing. Despite the ultra-conservative policies and creeping authoritarianism of the Erdogan regime, Turks from across the political spectrum opposed the coup, which was attempted by a faction of the Turkish military… The good news is the coup’s failure may be a sign that, for the first time in history, Turkey’s elected government has successfully imposed civilian rule over the military… The bad news is that the apparent success in resisting the military may not be used for democratic ends…

Turkey’s Creeping Authoritarianism: Is the Resistance Enough?

The Progressive May 13, 2016
   Turkey’s march towards authoritarianism took another dangerous turn this past week with the forced resignation of moderate Islamist Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, apparently at the insistence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Though constitutionally the Turkish prime minister wields executive authority and the president is largely a figurehead, Erdogan—who served as prime minister for eleven years before term limits forced him to step down in 2014—appears to still be in charge. And he is becoming ever more autocratic.

U.S. Leadership Against Russia Crippled By Its Own Hypocrisy

Foreign Policy In Focus September 15, 2014
[Republished by Common Dreams and Transnational.org]
   Washington’s major limitation towards Russia is not a lack of military leadership, but a lack of moral leadership. The fragile ceasefire between the U.S.-backed Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels could help pave the way to a peaceful resolution to the conflict—or simply postpone a worsening of the crisis. Unfortunately, Washington’s leadership of international efforts against Russian aggression has been severely compromised by its own hypocrisy and double standards.

Lessons from the Velvet Revolution

The 20th anniversary of the 1989 Velvet Revolution that overthrew the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia was one of the most impressive civil insurrections in history. It was not the military might of NATO, but the power of nonviolent action by ordinary citizens which brought down the system. The popular uprising against the repressive system that had ruled their country for much of the previous four decades — along with comparable movements, which came to the fore that year in Poland, Hungary and East Germany — marks a great triumph of the human spirit.

These movements were largely led by democratic socialists who mobilized workers, church people, intellectuals, and others to face down the tanks with their bare hands. Yet here in the United States, we are told that it was a result of President Reagan’s militarism and the supposed inherent superiority of capitalism. It is this false narrative that has played such a major role in shifting discourse to the right in subsequent decades and has been used to discredit those struggling for a more just and egalitarian economic system and a more sane and less imperialistic foreign policy.

President Reagan’s verbal support for democracy had little credibility in many of these countries. For example, while he denounced Poland’s martial law regime, he was a strong supporter of the more repressive martial law regime then in power in NATO ally Turkey and scores of other dictatorships. In challenging left-wing governments in the Third World, Reagan gave little credence to nonviolent action and instead backed insurgents with ties to U.S.-backed dictatorships and — in the case of Afghanistan — even Islamic fundamentalists.

While Reagan was certainly capable of inspirational leadership and personal charm, to claim that he is responsible for the downfall of Communism and the end of the Cold War is a disservice to the millions of Eastern Europeans and others who struggled against great odds for their freedom. For it was not American militarism, but massive nonviolent action — including strikes, boycotts, mass demonstrations, and other forms of noncooperation — which finally brought down these Communist regimes. Indeed, the Charter 77 movement in Czechoslovakia and the Solidarity movement in Poland emerged during the period of U.S.-Soviet détente prior to Reagan taking office.

It is very much in the interest of those in the foreign policy establishment to downplay the role of ordinary citizens making revolutionary change. The overthrow of the Soviet-styled Communist regimes of Eastern Europe were part of the pro-democracy movements that were also then sweeping Latin America and parts of Africa and Asia during this same period. Nonviolent “people power” movements similar to those in Eastern Europe were then bringing down a series of U.S.-backed dictatorships in the Philippines, Chile, Bolivia, Haiti, Mali, and elsewhere. In more recent years, such nonviolent pro-democracy struggles have triumphed in Indonesia, Serbia, the Maldives, Ukraine, Nepal, and other countries.

As with these other successful nonviolent revolutions, the Eastern European struggles were for freedom, not capitalism. While the post-Communist Polish government forced adoption of neo-liberal shock therapy, Solidarity’s original manifesto called for worker control of industry, a far more authentic version of socialism than the bureaucratic authoritarianism of the supposed “worker’s state” that resulted. The leading dissidents in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary also came out of the democratic left.

For this reason, there was little support in Washington for the bearded counter-culture dissidents of Eastern Europe, whose Western mentors were more likely to be John Lennon and Frank Zappa than Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Following a meeting with leading Hungarian dissidents in July of 1989, President George H.W. Bush told his aides, “There really aren’t the right guys to be running the place.” Rather than back the socialist intellectuals of Poland’s Workers’ Defense Committee and other pro-Solidarity groups, Bush encouraged Wojciech Jaruzelski — the general who had seized power in the 1981 coup, declared martial law, banned Solidarity and jailed hundreds of leading dissidents — to run for president in the semi-free 1989 elections, all in the interest of “stability.”

Rather than being inspired by Reagan’s call to “tear down that wall” or a desire to emulate Western-style consumerism, the weakness of the Soviet-style system itself accelerated its demise. A centralized command economy can have its advantages at a certain phase of industrialization, when large “smokestack industries” — from machine tools to tanks — dominate manufacturing. Such a system, for a time, made the Soviets a formidable military power, but was totally incapable of satisfying consumer demand. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s famous line in the late 1950s that “we will bury you” was not a threat of war, but a reflection that — over the past few decades up to that time — the Soviet economy was growing faster than its Western capitalist counterparts and was projected to surpass that of the West within a couple of decades.

However, as the new wave of industrialization based upon information technologies took off, the economy of the Eastern Bloc stagnated. Totalitarian systems cannot survive without being able to control access to information, with serious cracks in the system becoming apparent as early as the 1970s. The only nominally communist governments that still exist are those like China and Vietnam, whose economies have largely gone capitalist, and Cuba, which has decentralized and democratized segments of its economy.

Even these inherent weaknesses of their system would not have been enough to have caused them to collapse, however. They needed to be pushed. It took the general strikes, the popular contestation of public space, and other forms of massive non-cooperation to make these countries fundamentally ungovernable and force the regimes to their knees.

Nor were Reagan’s military buildup and bellicose threats against the Soviets a factor. Indeed, such threats may have allowed these regimes to hold on to power even longer as people rallied to support the government in the face of the perceived external threat from the U.S. High Soviet military spending, in part as a reaction to the American military buildup which began in the latter half of the Carter Administration, certainly hurt their economy, as it did (and is still doing) ours. This was, however, a minor factor at most.

Indeed, none of the extensive archival evidence that has emerged in the past 20 years gives any indication that the United States can take any credit (or blame) for the events of 1989. As Timothy Garton Ash, the most respected Western chronicler of that period notes, “the United States’ contribution lay mainly in what it did not do.”

Instead of using the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall as a rationalization for global capitalism, the supposed triumph of the neo-liberal Washington consensus, and a celebration of Cold War militarism, the real lesson from that autumn is that civil society utilizing mass strategic nonviolent action has the power to bring down an oppressive hegemonic order.

Perhaps this is something that needs to be emulated here as well.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/lessons-from-the-velvet-r_b_366054.html

Serbia: 10 Years Later

Since the end of the U.S.-led war against Serbia, the country is slowly emerging from the wars of the 1990s. Despite lingering problems, Serbs appear to be more optimistic about their country’s future than they have for decades. The United States deserves little credit for the positive developments, however, and a fair amount of blame for the country’s remaining problems.

There have been elements of both the left and the right who have perpetuated a myth of American omnipotence, that the United States is somehow responsible for virtually all the good or evil in the world and that the millions of people who engage in political struggle, legitimate or otherwise, are simply pawns of great powers who have no role in their own destiny. Such myths in relation to what was Yugoslavia are still heard today. In reality, the U.S. role in the recent political history of Serbia, like the recent political history of the Balkans overall, is more complicated than it first appears.

While Serbian war-crimes against the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo in the late 1990s were all too real, the 11-week NATO bombing campaign was immoral, illegal, and unnecessary. The most serious atrocities, such as the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians, took place only after the bombing began. The United States and other Western powers could have pursued diplomatic options that likely would have ended the repression without resorting to war.

Among the many misleading statements of the Clinton administration and its supporters before, during, and after the war, the most absurd was that the U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign made possible Serbia’s nonviolent democratic revolution a year-and-a-half later. In fact, a large and active nonviolent movement challenged Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and his alliance with right-wing ultra-nationalists on several occasions during the 1990s. This movement, led by young people whose lives were shattered by the Serbian regime’s endless wars, supported a more pluralistic and democratic Yugoslavia, and an end to human rights abuses against both Serbs and non-Serbs. In the winter of 1996-97, for example, a mass nonviolent movement almost succeeded in overthrowing Milosevic, but it got no help or encouragement from Western government. Indeed, Richard Holbrooke, the Clinton administration’s point man for the Balkans and architect for the Dayton Accords, was among those who pressured Clinton to back Milosevic as a stabilizing influence in the region. The Serbian government crushed the pro-democracy movement (ironically, Holbrooke, who is now Obama’s special emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan, later became one of the most virulent supporters of the war two years later).

