Manoeuvres Focused on Mounting Chaos
But one of the significant consequences of the NATO attack on Yugoslavia was almost certainly that it marks the end of the European project as a political project for Western and Central Europe. That political project could only have succeed if the member states of the European Union had been prepared to stick to their words and reconstruct the European political order as a norm-based rather than a power-politics based system, becoming democratic and embracing the Eastern part of the continent. This war seemed certain to bring that effort to an end.
A gathering of intellectuals at the Marc-Bloc Foundation in Paris on 29th May 1999, entitled 'After the Emotion the Political Reflection began to tackle this question seriously. Claude Lanzmann, the producer of Shoah, the documentary account of the Holocaust spoke. He said that the NATO attack on Yugoslavia was a new Dreyfus Affair. It is, but this time with a whole European nation, the Serbs, cast in the role of Dreyfus. A handful of French intellectuals sensed quickly that the whole case against Dreyfus was constructed out of lies.
Millions upon millions of people across Europe now see the Serb nation for what it is: a victim of the power plays of Western powers which have constructed this war on a foundation of lies, shattering the entire normative scaffolding upon which the new Europe was supposed to be built.Powerful States can and so wage wars rooted in fictions and falsehoods, and get away with it.
But attempts to build transnational, post-nation state structures like the European Union, the Council of Europe or the OSCE on a power politics that displays contempt for the supposedly founding principles of such bodies are unlikely to be sustainable.
The continuation of the European project as a form of political development for Europe will be possible only if one of two conditions are met:either the NATO Dreyfus affair in the Western Balkans can be quickly forgotten in a rapid move to prosperity, peace and hope in a reconstructed Western Balkans; or the political and intellectual resources of Europe were mobilised to decisively repudiate the entire aggressive war against Serbia and against a tolerable future for all the peoples in that region. Neither of these two conditions seems a remote possibility.
As a result, the European project is likely to become a Single Market project, harmonised with the requirements of American business plus a currency under American tutelage. And the tendency will be for the main West European powers to be constantly involved in power politics manoeuvres on an American led agenda, manoeuvres focused largely on mounting chaos in the Eastern and South Eastern part of the continent.
The NATO attack on Yugoslavia was the result of American diplomacy, just as the war itself is essentially an American war legitimated by the fact that it is run as a NATO war. For many months during 1998, the West European powers did try to resist the American drive for a NATO war. Their resistance was partly based upon the fact that there strategic interests differed from those of the Americans but the form of their resistance was that of attempting to resolve the conflict in Yugoslavia by mediation and by peaceful means. But in late January,1999 the British and the French governments broke ranks and lined up behind the Clinton Administration for war.
Thus to understand the war we have to understand the character of American aims.There are broadly speaking two approaches to this question.
One approachsays that the Clinton Administration was reacting to events in the Western Balkans in deciding to go for war. Its aims were governed by the plight of the Kosovar Albanians. This line of argument then leads to the conclusion that there was an extraordinary mismatch between US aims and US methods, a mismatch which the European pundits supporting the war explain by reference to supposed American stupidity. We will survey the diplomatic background and the launch of the war to explore the validity of this theory which we will call the Theory of American Stupidity. In doing so we will show how the approaches of the US and the West Europeans to the Kosovo issue in the run-up to war were not complementary: they were directly contradictory. The US approach undermined European efforts at mediation and peaceful resolution of the conflict. The West European approaches constantly undermined the US drive for war, until the Franco-British turn in January 1999. Those who support the war need to address this conflict of approaches in order to provide themselves with a consistent position. They can say that the European approach was complicit with the Serbian government; or they can say that the US approach was responsible for much of the terrible sufferings of the Kosovo Albanians both before the NATO attack and especially after it had begun. But they should not evade these issues.
But there is a second way of understanding US aims in launching this war. This says that the Clinton Administration's drive for war was dictated by US strategic political aims in Europe and in the international arena and thus that a war against Yugoslavia over Kosovo was simply an instrument in US geopolitical strategy: the Kosovo Albanians' plight was a pretext and the Kosovar Albanian political groups were simply pawns. This view is, of course, anathema to the media pundits in NATOland, but it is overwhelmingly popular in the foreign offices and state executives of the states of Europe and of the entire world. On this view, the war demonstrates one central lesson: the inability of the main West European powers to sustain a collective political will in the face of unremitting US pressure. Thus, despite the very strong political and economic interests of the main West European capitalist states in maintaining a collective stance in the face of US manoeuvres over European affairs, their rivalries and vanities can always ultimately be exploited by the US to divide them. In essence this gives us a theory of the current war in terms of the West European states' stupidities. We will examine that theory, which we will call the Theory of European Stupidity.
Of course, the word'stupidity' is a polite one, it is a neutral, problem-solving word, without significant ethical connotations. It is necessary, perhaps to add that the word is used here in an ironical sense. The moral and political consequences of this war for Europe are terrible to contemplate. The hopes of a better future for the continent 10 years ago are over. Never glad confident morning in Europe again, at least not for decades. The next phase of European history will be marked by the efforts of the United States to push further its drive for global hegemony in Europe and elsewhere. As soon as it has finished its bombing campaign in the Western Balkans it will switch its pitiless gaze East towards the coming truly awesome confrontation with China. Back and forth between Asia and Europe the US will move, attempting to beat the world into shape for the next millennium. The really strong arguments for the NATO war are actually the general arguments for US global hegemony. These take two forms. First, those who actually believe that US hegemony will produce a new world of global citizens rights, global prosperity and global justice. Secondly, the pragmatists argue that we cannot buck the trend, we must bandwagon with the hegemon in order to subvert it later from within its secure security zone.