t on Wed, 31 Mar 1999 20:40:17 +0200

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Syndicate: Kosovo intervention ethics

A NATO intervention can be assessed in three clusters of  issues.
First, the NATO is inherently wrong: this cluster includes issues which
pre-date the whole crisis in former Yugoslavia. These issues are set out

Why is NATO wrong?

Second, the NATO excludes other possible interventions in Kosovo, and
other possible geopolitical structures. The NATO tolerates no
"International Brigades", and no non-governmental intervention. The NATO
completely restricts access to airspace, and has de facto control over
the Albanian and Macedonian approaches to Kosovo. Most obviously, it
restricts access by hostile powers, such as Iraq or the Taliban regime.

The third cluster is probably the most relevant, for people in Europe.
It concerns the ethics of rescue, when people are subject to extreme
harm. On the syndicate list, (where this was first posted), a number of
people demanded more-or-less unconditional support for the NATO, and the
United States. They backed this up with descriptions of atrocities. This
is not only a false logic, it is wrong to make these demands. However it
is standard practice at the NATO itself.

The central ethical question is this: if there is an obligation to
assist persons in danger, and I can not assist them myself, may a third
party, the Rescuer, impose conditions? Am I then obliged to meet those
conditions, to fulfil my moral duty to the person in danger?

The NATO is not willing to attempt a full rescue operation, of all
threatened persons in Kosovo. However it is willing to take some
military action, which may limit or reduce the extreme repression. On
this rescue, it imposes at least the following conditions...

1. NATO makes rescue conditional on exclusion of military assistance by
others. (NATO in practice also limits non-military assistance by others,
when it is feared to be a cover for political activity).

2. NATO makes rescue conditional on unified control of the operation -
by NATO of course. Not even recognised pro-western organisations (such
as Amnesty International) are allowed to participate in decision making
at the NATO. This is rigidly restricted to the defence and foreign
policy elites of the member states. No form of participatory
decision-making has ever been tolerated for NATO military operations.
The condition on NATO control is a de facto limitation on the grounds of
social class, gender, language and other factors. In practice decisions
on Kosovo will be taken entirely by English-speaking males from
middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds.

3. NATO makes rescue conditional on a monopoly of armed force. Not only
does it not tolerate any other armed intervention, it will not lose
control of its own weapons either. It prevents any other armed rescues,
and will not facilitate them  (with arms or ammunition), even if it has
no operational objection. Even if the intervention has achieved its
goal, the NATO will not voluntarily surrender or distribute its weapons.
There is no just distribution of NATO weapons, and especially not of
nuclear weapons.

4. NATO makes rescue conditional on a single type of rescue. This is the
most politically significant condition. The Dayton accords are an
example: they impose a particular geopolitical, political, social and
economic structure in Bosnia. In addition, they impose a Commissioner,
who can impose further conditions. In Bosnia this Commissioner (Carlos
Westendorp) has determined (among other things) the typeface used on
driving licences, the design of the Bosnian flag, and the content of TV
news bulletins. In Kosovo the minimum conditions include monitoring:
again in Bosnia that goes much further than counting soldiers. The OSCE
also has the task of "implementing democracy", which in practice means
imposing a local pro-NATO political elite.

5. NATO makes rescue conditional on acceptance of the result of such an
intervention in the medium and long term. The long-term result is that
Kosovo (either in Serbia, or in Albania, or independent) will have this
structure: part of a nation state, a liberal-democratic nation state,
with a free-market economy, with trading relations with other nation
states in a Europe of the nation states.

6. NATO apparently makes rescue conditional on acceptance of the
political, social and economic structures in the "home states", the
members contributing troops to the rescue. This is the least explicit of
the conditions, which is why I write "apparently". It is certainly NATO
policy to have a market democracy in Britain or Germany: the NATO
declares itself to be based on such values. It is certainly often
implied that criticism of the NATO, or its values, is effective
collusion in genocide. However, there is (as yet) no explicit NATO
demand, that criticism of itself or its values should cease, during a
rescue operation in Kosovo.

Paul Treanor