|David S. Bennahum on Wed, 31 Mar 1999 04:23:58 +0200 (CEST)
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|<nettime> Kosovo: repercussions?
In December 1996 I spent time in Serbia, chronicling the use of the Internet during the popular uprising against Milosovic. Back then, there was a certain optimism that the days of the Milosovic regime were waning, accelerated by the daily protests of thousands on the streets of Belgrade and in other cities in Yugoslavia. Two years later I find myself, as so many others, compulsively reading bulletins from Yugoslavia, scanning the Internet for the news, and feeling utterly awful about a situation that, two years ago, seemed unimaginable. When the bombings began, I felt to immediate emotions-- that it was about time the USA and its European allies stopped talking and use force to end 10 years of abhorrent mayhem led by Milosovic; and worry for the safety of the people I'd come to know in Belgrade, who, two years ago, had tried to unseat Milosovic. Now, as the days go by, the horror of taking military action without a full military commitment is becoming apparent. To begin a war, yet be unwilling to finish it, is a cruel thing indeed. Every day NATO dumps tons of ordinance on a small country, bombs that can do little to stop the immediate reality of a vengeful hand-to-hand paramilitary war against civilians in Kosovo. With the backdrop of cruise missiles, F-117A stealth fighters, and B-2 bombers there is little these fancy tools of modern war can do to stop the ruthless intent of people willing to kill civilians using machine guns. How the war planners overlooked this scenario is utterly strange. All modern war is scenario planned, with outcomes estimated. Somewhere this outcome was overlooked, or worse, dismissed. So now we have the extraordinarily cruel situation of mass-murder underway by Serbian paramilitaries, while NATO bombs alienated the parts of Serbia and Montenegro that stood in opposition to Milosovic, further solidifying his power. And without ground troops, this war lurches toward Phyrric victory. NATO will destroy most of the Yugoslav military's command and control structure for big operations using its airforce-- the structure that is useful for an old-style Warsaw Pact vs. NATO battle-- but not so relevant for coordinating Arkan-style death-squads. All those need is a ready supply of bullets, light vehicles, and cell phones. The stuff anyone can get, and that bombs do little against. For that you need soldiers on the ground. And that's the last thing NATO wants to do. So NATO may well find itself guilty, if any organization can be "guilty," of starting a war without being willing to pay the price of finishing it. But not risking NATO lives, NATO has chosen to trade off the lives of American and European soldiers for the lives of Kosovo's civilian population. It's old fashioned military calculus, the stuff that makes war war. Every village massacre is a result, indirectly, for NATO's refusal to bring armor and infantry to the battle. American soldiers will live because of this. Kosovars will not. While I can understand the political calculus of this, it is fundamentally cruel and immoral. There is no point of waging war if its commanders cannot pursue the war to its fullest. All this does is prolong the agony of civilian deaths and mayhem. Somewhere in the Pentagon odds are that you can find scenario plans that take into account the dollar value of every American soldier. This is a function of expected annual income (the average US citizen earns around $27,000 a year), times expected years of lifetime work, plus the cost of training, outfitting, and supporting each soldier, weighted by rank. That will yeild the "value" in economic terms of every US casualty (pilots are very expensive; support personnel like mechanics, less so). Place that value next to the value of a Kosovar, and you get some ridiculous lopsided number. That's the sort of calculus behind war planning, and the USA has pretty much decided that it is too expensive, both politically and economically, to suffer casualties of our citizens. So we trade off those lives for the lives of Kosovars. I didn't quite understand this outcome until yesterday, when it became clear we'd utterly acted in error, unleashing a maelstrom of mass murder and producing thousands and thousands of refugees. This war was a mistake, not because it was inherently wrong, but because NATO chose to do it half-assedly. And now the consequences have started to unfold; the suffering only begins. /d --- # distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission # <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism, # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets # more info: email@example.com and "info nettime-l" in the msg body # URL: http://www.desk.nl/~nettime/ contact: firstname.lastname@example.org