Some Thoughts About the Bombings
(1) Does it ring any bells for anyone else that bombing country A may not have anything to do with country A per se, at least in recent times? Once it begins, bombing almost never yields a sought outcome regarding the place bombed (save, of course, when one literally wants to devastate it).
- It rarely curtails policies that the bombed country may be enacting.
- It rarely if ever weakens bombed leaders one wants to remove.
- It rarely reduces terrorism that the bombed country is undertaking (if there actually is any in the first place). It seems to cost more in risks and possible bedlam than it garners in immediate gains it may yield.
- And most ridiculously and assuredly, bombing never preserves life and limb for anyone, instead blowing these things away with abandon and also creating conditions conducive to others doing so even more than before.
So what does bombing do that makes the bomber -- for our purposes the U.S. and whoever it drags along for the ride -- "enjoy" pulling the lever so much?
(a) Bombing sells weapons and tests them, of course, and it legitimates military expenditures as well, which is not inconsequential.
(b) But, it seems to me that actual bombing also paves the way for the real affectivity of bombing, and that is to stop behaviors before they get started. That is, bombing country A is really about telling country B through Z that they'd better not do anything to annoy us, because we are ready and willing to deliver bombs air express if they do. So as a means to validate the threat of bombing in order that the threat curtails opposition before it develops, actual bombing certainly has a clear if vile logic. It is only ironic and not irrational that once undertaken bombing's power to coerce policy actually often diminishes--or so it seems to me.
(c) Of course in this case there is a bonus to bombing. The current bombing has been unleashed without even a pretense of UN ratification. As such it argues/establishes that the UN is no longer necessary...that there simply is no international law but, instead, whatever NATO (read the U.S) thinks warrants bombs--actually does warrant bombs.
(2) But one of the strange aspects of the argument that the reason why the U.S. bombs with increasing frequency nowadays is to establish the RIGHT and even the DUTY to do so, as well as the expectation and thus the FEAR that we will do so -- an argument that I think is valid -- is, well, WHY?
That is, what is the independent policy value of having established our right to bomb and having convinced others of our inclination to do so? What does the repeatedly invigorated threat to bomb curb? What are we afraid others might do were it not for this threat--repeatedly reinvigorated?
The answer is presumably any significant deviation from our will...but taking it a step further, one might wonder--unless one expects an unexpectedly high amount of deviation from our will in the near future--why have we over the past year or two seemingly increased our efforts to legitimate the idea that we are free to bomb at will and only too happy to do so? And why are we doing it even in a case where it runs the risk of costing a whole lot in increased turbulence in the region, as now in Yugoslavia?
(3) The obvious answer regarding Yugoslavia is that -- well -- it is in Europe. That is, it is one thing to have chaotic ethnic strife (or, of course, desired and more calculated imperial repression) in other parts of the world. Elsewhere if such conflicts kill 10,000, 50,000, or even 500,000, and even if they are a bit chaotic and they aren't actual manifestations of U.S. interests, so be it. But when the strife is in Europe, in the Balkans, there is the possibility it will ignite fires that threaten real U.S. geopolitical interests. That prospect, of course, has to be addressed. But how, The fact that on the order of 2,000 Kosovars have died, not tens or hundreds of thousands as is more typically the case, and that the totally predictable result of our intervention will be an escalation of their death and suffering as well as that of others in the region, is of little account. Rhetoric aside, human lives and humanitarian concern of course have nothing to do with U.S. policy. Yet if the U.S. is to intevevene--what tools does it have? The answer, of course, is flying in the sky.
(4) But I want to try to take the discussion another step and I hope you have read Hahnel's recent commentary in which he elaborates on his recent series in Z Magazine regarding the results of the global economic crisis. My reading is that he is saying that the current global economic crises are leading to a process of "re-colonialization" of countries like Thailand, Korea, Brazil, etc. The assets of various economies, in particular ones that have had some success in developing since WWII, are bought at fire sale prices. This is not junk being bought up, but real banks, real industries, real utilities, real mines, and so on. What had to be done with guns at the turn of the century and was then undone, at least to a degree, with huge independence movements and struggles, is now being redone--but this time with legal and "non-violent" market exchange.
If this is so, can't we predict some plausible national responses of dispossessed but politicized populations, and sometimes even of whole states--in six months, a year, or two years? That is, can't we see coming from this purchase of other countries' infrastructures not only newly subservient co-opted governments to serve our corporations and banks in a modern variant of the colonial model, but also popular national resistance on a large scale?
(5) Now suppose we take this argument still one more step. What if there is an understanding in our government that increased resistance to U.S. plans around the world is indeed not far off in a much bigger form than it has presented itself in recent years, and arising in countries that no one would easily see as enemies deserving a violent response from us, save for having been warmed up with a lot of "training" as to our bombing rights and proclivities?
I know it is stretching Hahnel's analysis, but it seems to me that if he is right, then what he is saying has got to be at the center of government foreign policy making. And it seems to me it would lead to a view that there may soon be serious "dissident" fires to put out, or to quell, or to scare into remission, or best, to suffocate before they surface--fires where geo-politically important things, like the economic infrastructures that we have ripped off, are at stake. Fires where there would be no UN sanction...and so on.
(6) Moving to possible solutions, suppose one did want to have a means of constructively addressing violent situations like that in Kosovo or even worse situations elsewhere in the world: a department of Peace rather than of War. Could there be such a thing? Is the only legitimate external lever to try to reduce violence within nations economic, or could an international peace-keeping force be viably sent in to protect populations? Does it make sense for us to be proposing such a force as the only option in accord with the kind of exalted motivations that Clinton (hypocritically) offers for his bombing forays--motivations which, if serious and universally applied, would have great merit: that is, preventing massacres?
If it does make sense to offer such a positive vision, then presumably we would need to explain what such a peace force might look like and how it could be fitted and trained to defend itself and populaces in the pursuit of peace, or at least the defense of civilians. Clearly such a force would have to be willing to take casualties or else aggressors would just threaten it, watch it run off, and then do their thing. It would of course have to be legitimately peace-oriented and not beholden to U.S. policy-making interests, or else its rhetoric about peace would only mask other motives entirely. It would be incapable of acting in the interests of peace. And how might it be funded and administered--by UN tithes in proportion to GNP, perhaps? Is describing such a peace force and how it would operate necessary if we are to effectively counter the opportunist use of rhetoric about massacres coupled to geopolitical domination policies -- that is, if we are to convince folks that bombing is not a proper response and that neither NATO nor the U.S. is a proper agent of peace-keeping, not only this time, but in general?
(7) Finally, I think many progressive people, (not Z readers, of course!) and even many folks who have in the past fought hard about things like the Iraq sanctions, say, or the Gulf War and related attacks, are now passive about or even worse supportive of these bombing raids. This is remarkable to me...but one has to ask, what is it about the whole discussion and the many articles and exchanges about foreign policy and international relations that have occurred over the past few years that has been lacking, leaving so many so quickly succumbing to nonsensical arguments?