In 1999, a re-energized student-led pro-democracy movement, coalescing around a group called Otpor (“Resistance”), had emerged. Despite efforts by Milosevic to depict the opposition as Western agents, the vast majority of students involved were actually left-of-center nationalists, motivated by opposition to their government’s increasing corruption and authoritarianism. Once the United States launched airstrikes against their country, however, they suspended their anti-government activities and joined their compatriots in opposing the NATO bombing.

The U.S.-led war gave the Milosevic regime an excuse to jail, drive underground, or force into exile many leading pro-democracy activists, shutting down their independent media and seriously curtailing their public activities. Journalists were not exempt: Milosevic’s secret police murdered Slavko Curuvija, publisher of the independent Dnevni Telegraf, soon after the bombing campaign began. Most of the population, meanwhile, rallied around the flag.

Ironically, NATO bombs targeted urban areas that were mostly anti-Milosevic. Air raids struck parts of northern Serbia in the autonomous region of Vojvodina, including areas where ethnic Serbs were a minority. NATO planes also struck the Republic of Montenegro, the junior partner in the Yugoslavia federation, setting back its efforts at becoming closer to the West and more independent from Serbia. Though U.S. officials claimed that the bombing would encourage defections in the military and possibly help bring down the regime, NATO members refused to grant even temporary asylum to Serbian draft resisters and deserters.

Fortunately, a year and half later, pro-democracy forces led by Otpor was able to regroup and — when Milosovic tried to steal the election in October 2000 — a massive wave of nonviolent action succeeded in driving him from power. The people of Serbia were able to do nonviolently what 11 weeks of NATO bombs could not. As with the democratic revolutions that swept Eastern Europe in 1989, it wasn’t the military prowess of the western alliance bringing freedom to an Eastern European country, but the power of nonviolent action by the subjugated peoples themselves.

Unfortunately, through both appeasement and war, the United States allowed Milosevic to remain in power far longer than he would have otherwise. As Milosevic’s nationalist successor Vojislav Kostunica put it, “The Americans assisted Milosevic not only when they supported him, but also when they attacked him. In a way, Milosevic is an American creation.”

U.S. Role in Serbia’s Political Transition

The Serbian opposition, on the other hand, was not an American creation. Rather than being American puppets, the Otpor leadership, as well as the political parties that have dominated Serbia subsequently, protested against the 1999 bombing of their country. They have stridently opposed Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and carry enormous resentment over U.S. policy in the region over the past couple of decades.

A number of Western NGOs, some of which received some funding from the U.S. State Department and Western European governments, provided a limited amount of financial support for Otpor and other opposition groups. These funds helped them purchase computers, fax machines, and other equipment, and covered costs for printing and other necessities. The limited contact Otpor leaders had with U.S. officials both before and after the overthrow of Milosevic, however, revealed to them an incredible lack of understanding of the dynamics of nonviolent action and the nature of their particular struggle. While they were willing to accept some Western funds during that period, they doggedly kept to their own agenda and priorities, rejecting offers of advice or more direct assistance.

Western governments also helped fund poll-watchers to observe the presidential elections. When official counts of these elections proved fraudulent, an unarmed revolt erupted that forced Milosevic out of power within days.

While such Western aid was certainly useful in Otpor’s growth and development and in helping to expose the election fraud, it wasn’t critical to the movement’s success. Rather, it was Otpor’s message — developed by the young student leaders at its helm — that captured the imagination of a Serbian population angered by years of war, corruption, oppression, and international isolation. And there was no outside support or facilitation for the October uprising itself, which actually took Western leaders by surprise.

Indeed, Otpor’s leaders tended to be decidedly left-of-center Serbian nationalists who opposed the policies not only of the Milosevic regime and the U.S. government but of the traditional opposition parties as well. The success of the populist groundswell they generated forced the once-feuding opposition groups to unite behind a single opposition candidate, a move that made Milosevic’s defeat in the election possible. When the incumbent tried to steal the election, they were able to organize the successful uprising that forced the election results to be honored. As the Times of Great Britain describes it, rather than being part of some kind of Western plot, Otpor was inspired by the “situationists of 1968 Paris, Martin Luther King, the writings of the nonviolent resistance guru Gene Sharp and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Echoing those who insisted that Ronald Reagan was somehow responsible for the democratic revolutions that swept Eastern Europe in 1989, some supporters of the 1999 war on Yugoslavia have tried to claim that Bill Clinton deserves credit for Milosevic’s ouster 18 months later. Neither the U.S. president’s leadership nor NATO’s vast arsenal was responsible for Serbia’s dramatic transition. Credit belongs solely to the people who faced down the tanks with the bare hands — in Serbia as well as elsewhere in the region.

Strongly nationalist parties dominated the Serbian government in the years immediately after the ouster of Milosevic and immediately clashed with Washington over extradition requests, economic issues and the status of Kosovo. Despite the recent election of a government dominated by more liberal parties, relations between Serbia and the United States remain tense, particularly over the U.S. recognition of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence last year. The Socialist Party — descendents of Marshall Tito’s partisans who established communist rule in Yugoslavia 65 years ago — has kicked out the remaining Milosevic supporters from its leadership, split with the right-wing ultra-nationalists with whom Milosevic had allied, and is now part of the current coalition government.

With the success of the democratic revolution, Otpor was unable to sustain itself as an independent movement and eventually dissolved. In 2002, some of Otpor’s former leaders founded the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). This independent NGO disseminated the lessons learned from their successful nonviolent struggle through scores of trainings and workshops for pro-democracy activists and others around the world, including Egypt, Palestine, Western Sahara, West Papua, Eritrea, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Burma and Zimbabwe as well as labor, anti-war, and immigration rights activists in the United States.

CANVAS leaders such as Srdja Popovic and Ivan Marovic have advised pro-democracy activists against taking money from U.S.-funded agencies such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as they did while in Otpor. Recognizing how autocratic regimes can use such funding to discredit opposition movements, Popovic and Marovic have criticized NED and similar groups as undermining pro-democracy struggles around the world, due to what they see as its political agenda on behalf of the U.S. government. They remain harsh critics of U.S. imperialism, repeatedly denouncing U.S military intervention in Serbia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as U.S. support for armed rebel groups around the world. Popovic — whose mother narrowly escaped death when U.S. forces bombed her building in 1999 — was among the CANVAS trainers for the pro-democracy movement in the Maldives prior to their victorious struggle against the autocratic U.S.-backed regime of Mahmoud Gayoom. He recently returned to the archipelago to support an effort to rescind the government’s recognition of Kosovo, during which it was revealed that government’s decision had been influenced by a $2 million bribe.

Ironically, scores of leftist websites have posted articles insisting that Popovic, Marovic, and their comrades in Otpor were simply tools of the CIA, and that their subsequent work with human rights activists through CANVAS was part of a sinister Bush administration effort at “regime change.” Along with the ongoing rationalizations for Serbian repression in Kosovo during the 1990s, such arguments revealed a profound ignorance of the complex realities of Serbian politics.

The U.S. Role in Serbia’s Economic Transition

Though the U.S. role in Serbia’s political transition was quite limited, U.S. pressure on Serbia to complete its economic transition was more direct.

The initial wave of privatization of Yugoslavia’s socialist economy, which commenced in 1990 under the leadership of Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic, largely divided shares among the workers rather than simply selling them off to private capitalists. These efforts ground to a halt within a couple years, as Milosevic and his clique realized they had little to gain. The imposition of Western sanctions in 1992 in reaction to the outbreak of war did little to limit the war-making ability of Serb forces or the material comfort of Milosevic and allied elites. The sanctions did, however, enrich his coterie of wealthy supporters who profited from the resulting black market. During the sanctions period, Milosevic initiated a second wave of privatization that essentially transferred public wealth to a small group of his cronies, allowing management of enterprises still under formal state ownerships to divert much of their capital and assets to parallel private enterprises. Some of the beneficiaries of this massive scam remain among the richest people in Serbia.

During the war 10 years ago, Clinton and other NATO leaders were clear that a major goal in the war was ending what they saw as one of the last holdouts in Europe to the neo-liberal economic order. As a former banker, Milosevic had been backed by the West earlier in his political career as someone who could guide Yugoslavia in that direction, but it was clear by 1999 that he was unwilling to play by the West’s rules. In his book Collision Course: NATO, Russia, and Kosovo (Praeger 2005), John Norris, who served as communications director for Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott during the war, wrote, “It was Yugoslavia’s resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform — not the plight of the Kosovar Albanians — that best explains NATO’s war.”

The third wave of privatization took place after the fall of Milosevic in 2000. Serbia’s new democratic government found itself under enormous foreign debt, with much of its industrial infrastructure in ruins. The United States and its allies bombed more than 300 state-owned factories and other publicly controlled industrial facilities, but didn’t target a single privately owned enterprise. Under pressure from the United States and international financial institutions, Serbia sold off most of the damaged factories for far less than their actual worth to local tycoons and foreign corporations.

