Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" part vii

In my last post, I quoted Johnstone's claim that the Kosovo War served mainly as a pretext so that "there was nothing to stop a U.S. president from using military force to crush every conceivable adversary." On what does she base this assertion?

We have to look at U.S. foreign policy and military actions after 1999. The U.S. military has been very busy for the past few years. There are plenty of regimes and organizations which would 'conceivably' be targeted by the Bush Administration. It wouldn't take too much of a stretch to make a bogeyman out of Kim Jong Il, for example, or the theocratic regime in Iran. We're on the record as being in a "War Against Terror," so 'conceivably' we could go after the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, Muslim seperatists in southern Thailand, maybe even the ETA--surely America has some interests in Bilbao.

And as I write this, all-out war between U.S. ally Israel and Hezbollah is wracking Lebenon; Hamas shows no sign that assuming the responsibility of governing is modifying its committment to terrorist tactics; and Syria seems to be doing everything it can to make matters worse. There are plenty of adversaries there who are quite 'conceibable.' Yet where are the American troops?

They are in Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly. That the Taliban and Al Qaeda were 'conceivable' adversaries in the wake of September 11 isn't much of a stretch, really. And as for Iraq--whatever you think of the current Iraq war, the fact is that our involvement in that country predates the current Bush Administration, and even the Clinton Administration; we have been enforcing the no-fly zone and sanctions against that country since Bush I, many years prior to the Kosovo war. It would take a pretty bizarre reverse chronology to argue that somehow it took the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia to legitimize Saddam Hussein as an adversary 8 years prior.


Owen said...

Kirk, I think that the point Johnstone may be making here is that because action through the UN wasn't possible the US and UK and other suppporters of intervention found a more amenable vehicle in NATO. Johnstone's arguing that NATO intervention in Kosovo provided the US with a means of intervening as and when convenient to its own interests.

In theory that's possible, in practice there's always going to be a limit to what US's allies' electorates will allow their governments to agree to, so she hobbles an argument that has some element of merit by indulging her penchant for sweeping exaggeration.

And of course the essential question that has to be taken into account is what happens when there is an urgent humanitarian need for intervention and the international body with prime responsibility is incapable of acting.

Kirk Johnson said...

I am playing 'playing dumb' a little here. Once again--and as you have pointed out elsewhere--Johnstone presents an arguement that is plausible on the surface.

That the U.S. used NATO when the UN wasn't compliant enough is, indeed, plausible. But, as you point out, she does little if anything to back up this claim.

She then goes on to, what I feel, is her real point--that NATO countries were so comprimised morally and legally by their participation in the Kosovo War that they now have no choice but to meekly follow the U.S. any time the U.S. feels like taking military action against a country standing in the way of U.S. interests.

Shedoes not present her assertion as possibilities or interpretive tools; as per her usual method, she baldly states this as established fact. And if you expect people to accept your interpretation as reality, you should expect readers to match your claims against reality.

Again, I think her use of the word 'conceivable' is telling here--she is trying to paint a picture of the U.S. as an imperialist colonizer gone berzerk, going after any regime it can cook up an excuse to dethrone, with a bullied and cowed Western Europe sheepishly toeing the line. Given the nature of U.S. military actions in the past few years, and the strained relations with many of its allies, I don't see Johnstone's sweeping claims as representing reality. Which is, at the end of the day, what she should be trying to do.