Magazine article Dissent

On the Facts / Aryeh Neier Replies

Magazine article Dissent

On the Facts / Aryeh Neier Replies

Article excerpt

ARYEH NEIER'S outrage Over a "diatribe against NATO's military intervention" ("Inconvenient Facts," Dissent, Spring 2000) is understandable: the issues are too serious for that. His essay is presented as a review of my book The New Military Humanism (NMH), which scarcely mentions the propriety of the NATO bombing. The topic is indeed brought up, three pages from the end, noting that what precedes-the entire book-leaves the question of what should have been done in Kosovo "unanswered," though it seems a "reasonable judgment" that the United States selected the most harmful of several options available. As explained clearly and unambiguously from the outset, even from the title, the book is about a wholly different topic: the import of the Kosovo events for the "new era" of "principles and values" led by the "enlightened states" (to quote from some of the rhetoric reviewed), a matter that must be sharply distinguished from the question of what should have been done.

I also stressed the point that any resort to force must be assessed in terms of its likely human consequences, whatever the motives or past record of the agent. To illustrate, I reviewed the major post-World War II examples of military intervention with benign consequences, along with the U.S. reaction to them, a matter directly relevant to the topic of the book, as is the matter of regular practice, which bears directly on motives and long-term import.

That these are the topics of the book cannot be missed, and has not been by others. The latest review I have seen opens by observing that "Chomsky, however, does not `contribute to the debate about what should be, or should have been done in Kosovo.' As he explains, the aim of his writing is `to examine the framework in which events proceeded on their course, with its terrible human toll."'

These are among the actual topics of the book, which also suggests easy ways to mitigate or terminate comparable or worse atrocities: for example, by withdrawing from participation in them. A leading thesis throughout is "a psychological truism. One of the hardest things to do is to look into the mirror. It is also one of the most important things to do." Neier passes over these matters with a few casual words, which seriously understate the crimes for which he and I share responsibility; Washington did not "tolerate" them, as he puts it, but took an active and decisive role in escalating them, a crucial distinction. It appears that my discussion of U.S. crimes and what we could easily do about them is of little significance to him in comparison with what should have been done about the other fellow's crimes.

I also discussed the reactions of commentators outside of the self-anointed "enlightened states," who warn that NATO's reversion to the "colonial era," "cloaked in moralistic righteousness," is "a danger to the world," and will lead to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction for deterrence (Israeli military analyst Amos Gilboa); and the high-level planning documents of the Clinton years that lend additional substance to these concerns. Significant questions, in my view, but apparently not in Neier's.

I also reviewed available documentation on the perceived circumstances under which the bombing of Kosovo was undertaken-again, a matter highly relevant to motive and import, though it leaves "unanswered" the question of what should have been done. Since then a great deal of additional documentation has been provided by the U.S. State Department, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), NATO, the UN, and other Western sources. To a degree I found surprising, the new material undermines already dubious factual claims that had been advanced to justify the bombing, including those Neier repeats, and lends support to my original judgment and perhaps even to the more extreme position of commanding general Wesley Clark, who informed the press as the bombing began that a sharp escalation of atrocities was "entirely predictable," and a few weeks later, that the NATO operation was "not designed as a means of blocking Serb ethnic cleansing" or "as a means of waging war against the Serb and MUP forces in Kosovo. …

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