Resistance to the Western model of globalization in most parts of the world has been led by progressive forces demanding a new more democratic and egalitarian order. In Serbia, however, resistance to the West was led by right-wing nationalists, reactionary clerics, corrupt magnates and bureaucrats unwilling to subject their ill-gotten gains to regulatory oversight. As a result, many Serbs were not prepared to resist this kind of encroachment. Many on the Serbian left welcomed the rise of liberal capitalism as an improvement over the crony capitalism under Milosevic. Similarly, whatever the limits of the Western European model, most Serbs viewed it as far more progressive than the reactionary ultra-nationalism of Milosevic and his allies. Still, the country is plagued by corruption, high unemployment, and growing inequality. Many Serbs on the left see integration into the European Union as perhaps the best they can realistically hope for at this point, and have allied themselves with pro-Europe liberals against the nationalist right.

And while privatization of the public enterprises was not the goal of Otpor and most of the pro-democracy activists, the democratic governments that they helped bring to power were given little choice. Western governments, the World Bank, and other Western-dominated international financial institutions offered desperately needed international aid and trade to revive the war-battered economy but at a price: namely, the country’s financial independence. The people of Serbia had found that the departing dictatorship and the damage from a two-and-a-half-month bombing campaign had left their country in such desperate financial shape that the trade-off of political freedom was economic dependency.

As with many other new democracies that have emerged elsewhere in recent decades, Serbs could now freely elect their own leaders. But these leaders would be subjected to the dictates of Western capital. Still, the Serbs’ history of resistance against both the forces of Western imperialism and reactionary ultra-nationalism leaves hope that a more progressive and democratic Serbia will emerge.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/serbia_10_years_later

The War on Yugoslavia, 10 Years Later

It has been 10 years since the U.S.-led war on Yugoslavia. For many leading Democrats, including some in top positions in the Obama administration, it was a “good” war, in contrast to the Bush administration’s “bad” war on Iraq. And though the suffering and instability unleashed by the 1999 NATO military campaign wasn’t as horrific as the U.S. invasion of Iraq four years later, the war was nevertheless unnecessary and illegal, and its political consequences are far from settled.

Unless there’s a willingness to critically re-examine the war, the threat of another war in the name of liberal internationalism looms large.

Crisis Could Have Been Prevented

Throughout most of the 1990s, the oppressed ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo waged their struggle almost exclusively nonviolently, using strikes, boycotts, peaceful demonstrations, and alternative institutions. The Kosovar Albanians even set up a democratically elected parallel government to provide schooling and social services, and to press their cause to the outside world. Indeed, it was one of the most widespread, comprehensive, and sustained nonviolent campaigns since Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence. This was the time for Western powers to have engaged in preventative diplomacy. However, the world chose to ignore the Kosovars’ nonviolent movement and resisted consistent pleas by the moderate Kosovar Albanian leadership to take action. It was only after a shadowy armed group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army emerged in 1998 that the international media, the Clinton administration and other Western governments finally took notice.

By waiting for the emergence of guerrilla warfare before seeking a solution, the West gave Serbia’s autocratic president Slobodan Milosevic the opportunity to crack down with an even greater level of savagery than before. The delay allowed the Kosovar movement to be taken over by armed ultra?nationalists, who have since proven to be far less willing to compromise or guarantee the rights of the Serbian minority. Indeed, the KLA murdered Serb officials and ethnic Albanian moderates, destroyed Serbian villages, and attacked other minority communities, while some among its leadership called for ethnic cleansing in the other direction to create a pure Albanian state. Despite such practices, as well as ties to the international heroin trade, it was KLA’s leadership which came to dominate the subsequent autonomous and now independent Republic of Kosovo.

It’s a tragedy that the West squandered a full eight years when preventative diplomacy could have worked. The United States rejected calls for expanding missions set up by the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo, or to bring Kosovo constituencies together for negotiations. Waiting for a full-scale armed insurrection to break out before acting has also given oppressed people around the world a very bad message: Nonviolent methods will fail and, in order to get the West to pay attention to your plight, you need to take up arms.

When Western powers finally began to take decisive action on the long-simmering crisis in the fall of 1998, a ceasefire was arranged where the OSCE sent in unarmed monitors. While the ceasefire didn’t hold, violence did decrease dramatically in areas where they were stationed. Indeed, the OSCE monitors could have done a lot more, but they were given little support. They were largely untrained, they were too few in number and NATO refused to supply them with helicopters, night-vision binoculars or other basic equipment that could have made them more effective.

Ceasefire violations by the Yugoslav army, Serbian militias, and KLA guerrillas increased in the early months of 1999, including a number of atrocities against ethnic Albanians by Serbian units, with apparent acquiescence of government forces. Western diplomatic efforts accelerated, producing the proposal put forward at the Chateau Rambouillet in France, which called for the withdrawal of Serbian forces and the restoration of Kosovo’s autonomous status within a greater Serbia. Such a political settlement was quite reasonable, and the Serbs appeared willing to seriously consider such an agreement. But it was sabotaged by NATO’s insistence that they be allowed to send in a large armed occupation force into Kosovo, along with rights to move freely without permission throughout the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and other measures that infringed on the country’s sovereignty. Another problem was that it was presented essentially as a final document, without much room for negotiations. One of the fundamental principles of international conflict resolution is that all interested parties are part of the peace process. Some outside pressure may be necessary — particularly against the stronger party — to secure an agreement, but it can’t be presented as a fait accompli. This “sign this or we’ll bomb you” attitude also doomed the diplomatic initiative to failure. Few national leaders, particularly a nationalist demagogue like Milosevic, would sign an agreement under such terms, which amount to a treaty of surrender: Allowing foreign forces free reign of your territory and issuing such a proposal as an ultimatum.

Smarter and earlier diplomacy could have prevented the war.

The Bombing Campaign

Many liberals who had opposed U.S. military intervention elsewhere recognized the severity of the ongoing oppression of the Kosovar Albanians and the need to challenge Serbian ethno-fascism, and therefore initially supported the war. Had such military intervention led to an immediate withdrawal of Yugoslav forces and Serbian militias, one could perhaps make a case that, despite the war’s illegality, there was a moral imperative for military action in order to prevent far greater violence. But, as many experts of the region predicted, this wasn’t the case.

The bombing campaign, which began March 24, 1999, clearly made things worse for the Kosovar Albanians. Not only were scores of ethnic Albanians accidentally killed by NATO bombing raids, but the Serbs — unable to respond to NATO air attacks — turned their wrath against the most vulnerable segments of the population: the very Kosovar Albanians NATO claimed it would be defending. While the Serbs may have indeed been planning some sort of large-scale forced removal of the population in areas of KLA infiltration, both the scale and savagery of the Serbian repression that resulted was undoubtedly a direct consequence of NATO actions. Subsequent U.S. claims that the bombing was in response to ethnic cleansing turns the reality on its head.

By forcing the evacuation of the OSCE monitors, which — despite their limitations — were playing something of a deterrent role against the worst Serbian atrocities, NATO gave the Serbs the opportunity to increase their repression. By bombing Yugoslavia, they gave the Serbs nothing to lose. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians were forced from their homes into makeshift refugee camps in neighboring Macedonia.

As the bombing continued, the numbers of Serbian troops in Kosovo increased and the repression of Kosovar Albanians dramatically escalated. Those doing the killing in Kosovo were primarily small paramilitary groups, death squads, and police units that couldn’t have effectively been challenged by high-altitude bombing, and weren’t affected by the destruction of bridges or factories hundreds of miles to the north. If protecting the lives of Kosovar Albanians was really the motivation for the U.S.-led war, President Bill Clinton would have sent in Marine and Special Forces units to battle the Serbian militias directly instead of relying exclusively on air power.

The war against Yugoslavia was illegal. Any such use of force is a violation of the UN Charter unless in self-defense against an armed attack or authorized by the United Nations as an act of collective security. Kosovo was internationally recognized as part of Serbia; it was, legally speaking, an internal conflict. In addition, the democratically elected president of the self-proclaimed, if unrecognized, Kosovar Albanian Republic, Ibrahim Rugova, didn’t request such intervention. Indeed, he opposed it.

The war was also illegal under U.S. law. The Constitution places war-making authority under the responsibility of Congress. While it’s widely recognized that the president, as commander-in-chief, has latitude in short-term emergencies, the 1973 War Powers Act prevents the executive branch from waging war without the express consent of Congress beyond a 60-day period. Only rarely has Congress formally declared war, but it has passed resolutions supporting the use of force, as with the August 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution concerning Vietnam, the January 1991 approval of the use of force to remove Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait, and the October 2002 authorization for the invasion of Iraq. Clinton, however, received no such congressional approval. That he got away with such a blatant abuse of executive authority marked a dangerous precedent in war-making authority in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The 11-week bombing campaign resulted in the widespread destruction of Yugoslavia’s civilian infrastructure, the killing of many hundreds of civilians, and — as a result of bombing chemical factories, the use of depleted uranium ammunition and more — caused serious environmental damage. Far more Yugoslav civilians died from NATO bombing than did Kosovar Albanian civilians from Serb forces prior to the onset of the bombing. A number of human rights groups that condemned Serbian actions in Kosovo also criticized NATO attacks that, in addition to the more immediate civilian casualties, endangered the health and safety of millions of people by disrupting water supplies, sewage treatment, and medical services.

