12.Media Complicity (Part 1)
FOR ALL THAT journalists deny that it influences their judgment, wars sell newspapers and increase broadcast news ratings. Journalists and editors will note that they have nothing to do with the business aspect of their news mediums. And, for the most part, this is true. However, while the profit motive may be disregarded by the journalists and editors, the competitive desire to take the lead in a news environment means that there is an urge to report the most sensational news possible.
"Dog Bites Man" is not news; "Man Bites Dog" is news. So it is important that news stress the negative, or the sensational. Few Western media editors are prepared to "go against the flow" of popular belief on any subject. And once the Balkan wars began again with the break-up of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991-92, the propaganda wars initially hammered the Serbs, who were totally ill-equipped to deal with the Western media phenomenon. The poor impression of the Serbs their pseudospeciation although ignoring the reality of history, has remained over the past eight years. It was all too easy to revive the shibboleths of the anti-Serb.
When Clinton wanted a villain, the Serbs were ready-made. It is for that reason that Clinton, and NATO, have been able to propose demands which are totally outside the realm of civilized state behavior. This includes the demand that the sovereignty of a state be compromised: the UN Charter specifically discusses the inviolability of borders, for example. As well, when Clinton ordered the attack on President Miloevics home on April 22, 1999, he blatantly violated US law which prohibits targeting a foreign head-of-state. This was immediately dismissed with the glib statement that the attack was not on the Yugoslav leader but on his "command and control facilities".
Much of the histrionic and unsubstantiated propaganda has been accepted by a news-gathering community which, despite minor grumblings, accepts the legitimacy and credibility of governments. It often takes much for journalists to believe that the most powerful are not always the most truthful.
But when Clinton ordered the air strike on the headquarters of Serbian television on April 23, 1999, it proved too much for most foreign correspondents who were in Belgrade to cover the war. Indeed, despite being in Belgrade, most had been anti-Serb and reflected the attitudes of the news organs in their own countries. A large gathering of foreign journalists was held at the Belgrade Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest the TV station bombing and the targeting of journalists. The journalists recognized that when they are targeted then the attackers are usually unwilling to hear free debate. Even those journalists hostile to the Serbs felt that the strike could just as easily been directed at the transmitters, not at the newsrooms.
It may well be that the strike on Serbian TV, which cost 10 lives and many wounded, will be one of the worst moves of the Clinton team, even though other strikes caused more civilian damage. As it transpired, Serbian TV was back on the air again within six hours: the only real impact of the strike, apart from ending 10 lives and damaging many more, was the fact that Clinton may have finally made the enemies who count: those in the media.
Indeed, the foreign press in Belgrade had not anticipated that NATO SACEUR General Wesley Clark would go against his NATO colleagues and order the strike on Serbian TV. Those who know Clarks "fine sense of political reality" knew that he would obey the White House, however. And, significantly, Serbian authorities expected it, which is why they were ready to go on the air again so quickly.
12. Military, Strategic and Military-Political Lessons
IT IS NOT TOO early to learn some military, strategic and military-political lessons from the current "NATO war" against Yugoslavia.
Indeed, if we wait until the conflict has ended, there is a good chance, as with all wars, that the "lessons" will be learned only partly, or that the key problems will be overlooked by the world community because the "lessons" will be derived from the writings of the most powerful state(s) which survive the war. I do not say "victors", because should the war progress through to a major ground war then there will be no victors. That, indeed, is one of the "lessons": avoid wars without clearly achievable and finite military and political objectives.
From the defenders viewpoint, the objectives are easier to define: survival as a nation, survival with viability, survival with a sense of national honor, minimization of casualties, retention of sovereign credibility, and so on.
Some of the military lessons clearly available at present include:
1. The lessons of coalition warfare:
The air operations against Yugoslavia, at least for the first month, went well for NATO, despite the fact that it was an ad hoc conflict, with no goals and no real military objectives. It produced neither the military nor political goals which the politicians said they sought, but that was not the fault of the military, who clearly had little say on much of the target selection. But the coordination of aircraft, and particularly the use of airborne sensors and command and control, was effective. The NATO administrative machinery, involved in its first war in 50 years, worked well. Secrecy of operations, and particularly on operational problems, was good.
