Looking For Justice From ...
By William Westmiller
It is certainly within the military capability of NATO and the United States to bomb Yugoslavia back to the stone age. If that is winning, and our policy is to win at any cost, then we have certainly regressed to barbarism. If might makes right, ethics are irrelevant and we can ignore justice. Without basic principles of justice, we cease to be world policemen and quickly become world outlaws.
Grant, for a moment, that the Serb military has violated basic human rights and committed serious atrocities. What is the new international law being written by NATO? If sovereignty is irrelevant, then any nation can appoint itself as judge, jury, and executioner of any other nation for alleged humanitarian abuses. Absent some basic rules of sovereignty and civil international conduct, mob rule applies. Next week, we may be bombing London because British troops have been less than kind to IRA terrorists. The following week, we'll bomb Turkey for suppressing Kurdish rebels. The only reservation is whether we can win the battle.
There is no doubt that NATO has "degraded" the Yugoslavian military. As the Pentagon proceeds down its target list, we will also "degrade" every civilian resource in Serbia, destroying power plants, fuel storage, transportation and communications facilities that serve both civilian and military purposes. We will have "cleansed" Serbia of its sovereignty, its industrial capacity, and any residual good will it may have had toward the West.
While our military degrades Serbia, the justification for our actions has been degraded daily by the State Department. The word "genocide" isn't used any longer; it never applied. Even "ethnic cleansing" has been degraded to "forced evacuation" and "atrocities" to "pacification efforts". The backtracking suggests that our motives for an aerial invasion were less than pure and our facts were less than straight.
A Declaration of War is a proper response to a military assault across national borders. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, it was perfectly proper and appropriate for every other nation in the world to throw off the aggressor. When one nation violates the sovereignty of another, it forfeits every claim to its own sovereignty. A just war simply visits upon the aggressor the burden of its own conduct.
The bombing of Serbia is definitely war, but it is far from a defensive, much less a morally defensible, assault. Yugoslavia has not crossed national borders to invade its neighbors. At best, it has taken extreme steps against an internal insurrection; a circumstance that occurs every day in hundreds of places around the world. If opposition to insurgents is grounds for bombing a nation, dozens of nations around the world had best be watching the skies for cruise missiles.
It is our own unprovoked bombing of Serbia, with NATO assent, which is an unjust military assault across national borders. It was once a founding principle of NATO that members, nonmembers, and enemies would suffer the consequences of initiating the use of military force across national borders. No longer. The new policy is that defense is no longer a justification for war; that aggression is just and proper if your indignation is extreme and your power extensive. Might makes right.
A loud chorus nevertheless proclaims that our cause is just and our indignation is sufficient for military intervention. We have a moral obligation to oppose genocide. Slobodan Milosevic is a Hitler whose ethnic cleansing must be stopped. If any of these assertions corresponded with fact, there might be grounds for assisting Kosovars in their own self defense. The moral indignation is dubious at best.
Yugoslavia is no better or worse than any communist government when it comes to individual rights. It has been better than most with respect to ethnic discrimination. Kosovars, Montenegrins, and all the other ethnic groups in Yugoslavia have enjoyed relatively fair treatment by the Serbian government. Not very long ago, the Serbs themselves were victims of actual genocide in Croatia. Thousands of Serbs were killed by Croatians, with the support of Europeans, in an insurrection which resulted in an independent state. Croatia was recognized by all Western nations when it became evident that their ethnic war against the Serbs was successful. What Serbia learned from the West was that ethnic cleansing is acceptable if it is successful.
There are reasonable grounds to believe that Serb "atrocities" were committed against the Marxist guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Milosevic was exceedingly civil in agreeing to participate in peace talks with the KLA. He even agreed to grant Kosovo a degree of political autonomy that he had already extended to Montenegro. The conditions for those talks were that Yugoslavia would refrain from military confrontations and the KLA would surrender their military arms. The fact that the KLA didn't comply with those conditions was winked at by Europeans. Yugoslavia's only reticence was opposition to foreign troops occupying their country. For that, they are being destroyed.
If Serbian conduct has been contemptible, it is nothing compared to those who discard morality altogether and argue that we must win at any cost. No matter that the bombing is a violation of every international rule of conduct. No matter that we have no "security interests" at stake. We must never lose. Even if we must forsake all our moral foundations in the process.
©1999, William Westmiller
California Coordinator of the Republican Liberty Caucus
Past Candidate for the Republican Nomination for (24 CA) Congress
Former National Secretary, California Chairman, Libertarian Party
justwar.c43 ~920 Words
Get New Columns via Email