U.S. Motivations

There are serious questions regarding what actually prompted the United States and NATO to make war on Yugoslavia. While the Serbian nationalism espoused by Milosevic had fascistic elements, and his government and allied militias certainly engaged in serious war crimes throughout the Balkans that decade, comparisons to Hitler were hyperbolic, certainly in terms of the ability to threaten any nation beyond the borders of the old Yugoslavia.

As today, there was civil strife in a number of African countries during this period, resulting in far more deaths and refugees than Serbia’s repression in Kosovo. As a result, some have questioned U.S. double standards towards intervention such as why the United States didn’t intervene in far more serious humanitarian crises, particularly in Rwanda in 1994, where there clearly was an actual genocide in progress.

But a more salient question is why the United States has never been held accountable for when it has intervened — in support of the oppressors. In recent decades, the U.S. government provided military, economic, and diplomatic support of Indonesia’s slaughter of hundreds of thousands of East Timorese, and of Guatemala’s slaughter of many tens of thousands of its indigenous people.

While Clinton tried to justify the war by declaring that repression and ethnic cleansing must not be allowed to happen “on NATO’s doorstep,” he was not only quite willing to allow for comparable repression to take place within NATO itself, but actively supported it: During the 1990s, Turkey’s denial of the Kurds’ linguistic and cultural rights, rejection of their demands of autonomy, destruction of thousands of villages, killing of thousands of civilians and forced removal of hundreds of thousands bore striking resemblance to Serbia’s repression in Kosovo. Yet the Clinton administration, with bipartisan congressional support, continued to arm the Turkish military and defended its repression.

Such questions necessarily raise uncharitable speculation about what might have actually motivated the United States to lead such a military action. For some advocates of U.S. military intervention, there was no doubt some genuine humanitarian concern, which — unlike many other cases around the world — support for those being oppressed didn’t conflict with overriding U.S. strategic or economic prerogatives. There may have been other forces at work, however, which saw the use of force as advantageous for other reasons than a sincere, if misplaced, hope of assuaging a humanitarian crisis.

For example, the war created a raison d’être for the continued existence of NATO in a post-Cold War world, as it desperately tried to justify its continued existence and desire for expansion (This resulted in a kind of circular logic however: NATO was still needed to fight in wars like Yugoslavia, yet the war needed to be continued in order to preserve NATO’s credibility.).

The war also benefitted influential weapons manufacturers, leading to an increase in U.S. military spending by more than $13 billion, largely for weapons systems that most strategic analysts and even the Pentagon said weren’t needed. This came on top of an increase in military spending passed before the onset of the war (By contrast, aid from the United States to help with the refugee crisis was very limited, and efforts by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees were severely hampered by lack of funds, in large part a result of the refusal by the United States to pay more than $1 billion in dues it then owed to the UN, equivalent to approximately one week of bombing.).

Whatever its actual motivations, why would the United States lead NATO into a long, drawn-out war with no guarantee of fulfilling its objectives, given the real political risks involved? Much of the problem may have been that of arrogance. There’s a fair amount of evidence to suggest that the Clinton administration falsely assumed the threat of bombing would lead to a last-minute capitulation by Milosevic, but, having made the threat, felt obligated to follow through.

Even after the bombing began and Finnish and Russian mediators began working on a ceasefire agreement, greater U.S. flexibility regarding Serbian concerns could have brought the war to an end much sooner. What a number of NATO members suggested, but the Clinton administration refused to consider, was to agree that the postwar peacekeeping force in Kosovo be placed under the control of the UN or the OSCE. Instead, the United States insisted that peacekeeping should be a NATO operation.

This effectively would have forced the nationalistic Serbs into accepting demands that a part of their country effectively be placed under occupation by the same military alliance that attacked them. As a result, despite suffering ongoing death and destruction, the Serbs continued fighting. The Clinton administration, meanwhile, seemed more intent on dominating the postwar order politically and militarily than agreeing to a ceasefire which could have prevented further bloodshed and allowed refugees to return sooner.

Eventually, a compromise was reached whereby the peacekeeping troops sent into Kosovo following a Serb withdrawal would primarily consist of NATO forces, but under UN command.

Perhaps the greatest myth of the war was that the Serbs surrendered and NATO won. In reality, not only was there a compromise on the makeup of postwar peacekeeping forces, but the final peace agreement also omitted the most objectionable sections of the Rambouillet proposal and more closely resembled the counter-proposal put forward by the Serbian parliament prior to the bombing. In other words, rather than being a NATO victory as it has been repeatedly portrayed by Washington and much of the American media, it was at best a draw.

Ramifications of the War

The war had serious consequences besides death and destruction in Serbia and Kosovo. One of the original justifications was to prevent a broader war, yet it was the bombing campaign that destabilized the region to a greater degree than Milosevic’s campaign of repression. It emboldened ethnic Albanian chauvinists, not just in Kosovo where they have come to dominate, but in the neighboring country of Macedonia and its restive ethnic Albanian minority, which has twice taken up arms in the past 10 years against the Slavic majority.

At the NATO summit in April 1999, the member states approved a structure for “non-Article 5 crisis response,” essentially a euphemism for war (Article 5 of the NATO charter provides for collective self-defense; non-Article 5 refers to an offensive military action like Yugoslavia.). According to the document, such an action could take place anywhere on the broad periphery of NATO’s realm, such as North Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia, essentially paving the way for NATO’s ongoing war in Afghanistan. This expanded role for NATO wasn’t approved by any of the respective countries’ legislatures, raising serious questions about democratic civilian control over military alliances.

Furthermore, the U.S.-led NATO war on Yugoslavia helped undermine the United Nations Charter and thereby paved the way for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, perhaps the most flagrant violation of the international legal order by a major power since World War II.

The occupation by NATO troops of Serbia’s autonomous Kosovo region, and the subsequent recognition of Kosovar independence by the United States and a number of Western European powers, helped provide Russia with an excuse to maintain its large military presence in Georgia’s autonomous South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions, and to recognize their unilateral declarations of independence. This, in turn, led to last summer’s war between Russia and Georgia.

Indeed, much of the tense relations between the United States and Russia over the past decade can be traced to the 1999 war on Yugoslavia. Russia was quite critical of Serbian actions in Kosovo and supported the non-military aspects of the Rambouillet proposals, yet was deeply disturbed by this first military action waged by NATO. Indeed, the war resulted in unprecedented Russian anger towards the United States, less out of some vague sense of pan-Slavic solidarity, but more because it was seen as an act of aggression against a sovereign nation. The Russians had assumed NATO would dissolve at the end of the Cold War. Instead, not only has NATO expanded, it went to war over an internal dispute in a Slavic Eastern European country. This stoked the paranoid fear of many Russian nationalists that NATO may find an excuse to intervene in Russia itself. While in reality this is extremely unlikely, the history of invasions from the West no doubt strengthened the hold of Vladimir Putin and other semi-autocratic nationalists, setting back reform efforts, political liberalization, and disarmament.

The war also had political repercussions here in the United States. On Capitol Hill, it created what became known as an “aviary conundrum,” where traditional hawks became doves and doves became hawks. It provided a precedent of Democratic lawmakers supporting an illegal war and allowing for extraordinary executive power to wage war, with which the Bush administration was able to fully take advantage in leading the country into its debacle in Iraq.

The presence of large-scale human rights abuses, as was occurring in Kosovo under Serb rule, shouldn’t force concerned citizens in the United States and other countries into the false choice of supporting war and doing nothing. This tragic conflict should further prove that, moral and legal arguments aside, military force is a very blunt and not very effective instrument to promote human rights, and that bloated military budgets and archaic military alliances aren’t the way to bring peace and security. As long as such “conflict resolution” efforts are placed exclusively in the hands of governments, there will be a propensity towards war. Only when global civil society seizes the initiative and recognizes the power of strategic nonviolent action, and the necessity of preventative diplomacy, can there be hope that such conflicts can be resolved peacefully.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/the_war_on_yugoslavia_10_years_later

Mauritania’s coup is a setback for democracy

By Stephen Zunes and Hardy Merriman

The overthrow in August of what arguably constituted the most democratic government in the Arab world marks a serious setback in Africa as well as the Middle East.

There had been great expectations for Mauritania when the country had its first free elections in 2006. As one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world and, as with many other African countries, its boundaries and nationhood largely an artificial creation of European colonial powers, Mauritania fanned hopes that if democracy could take hold there, it could triumph anywhere.

Mauritania’s elected government under President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi proved a disappointment in many ways, with widespread corruption and factional disputes with parliament. What brought down the government, however, was the all-too-familiar scourge faced by many nascent democracies: the coup d’état.

Whatever the failures of President Abdallahi’s administration, history has shown that military coups against an unpopular leader, even when the generals claim the best of intentions, tend to create more problems than they solve. Furthermore, there are far more democratic means of holding leaders accountable.

Coups tend to concentrate power among a small number of individuals and therefore make it more difficult for the people to hold their government or military accountable. When military officers have taken the risk to launch a coup, they often feel entitled to exercise state power themselves. For example, in Mauritania, a puppet civilian State Council announced by the putschists never materialized, leaving no formal checks and balances available to hold the new military leadership accountable.