There seemed to be good airspace management, with little confusion, despite the fact that a wide range of forces were being thrown into the mix without any real planning. So, from some viewpoints, NATO showed that it could operate effectively at very short notice. And under normal circumstances, it would be responding to a proper military crisis, not a political war ("Clintons War", as it is termed in the US Congress). This means that professionals would be in charge of (military) target selection, and objectives would be clearly-defined.
2. The cost of the loss of technology:
There must be some concern over the loss of advanced technology. It is easy for US military leaders to dismiss the loss of an F-117 Stealth fighter as being "20 year-old technology", and a Tomahawk Cruise Missile as "12 year-old technology", but the fact remains that it is the most current US operational technology. There is no doubt, given the components recovered by the Yugoslavs from downed US weapons, that both Yugoslavia and Russia could within months field weapons of equal complexity to the Tomahawk.
Is NATO yet ready to deal with such weapons if the conflict lingers, or resurfaces in a year or two from, say, a coalition led by Russia? And if a rival to the F-117 cannot be easily produced, then defenses against it are now clearly becoming easier to devise.
Similarly, the helicopter-borne forces, which fared so well in the Gulf War, are now clearly very vulnerable, despite the fact that Yugoslavia has not been using very advanced weapons. The old 23mm and 57mm anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) systems have done well, as have older missiles, such as the SA-3.
3. The strategic cost of loss of mobility in other theaters:
Today, the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) has some 200 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBM) each capable of taking a nuclear, chemical or biological load, in the area immediately facing the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. When the PRC last threatened to invade Taiwan, three years ago, it had only 50 such MRBMs in the region. And then the US even with the Clinton
Administration fairly kindly-disposed toward Beijing and diffident toward Taipei had two major assets in the region: Defense Secretary Bill Perry and a couple of carrier battle groups. Today, Perry (who put the carriers into the Strait of Taiwan to deter the PRC) has retired, reportedly disgusted with the Clinton White House failure to support its treaty commitments (such as those to Taiwan). And there are no US carrier battle groups off the North-East Asian litto ral. At the same time, the DPRK (North Korea) is strengthening its military command and is provocatively testing long-range ballistic missiles over Japan. The DPRK has abandoned any real pretense over the matter of its deployment of operational nuclear weapons.
So there is little which the US could do to meet its treaty obligations to defend Taiwan and South Korea if, even now, the PRC and DPRK decided to take what they have long said they would, one day, take: Taiwan and South Korea.
The constraints on US force flexibility will be total if the US is forced to commit to a major ground campaign in Yugoslavia. Even now, the US has thrown away most of its remaining stand-off strike weapons, the Tomahawk Cruise Missiles, in the current campaign against Yugoslavia. The result is that the US, if it is forced to fight in Asia (and its forces in South Korea are automatically committed if the North comes across the DMZ), then it must fight nose-to-nose, or it must decide early-on to go nuclear.
Significantly, if a major war is under-taken against Yugoslavia, then it must be assumed that there would be as much as a 90 percent chance that war would break out in Asia, in either Korea, or between the PRC and ROC. And North Korea and the PRC believe that they could now win a quick victory in their respective campaigns. That is, in fact, more likely than the prospect that NATO could win quickly in Yugoslavia.
But that is not all. The lack of US mobility means that other wars are likely to emerge. Some form of confrontation would almost certainly re-emerge in the Middle East. Perhaps several. Iraq could easily go into Kuwait again, and possibly also end the Western embargo on its military operations in the north and south of the country. Iran could easily move to either topple the Saudi Government, or coerce it into a compliant state which would augur very badly for Egypt and Jordan, in particular. It would be expected that such a scenario would also entail a re-escalation of radical activities within Egypt, and among the Palestinians. Israel would almost certainly react rapidly and decisively.
And within NATO itself (as discussed below), a Greek-Turkish confrontation would be very probable, with Greece finally moving to oust the Turks from Cyprus. Almost certainly, there would be hitherto unconsidered eventualities. The entire world could boil, with no, or few, US or NATO assets available to project Western power.
End of Part 1.