Furthermore, in violating international norms by taking over a government by force, coup plotters usually require the support of a foreign power, thereby compromising their country’s sovereignty. In the case of Mauritania, its powerful neighbor Morocco,­ where coup leader Gen. Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz received his training, ­appears to be backing the military takeover. Such support can hardly be reassuring for Mauritanians, since the U.S.-backed Moroccan monarchy for many years claimed Mauritania as Moroccan territory and has invaded and occupied the neighboring country of Western Sahara, on which it had made similar territorial claims.

Finally, coups set a terrible precedent for future transitions of power. As we have seen in Haiti, Thailand and a number of African countries, once coups are established as the de facto method of power transfer, they are far more likely to continue in the future. In Mauritania, the military takeover of Aug. 6 has shattered the dreams of Mauritanians who wanted political change in their country to take place through free elections, not just the force of arms.

There are better ways to hold corrupt and inept leaders accountable. If circumstances make it impossible for a population to exercise their will through free and fair elections, there is the option of massive civil resistance. In such countries as the Philippines in 1986, Bolivia in 1981, Serbia in 2000, Mali in 1991, Chile in 1988, Czechoslovakia in 1989 and Ukraine in 2004, corrupt and autocratic regimes have been brought down nonviolently without leadership from the military or external forces. In these and other cases, ordinary people, using such nonviolent methods as strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, mass demonstrations and the establishment of parallel institutions, expanded the political space available to them, fought for their rights and emerged victorious.

Such nonviolent civil resistance movements avoid not only the pitfalls of coups and foreign intervention but also provide a surer basis for sustainable democracy. Nonviolent civil resistance movements help correct the imbalance of power in a society by stimulating wide and diverse civilian participation, thereby decentralizing power away from a ruling elite and toward the people themselves.

The exercise of such “people power” can do much to break the cycle of coups and other non-democratic transfers of power that have afflicted Mauritania and other countries, and holds far greater promise for bringing about democratic and responsible government. We may even see it in Mauritania.

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. Hardy Merriman is a senior adviser to the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

http://ncronline.org/node/2011

Kosovo and the Politics of Recognition

Even among longstanding supporters of national self-determination for Kosovo, the eagerness with which the Bush administration extended diplomatic recognition immediately upon that country’s declaration of independence on February 17 has raised serious concerns. Indeed, it serves as a reminder of the series of U.S. policy blunders over the years that have compounded the Balkan tragedy.

This is not the first time Kosovo has declared its independence. In 1989, Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic revoked the province’s autonomous status, allowing the 10% Serb minority to essentially impose an apartheid-style system on the country’s ethnic Albanian majority. The majority of ethnic Albanians in the public sector and Serbian-owned enterprises were fired from their jobs and forbidden to use their language in schools or government.

In response, the province’s ethnic Albanians – consisting of over 85% of the population – declared an independent republic in 1990, establishing a parallel government with democratic elections, a parallel school system, and other quasi-national institutions. The movement constituted one of the most widespread, comprehensive and sustained nonviolent campaigns since Gandhi’s struggle for Indian independence. In response, Serbian authorities engaged in severe repression, including widespread arrest, torture, and extra-judicial killings.

For most of the 1990s, the Kosovar Albanians waged their struggle nonviolently, using strikes, boycotts, peaceful demonstrations, and strengthening their parallel institutions. This was the time for Western powers to have engaged in preventative diplomacy. However, the world chose to ignore the Kosovars’ nonviolent movement and resisted the consistent pleas by the moderate Kosovar Albanian leadership to take action. By the end of the decade, the failure of the United States and other Western nations to come to the support of the Kosovars’ nonviolent struggle led to the rise of a shadowy armed group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army, ultra-nationalists with links to terrorism and the drug trade, who convinced an increasing number of the province’s ethnic Albanians that their only hope for national liberation came through armed struggle.

By waiting for the emergence of guerrilla warfare before seeking a solution, the United States and other Western nations gave Milosevic the opportunity to crack down with even greater savagery than before. The delay also allowed the KLA to emerge as the dominant force in the Kosovar nationalist movement. Rejecting nonviolence and moderation, KLA forces murdered Serb officials and ethnic Albanian moderates, destroyed Serbian villages, and attacked other minority communities. Some among its leadership even called for ethnic cleansing of the Serb minority to create an ethnically pure Albanian state.

Tragically, former KLA leaders and their supporters now dominate the newly-declared independent Kosovo Republic.

Western Dithering

The United States and other Western nations squandered a full eight years when preventative diplomacy could have worked. The United States rejected calls for expanding to Kosovo the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) missions set up in Macedonia or to bring Kosovo constituencies together for negotiations. Though many Kosovars and others expected that the U.S.-brokered 1995 Dayton accords would include an end to the Serbian occupation and oppression of Kosovo, the United States and other parties decided it did not merit attention.

When Western powers finally took decisive action toward the long-simmering crisis in the fall of 1998, a ceasefire was arranged where the OSCE sent in unarmed monitors. However, they were given little support. They were largely untrained, they were too few in number, and NATO refused to supply them with helicopters, night vision binoculars, or other basic equipment that could have made them more effective.

As Serb violations of the cease fire, including a number of atrocities, increased, Western diplomatic efforts accelerated, producing the Rambouillet proposal that called for the restoration of Kosovo’s autonomous status within Serbia. While such a political settlement was quite reasonable, and the Serbs appeared willing to seriously consider such an agreement, it was sabotaged by NATO’s insistence that they be allowed to send in a large armed occupation force into Kosovo along with rights to move freely without permission throughout the entire Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Also problematic was that is was presented essentially as a final document without much room for negotiations. One of the fundamental principles of international conflict resolution is that all interested parties are part of the peace process. Some outside pressure may be necessary — particularly against the stronger party — to secure an agreement, but it cannot be presented as a fait accompli. A “sign this or we’ll bomb you” attitude also doomed the diplomatic initiative to failure. Few national leaders would sign an agreement under such terms, which amount to a treaty of surrender: allowing foreign forces free rein of your territory and issuing such a proposal as an ultimatum.

Smarter and earlier diplomacy could have prevented the war. Instead, the U.S.-led NATO allies began bombing Serbia in early 1999, prompting a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against ethnic Albanians by Serbian forces, resulting in nearly one million refugees. After 11 weeks of bombing, a compromise was reached in which Serbian forces would withdraw and the province would be placed under a UN trusteeship.

Though initially set back by the nationalist reaction to the NATO bombing of their country, pro-democracy Serbs were able to gain enough support to mobilize a popular nonviolent insurrection in October of 2000 that ousted Milosevic. Serbia has been under a democratic center-left coalition ever since. Meanwhile, UN administrators and a multinational peacekeeping force have tried to keep peace in Kosovo, even as KLA remnants and their supporters have continued to harass the ethnic Serb minority, forcing nearly half of its population to flee.

U.S. Support for Independence

Despite widespread sympathy for Kosovo independence, many in the international community had hoped for a compromise settlement that would grant the province genuine autonomy under nominal Serbian sovereignty. As with Taiwan and Iraqi Kurdistan, most nations have had to balance their support for the right of self-determination with concern over the threat of the violence and regional instability that could result if the country’s de facto independence became official. In this case, however, no such balance was found, and the fallout from Kosovo’s declaration of independence and recognition by the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, and other countries could be serious.

Any effort by Kosovo to join the UN will be unsuccessful in the foreseeable future given the certainty of a veto by Russia and China. Both countries have their own “autonomous regions” composed of national minorities – a number of which have dreams of formal independence – and thus fear the precedent such international recognition could establish. Kosovo is the only state recognized by the United States not also recognized by the United Nations.

Ironically, the United States refuses to join the more-than-75 nations that have recognized the independence of Western Sahara, originally declared back in 1976. Indeed, the Bush administration is on record supporting Morocco’s call for international recognition of its unilateral annexation of Western Sahara as an “autonomous region” of that kingdom. This double standard is particularly glaring in light of the fact that Kosovo had been legally recognized as part of Serbia whereas Western Sahara is legally recognized as a non-self-governing territory under belligerent military occupation, a status confirmed by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.

The United States has rejected proposals that would allow Serbia to annex a small strip of land in the northern part of Kosovo with a predominantly ethnic Serbian population and several sites that the Serbs consider to have important historical significance. At the same time, however, the United States is on record supporting Israeli proposals to annex strips of Palestinian land on the West Bank populated by Israeli Jews and other areas considered by Israelis to be of important historical significance. Ironically, the Kosovar Serbs have mostly lived on their land for centuries while the Israelis in the West Bank are virtually all colonists occupying illegal settlements built recently and in direct defiance of international law and a series of UN Security Council resolutions.

Such double standards help expose the fallacy of U.S. claims that its recognition of Kosovo is based upon any moral or legal basis.

Potential Problems

Recognition of Kosovo independence by the United States and some Western European nations under these circumstances could lead to a number of potential problems.

In Serbia, radical national chauvinists – in large part due to the incipient threat of Kosovar independence – came very close to defeating the moderate democratic coalition in the recent national elections. Hostility toward the United States and Europe as a result of what most Serbs see as a renegade province could retard the country’s efforts at European integration, worsening its economy and further strengthening reactionary forces. Though the government appears unwilling and unable to try to resolve through force what they see as a secessionist movement and the initial response from most Serbs appears to be more that of resignation than defiance, fears of rekindling Serbian national chauvinism are real. Masked Serb arsonists setting fire to UN and NATO border check posts in recent days is one such sign of looming unrest.

Another potential problem could emerge in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Here, a restless Albanian minority concentrated along its western border with Kosovo could be inspired to resume an armed secessionist movement in an effort to join with its newly independent Albanian-populated neighbor.

There is potential for fallout in the Caucasus region, with the possibility that the autonomous South Ossetia region in Georgia could declare itself independent and be immediately recognized by its neighbor Russia and its allies. With the Kosovo precedent, the Georgian government could do little diplomatically to garner support and, with Russian troops already in the territory, little militarily either.

The impact of Kosovo’s independence and recognition by the United States and other Western nations could also seriously worsen U.S.-Russian relations, exacerbating differences that hawks on both sides are warning could evolve into a “new Cold War.”

It is also quite possible that there will not be any serious negative long-term impact of these recent events and, with its legacy of nonviolent struggle and democratic self-governance, an independent Kosovo could prove itself worthy of universal recognition. Nevertheless, U.S. policy has contributed a great deal to the tragic political climate in this corner of the Balkans, a climate so poisoned that the international community is greeting Kosovo’s long-awaited independence with more apprehension than joy.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/kosovo_and_the_politics_of_recognition

Strategic Dialogue: Kosovo

Was the United States too hasty in recognizing the new state of Kosovo? Ian Williams and Stephen Zunes have different takes in this strategic dialogue. To see the original essays, follow these links to Williams and Zunes.

Ian Williams

Stephen Zunes is quite right to point out the inconsistencies of U.S. policy in the Balkans, which has been fairly consistently wrong! Beginning when James Baker declared that the United States had no dog in the fight in the Balkans. Contrary to what some far leftists claim, U.S. policy in the beginning depended on keeping Yugoslavia together even though it was clear that Milosevic’s power grab had effectively dissolved the fragile federation. Once Slovenia declared independence, that was the end.

The United States and the European Union (EU), and indeed Russia in its various avatars, should have laid down the rules and effectively supervised the Yugoslav successor states. Guaranteeing boundaries and rights for minorities, establishing dual or even common citizenship, were all possibilities that could have ensured a soft landing for the wreck of Tito’s enterprise.

The hands-off U.S. policy in effect removed the only threat that would have curbed Milosevic’s excesses. Left to their own devices, the Europeans failed badly. Both Britain tacitly and France overtly, acted on the principle that the Serbs would win, and if it were done, then best t’were done quickly.

When the United States did intervene, it quickly produced results. Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Dayton Accords that produced an agreement among the warring factions in Bosnia, emulated Kissinger in realpolitik. Honoring promises to Milosevic, the Republika Srpska was effectively rewarded for successful ethnic cleansing, which encouraged Milosevic.

But while the State Department maintained close back-channel relations with Rugova’s shadow administration in Kosovo, bringing him and other leading figures to meet opinion formers, it was back-burner as well as back channel. One thing was clear: whenever Milosevic saw a clear and present danger of intervention, he backed down. But U.S. and Western policy was consistently unclear.

We should not exclude Russia from this. Russian diplomats at the time of the Kosovo crisis told me that what the Serbs were doing was unconscionable, but effectively the United States was not consulting them, and was being arrogant. This was true, but did not make Moscow’s role much more moral or constructive.

Clinton then fatally refused even to consider UN authorization for intervention, for fear of a Russian veto, and refused to take the issue to the General Assembly, where he would have won support. He then began the campaign by effectively ruling out the one option that Milosevic feared: a ground invasion. Instead, Clinton launched a bombing campaign, which was all the more foolish for being conducted from on high to avoid the political embarrassment of American casualties abroad. (The now-interventionist Republicans were then quite the opposite of course). The mounting “collateral damage” allowed Milosevic to crawl to the moral high ground in some quarters. Notably, the day that NATO decided on a ground invasion, Milosevic ran up the white flag and pulled out of Kosovo – as he would have done months earlier if he had seen a real threat of ground attack.

The UN trusteeship of Kosovo has not been an unmitigated success. Despite the efforts of some, the mission was colonial and condescending to the Albanians, and in my experience, many of the UN staff had no appreciation for what had happened to the Kosovars earlier. It is difficult to know what Washington could do at the end of a trail of so many mistakes. Mostly, constructive engagement with Moscow may have averted the latter’s amoral and expedient support for Serbian nationalism.

Insofar as I disagree with Stephen Zunes at all, it is over American responsibility for the declaration of independence and for the nature of the Serb governments since Zoran Djindjic’s assassination. They have been much more center-right than center-left and are strongly nationalistic.

That is why the United States was once again reacting rather than initiating events. The Kosovars were determined, and gave Thaci’s government a popular mandate to declare independence. The Kosovars were calling the shots. The trade-off with the United States and EU was to postpone the declaration from last year until now, after the elections in Belgrade, in return for recognition.

Looking back in history, and indeed at the Serb mobs and gangs at the border now acting with the same quasi-governmental backing that the paramilitary murder squads had a decade before, recognition and NATO back-up were essential to stop yet another Balkan War from breaking out. The Czech/Slovak dissolution could serve as a model here. But that presupposes realism and democracy on both sides. Every action the Belgrade government took showed the taint of old-style Balkan nationalism. And it showed no appreciation, let alone contrition, for what so many of its citizens had perpetrated back in 1999.

Negotiation is fine, but there comes a point when it is delaying the inevitable and keeping the wound open. That point was reached last year. Russia could make a precedent out of it for its various adventures in the near-abroad, in Moldova and Georgia, but it would be very foolish to do so. Chechnya and many other autonomous republics inside the Russian Federation would be delighted to cite it right back at them. Moscow would be better to join the EU chorus of how Kosovo is a one off.

Stephen Zunes

I have little fundamental disagreement with Ian William’s response to my article or in his original article, but I would like to challenge him on a couple of minor points.

My interpretation of what led to the end of the fighting in 1999 was not the threat of a NATO ground invasion, which was fraught with dangers and the prospects of which produced serious internal divisions within the alliance. Nor did Milosevic “run up the white flag.” Instead, it appears that it was the United States and NATO that were also forced to compromise due to the failure of the 11-week bombing campaign to coerce the Serbs to give in. If one looks at the original U.S./NATO proposal at Rambouillet and the counter-proposal presented by the Serbian parliament immediately thereafter, and then compares both of them with the text of the final cease-fire agreement, the agreement that ended the fighting pretty much splits the difference, perhaps even coming a tad closer to the Serb position. In other words, the United States and NATO had to compromise at least as much as did Milosevic. This raises the possibility that the Western nations could have worked out a similar deal without the tragic decision to go to war, a war that not only resulted in enormous human, economic, and environmental damage to Serbia, but led to Serbian repression in Kosovo that escalated dramatically into full-scale ethnic cleansing.

The Serbs agreed to the ceasefire on the condition that while Kosovo’s autonomous status and right to self-government would be restored, the province would not be allowed to secede. Indeed, UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), while calling for “substantial autonomy and meaningful self-administration for Kosovo,” also reaffirmed “the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region.” It is not surprising, therefore, that the Serbs feel betrayed by the international community.

I certainly agree with Kosovo’s right to independence on a moral level, for reasons spelled out in Ian’s original article. It would have been better, however, to have pressured the Kosovars to put off their declaration until after Serbia’s entrance into the European Union (and provide whatever combination of pressure on and assistance to the Serbian government to make that happen sooner rather than later.) When a country becomes part of the EU, national boundaries and what constitutes an independent nation-state become far less significant. Supporting Kosovo’s secession beforehand, however, has strengthened hard-line nationalists in both Serbia and Kosovo and will likely delay both nations’ integration into Europe.

Finally, I would have been thrilled if the United States had recognized an independent Kosovo a decade ago, when the Serbs were led by the autocratic and militaristic Milosevic and the Kosovar Albanians were led by the pacifist and democratic Rugova. Today, however, the roles are partly reversed, with Serbia led by democratic moderates, Kosovo led by national chauvinists, and the Kosovar Serbs being subjected to attacks and (small-scale) ethnic cleansing by Kosovar Albanians. Most of the Serbs governing in Belgrade today, while strongly nationalistic, were not responsible for and in most cases were strongly opposed to Milosevic’s brutal repression of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority. Indeed, they supported – and, in some cases, participated in – the nonviolent democratic revolution in October of 2000 that ousted Milosevic. With Kosovo’s secession having been recognized by the United States and other key Western states on their watch, however, these democrats will likely get the blame for having “lost” Kosovo. This will thereby create the conditions for a comeback by some of the hard-line Serbian nationalists responsible for the innumerable war crimes of the 1990s.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/strategic_dialogue_kosovo

Don’t Credit Reagan for Ending the Cold War

Perhaps the most dangerous myth regarding the legacy of the late President Ronald Reagan is that he was somehow responsible for the end of the Cold War.

Soviet-style communism was doomed in part because it fell victim to the pro-democracy movement that was also then sweeping Latin America and parts of Africa and Asia during this same period. No credit can be given to the Reagan Administration, which was a strong supporter of many of these right-wing dictatorial regimes, such as the Marcos regime in the Philippines.

The Soviet Union and its communist allies in Eastern Europe collapsed primarily because their governments and economies rested upon an inherently unworkable system that would have fallen apart anyway. A centralized command economy can have its advantages at a certain phase of industrialization, when large “smokestack industries”—from machine tools to tanks—dominate manufacturing. Such a system could, for a time, make the Soviets a formidable military power, but was totally incapable of satisfying consumer demand. Thus, the old joke that the Soviets were working on an atomic bomb that could fit inside a suitcase: they had perfected the bomb, but they were still working on the suitcase.

Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s famous line in the late 1950s that “we will bury you” was not a threat of war, but a reflection that—over the past few decades up to that time—the Soviet economy was growing faster than its Western capitalist counterparts and was projected to surpass that of the West within a couple of decades.

However, as the new wave of industrialization based upon information technologies took off, the economy of the Soviet Union stagnated. Totalitarian systems cannot survive without being able to control access to information. Cracks in the system were becoming apparent as early as the 1970s. North Korea remains the most centralized communist country in both political and economic terms and it has even taken some small steps to liberalize its economy. The other nominally communist governments are China, Vietnam, and Laos, whose economies have largely gone capitalist, and Cuba, which has decentralized and democratized segments of its economy.

In a December 2003 interview, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said the fall of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with the arms race. “When it became clear to us that the one-party model was mistaken, we rejected that model,” he said. “A new generation of more educated people started to be active. Then society required freedom, society demanded freedom.”

It was not Reagan’s military buildup or bellicose threats against the Soviets and their allies that brought down the system. Instead, such threats possibly allowed these regimes to hold on to power even longer as people rallied to support the government in the face of the perceived American threat.

High Soviet military spending, in part as a reaction to the U.S. military buildup that began in the latter half of the Carter administration, certainly hurt the Soviet economy—as it did (and is still doing to) ours. This was, however, only a minor factor.

Then, as has become typical of presidential addresses since the U.S. invasion, there is the rewriting of history:

The reality is that it was the people themselves who brought down the system.

The most significant case was Poland, where—even before Reagan became president—the communist regime was forced to recognize the independent trade-union movement, Solidarity. This helped expose the lie that the communist governments were “workers’ states.” Despite the Polish regime’s decision to ban Solidarity at the end of 1981, pro-democracy Poles continued to organize, as did dissidents in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, the Baltic states and elsewhere. Many of these democratic leaders were openly skeptical of Reagan administration policies. Dissident Czech playwright and later president Vaclav Havel, when asked about Western influences on his movement, replied that he had been more inspired by John Lennon and Frank Zappa than by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan’s verbal support for democracy had little credibility in many of these countries. For example, while he denounced Poland’s martial law regime, he was a strong supporter of the more repressive martial law regime then in power in Turkey, a NATO ally. In challenging left-wing governments in the Third World, Reagan backed insurgents with ties to U.S.-backed dictatorships, and, in the case of Afghanistan, even Islamic fundamentalists.

While Ronald Reagan was certainly capable of inspirational leadership, idealism, and personal charm, the myth that he is responsible for the downfall of communism and the end of the Cold War does a disservice to the millions of Eastern Europeans and others who faced the tanks and struggled against great odds for their freedom. It was not American militarism, but massive nonviolent action—including strikes, boycotts, mass demonstrations, and other forms of ingenious non-cooperation—that finally brought down these communist regimes.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/dont_credit_reagan_for_ending_the_cold_war

Why Progressives Must Embrace the Ukrainian Pro-Democracy Movement

Some elements of the American left have committed a grievous error, both morally and strategically, in their failure to enthusiastically support the momentous pro-democracy movement in the Ukraine.

After more than three centuries of subjugation under Russian rule?first under the czars and then under the communists?followed by a dozen years of independence under corrupt and autocratic rule, the Ukrainian people appear to be on the verge of a new era of freedom. This development is significant, given that?with a population and land mass comparable to France, rich in minerals, fertile farmland, and modern industry?a democratic Ukraine could become a pivotal, independent player in European and international affairs.

But rather than embracing this inspiring triumph of the human spirit against authoritarianism and repression, much of the left media has focused instead upon the opposition?s shortcomings and on the double standards and questionable motivations of the Bush administration?s support for the movement. Although these concerns are not without merit, they miss the fact that we are witnessing one of the most notable popular democratic uprisings in history. Furthermore, the left?s lukewarm response has given both the right and the mainstream media an opportunity to brand the entire progressive community with allegations that we oppose freedom and democracy.

Typically, the arguments on the left are that:

?The Bush administration has poured in millions of dollars to support the Ukrainian opposition.

First of all, U.S. financial support?which has flowed primarily through reputable nongovernmental organizations?pales in comparison to support from Western European democracies. Most U.S. financial backing for the democratic Ukrainian opposition has come through private foundations, including those funded by billionaire George Soros, the Hungarian exile who also donated millions of dollars to the unsuccessful effort to defeat George W. Bush.

Secondly, by overemphasizing Washington?s role in the pro-democracy movement, the left is playing right into the hands of the neoconservatives, who are also exaggerating the U.S. role in order to bolster their claim that global democracy can only be advanced through American leadership.

Financial support from Western sources?which has enabled the Ukrainian opposition to purchase computers and fax machines, pay expenses, and hire consultants?has undoubtedly been useful in the movement?s challenge to the autocratic regime in Kiev. Such assistance, however, does not precipitate a liberal democratic revolution any more than Soviet financial and material support for leftist movements in the Third World provoked socialist revolution during the Cold War. As Marxists have long recognized, revolutions are the result of specific objective conditions. Indeed, no amount of money could force hundreds of thousands of people to leave their jobs, homes, schools, and families to face down heavily armed police and camp out in the bitter cold for weeks. Such boldness can only be fueled by strong, heart-felt motivations.

?Washington?s support for the Ukrainian opposition and the movement?s sympathetic portrayal in the mainstream U.S. media is part of a broader effort to weaken Russian influence and enable the Ukraine to liberalize its economy, become part of the European Union, and join NATO.

Although the Bush administration?s support for the Ukrainian opposition in this former Soviet republic is not really about democracy, the same could be said regarding U.S. support for the opposition movement in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, which, in a similar nonviolent uprising following a fraudulent election, ousted a pro-Russian government in 2003. By contrast, when the Aliyev administration rigged the 2003 election in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, the Bush White House raised no objections, since Azerbaijan is considered an important U.S. ally. The Bush administration has also been a major backer of the repressive Karimov dictatorship in the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, which has allowed the U.S. military basing rights and is considered an ally in ?the war on terrorism.?

The insinuation that a democratic Ukraine would somehow be beholden to American interests, however, is ludicrous. The strong sense of nationalism resulting from centuries of subjugation by the Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Polish, and Lithuanian empires? combined with the country?s large industrial capacity and generous natural resources?is indicative that a democratic Ukraine would be able to put its own national interests first.

Among the popular criticisms directed at the incumbent president, Leonid Kuchma, have been his call for the Ukraine to join NATO and, especially, his decision to deploy Ukrainian forces in Iraq. By contrast, opposition presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko has pledged?should he be allowed to take office?to immediately withdraw Ukrainian forces from Iraq.

Accepting U.S. support does not guarantee subservience to U.S. interests. The United States supported the 2000 nonviolent pro-democracy movement in Serbia, which swept the dictator and war criminal Slobodan Milosevic from power. Yet opposition leader Vojislav Kostunica, who was elected as Yugoslavia?s new president, had been an outspoken opponent of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against his country and, since coming to office, has hardly acted like an American puppet.

As Nick Paton, writing on the Ukrainian uprising for the British newspaper The Guardian, observed, ?This protest is no longer about America?s or Russia?s candidate, but [is about] an end to the past 12 years of misrule.? It is an eruption of civil society whereby significant sectors of the Ukrainian population are, according to Paton, ?for the first time, realizing how they could one day have a government whose main interest is not stealing from state coffers and protecting favored oligarchs, but actually representing the people who elected them. For most people, this is a first taste of real self-determination.?

American progressives need to be emphasizing that this is how regime change ought to take place: not by foreign conquest but by the subjugated peoples themselves; not by bombs and bullets but by the far-greater power of nonviolence. We should be pleased that the Bush administration is actually embracing, albeit for suspect reasons, an authentic, grassroots democratic movement against an authoritarian regime. Instead of questioning U.S. support for Ukrainian democrats, progressives must seize this opportunity to emphasize the need for the United States to champion nonviolent democratic movements everywhere and to end U.S. backing for autocratic regimes and occupation armies that suppress such movements.

? The vote fraud in November?s Ukrainian election, which denied Yushchenko his victory, was no different than the vote fraud in the U.S. election that same month, which denied John Kerry his victory; in both cases, there was a major discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count.

The exit polls in the United States were off by less than 2%. This discrepancy can largely be explained by exit pollsters? acknowledged oversampling of women voters, new rules that limit nonvoters? proximity to polling places, and the apparent higher level of interview cooperation by Kerry supporters than by Bush advocates. The difference between exit polls and the official count in the Ukraine, by contrast, was more than 14%, and considerable evidence suggests that the Kiev government tampered with the results. For example, in the Donestk region, officials claimed that Yushchenko won less than 3% of the vote. International observers also reported widespread intimidation of election monitors, ballot stuffing, multiple voting, and government pressuring of voters.

Of course, voting fraud in the Ukraine does not excuse illegal behavior by supporters of the Bush campaign. All suspicious U.S. electoral activities also need to be investigated thoroughly. However, rectifying such irregularities would not likely make enough difference in Florida or Ohio to hand Kerry an Electoral College victory.

And, despite the many abuses of the Bush administration, Americans live in a far more open society than do Ukrainians under President Kuchma. The state-controlled Ukrainian media covered only the campaigns of pro-government parties. Government thugs often disrupted the campaign activities of the opposition parties and engaged in numerous acts of violence, including the 2002 murder of Mykota Shkribliak, a leading opposition politician. Journalists who reported on corruption or criticized government policies were subjected to particularly serious harassment and violence, such as the 2000 murder of prominent independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze, which has been linked to Kuchma. The judiciary is notoriously inefficient and subject to corruption; torture is widespread. And, of course, there was the poisoning of Yushchenko himself. Despite the frightening abuses of power by the Bush administration, it is a gross exaggeration to imply that the rulers in Kiev are no worse; to do so undermines the efforts of those working for human rights and accountable government in both countries.

?Opposition leader Victor Yushchenko, whose stolen presidential victory in November prompted the uprising, is backed by elements linked to the crooked cabal of business leaders who enriched themselves during the privatization of nationalized industries in the 1990s; Yushchenko himself served for a time as prime minister under the corrupt, outgoing President Leonid Kuchma. Yushchenko also has the backing of right-wing ultranationalists, particularly in the western part of the country, some of whom have ties with anti-Semitic elements and former Nazi collaborators.

Antipathy for the country?s pro-Russian political establishment runs deep in the Ukraine and spans the political spectrum. This potpourri includes some corrupt and even fascistic elements, but they are a small minority of those who have rallied to form the opposition, which consists primarily of liberal democrats. Other opponents of the current autocratic regime include democratic socialists, Greens, and others on the left who recognize that although Yushchenko may not be particularly progressive politically or capable of completely cleaning up the system, his election is currently the best hope for establishing a more open and accountable government.

Free elections and political liberty do not guarantee a progressive government or a just society. However, without individual liberties and accountable government, building a just society becomes virtually impossible. Democracy affords a political opening whereby a democratic left stands a chance of challenging the excesses of national and global capitalism; of empowering local communities; of openly defending the rights of women, minorities, and the poor; and of eventually gaining power. Few in the Latin American left, for example, would argue that despite the failure of democratic governance to alter the continent?s underlying social end economic inequality, things were somehow better under the U.S.-backed military dictatorships that ruled those nations for decades. Political and civil rights do not automatic-ally lead to social and economic equality, but such equality will be far more difficult to achieve without the establishment of democratic institutions and the guaranteed protection of individual liberties.

The pro-democracy movement in the Ukraine is destined to emerge victorious and has captured the popular imagination of millions of people in the United States and around the world. Perhaps the understandable cynicism that so many American progressives are experiencing at this point in history makes it difficult for many of us to fully appreciate such a hopeful development, especially when it is supported by those who are responsible for so much violence and injustice both at home and abroad. But despite the double standards and cynical opportunism of the Bush administration, let?s not deny ourselves this occasion to celebrate an incipient peoples? victory. May it inspire us to redouble our efforts to support other struggles for freedom and justice both at home and abroad.

http://www.fpif.org/reports/why_progressives_must_embrace_the_ukrainian_pro-democracy_movement

U.S., Greece, and Turkey

President Bill Clinton’s visit to NATO allies Greece and Turkey is raising new questions about the ongoing strategic relationship the United States has with these two historic rivals, particularly in the light of the anti-American demonstrations which delayed and shortened the planned presidential visit.

It was U.S. support of the pro-Western governments of these two countries in the late 1940s against a widely-perceived communist threat which most historians point to as the origins of the Cold War. As NATO’s southeastern flank, their strategic location to both the Soviet Union and the Middle East made them the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, primarily military, outside of Israel and Egypt. Direct grants of armaments were phased out only last year; the Clinton administration has pushed hard for arms sales to and ongoing strategic cooperation with both Greece and Turkey.

On several occasions, most recently last year, the United States has had to intervene diplomatically to prevent war from breaking out between Turkey and Greece. Such a war between two heavily armed and relatively developed nations would not only be a frightening scenario on humanitarian grounds, but one which could seriously destabilize the entire region. Avoiding such a war has been a major pre-occupation of successive U.S. administrations going back several decades.

The recent anti-American protests in Athens occurred on the anniversary of the 1973 massacre of students by troops of the right-military junta which ruled Greece at the time. The U.S. government was a strong supporter of the dictatorship and many Greeks believe the U.S. played a role in its overthrow of the country’s democratic government in 1967. It is not surprising, then, that such resentment against the U.S. role in the country would come to the surface during such a commemoration.

There is also resentment against the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia this past spring on both moral and legal grounds. Most Greeks were and are opposed to the regime of Serbian Slobodon Milosevic and were sympathetic to the plight of the Kosovar Albanians. Yet there was widespread anger at the use of military force against the Serbian population, who share with the Greeks an Orthodox Christian heritage, particularly as the costs in civilian lives and infrastructure became increasingly apparent.

Most of the anti-American sentiment in Greece, however, involves the island nation of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, nearly 80 percent of which is ethnically Greek.

In August 1974, in reaction to a coup by right-wing Greek Cypriots which was thought to threaten the island’s Turkish minority, Turkish troops—using U.S. weaponry—invaded. Within days, they seized the northern 40 percent of the country and engaged in ethnic cleansing against the ethnic Greek population. As many as 2000 civilians are believed to have been killed. The United Nations Security Council condemned the invasion and called for Turkey’s immediate withdrawal. Congress immediately cut off aid, but it was restored in 1977 after strong pressure from President Jimmy Carter, who insisted that a resumption of aid would make it easier for the Turks to withdraw. The island remains divided, but billions of dollars worth of armaments has continued to flow to the Turkish occupiers.

Greece is certainly not blameless for the impasse in the negotiations, nor is the pre-invasion history of discrimination, threats and broken promises by the Greek Cypriot majority a fabrication of Turkish propagandists. Yet the U.S. willingness to starve Iraqi children through draconian sanctions for their government’s violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions while arming the Turkish government despite its ongoing violations UN Security Council resolutions compounds Greek resentment.

Those who support human rights and international law oppose ongoing U.S. military aid to Turkey on other grounds as well. Turkish repression of the Kurdish minority in the southeastern part of the country has been severe, with the Turkish armed forces using U.S. weapons in widespread attacks against civilian populations, destroying over 3000 Kurdish villages in recent years. Turkish forces have periodically crossed into Iraq into the UN safe haven to attack Kurds as well, with the U.S. virtually alone in the international community in backing such illegal incursions.

In addition, Turkey has yet to account for its genocide against its Armenian population over eighty years ago in which over one million civilians were slaughtered. In order to please its Turkish clients, the U.S. government has refused to even publicly acknowledge the genocide took place, despite the widespread historic documentation of the atrocities.

This support of the Turkish government—including the years it was led by a brutal military government—has been deeply troubling for advocates of a U.S. foreign policy more supportive of human rights and international law. Such pandering to the Turkish government was rationalized during the Cold War as necessary to back this key ally which bordered the Soviet Union. Today, this veneer is gone.

The United States reassess its close military cooperation with Greece and Turkey, particularly as it becomes apparent that the most likely scenario for their use in an inter-state conflict is against each other. Neither country is under threat from a foreign invader. Nor is there any risk of an internal rebellion by radical forces, particularly since the effective surrender of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) earlier this year.

Both countries are struggling economically, particularly Turkey following its recent devastating earthquakes. The large amounts of money spent for American armaments, as well as the costs for personnel, training and spare parts, is money which could be better spent by both countries for sustainable economic development.

President Clinton began his visit by praising Turkey’s “impressive momentum” in “deepening its democracy and strengthening human rights” and calling for Turkey’s admission to the European Union. Such congratulations are premature, given Turkey’s continuing spotty human rights record. The Clinton administration should instead stand with the EU which has for years opposed Turkey’s entry, in part on human rights grounds.

Prodded by President Clinton and other world leaders, Turkish and Greek leaders in Cyprus have announced they will resume UN-sponsored talks in early December. This is positive. However, if President Clinton is really interested in peace and security for the region, he must insist on a withdrawal of Turkish forces and a settlement which both reunites the island while protecting the country’s Turkish minority. Instead of pushing for more arms transfers, he should help both sides agree to arms control, confidence-building measures, and a security regime which would address the legitimate strategic interests of both sides.

President Clinton must also insist that Turkey recognize the cultural and political rights of its Kurdish minority, acknowledge Turkey’s 1915 genocide against the Armenians, and take stronger steps towards democracy and political pluralism.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/us_greece_and_turkey