The Twilight of the European Project

 By Peter Gowan

 In the midsts of the bombing campaign it is impossible for us
 to grasp the full significance of the NATO war against
 Yugoslavia. This is particularly true for those of us living in
 NATOland since the war, for us, is purely synthetic
 experience, television images as part of our daily, normal
 routine and images which are themselves increasingly
 routinised and thus normal. Indeed for us the whole war is
 part of our everyday routine: yesterday it was Iraq, some
 newsflashes about Sudan and somebody with an exotic name
 in Afghanistan, today Kosovo, tomorrow Taiwan -- all far
 away places which we naturally care deeply about but about
 which we know little and need to know less.

 But one of the significant consequences of the NATO attack
 on Yugoslavia is 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 seems
 certain to bring that effort to an end. A gathering of
 intellectuals at the Marc-Bloc Foundation in Paris on 29th
 May, 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
 are 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 current war we have to understand
 the character of American aims. There are broadly speaking
 two approaches to this question. One approach says 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. That subversion will take the
 form of transforming hegemonic dominance into a
 cosmopolitan set of institutions of global governance and
 justice. We will survey those arguments at the end of this


 The notion of American stupidity is really a British idea. It
 has been a double-sided notion throughout the post-war
 period in Britain: on one side it is a variety of
 Anti-Americanism much beloved in the British upper classes
 (especially those on the Right); on the other side it is a
 message of hope -- perhaps we can be cleverer than the
 Americans and manipulate them to our advantage. Thus have
 the British upper classes reconciled themselves to being
 constantly managed -- often for the benefit of the world's
 populations, as in the case of Suez -- by successive American
 administrations in an uninterrupted progress of British decline.
 The notion of American Stupidity is now becoming a
 European idea during the course of the present war. It has
 become the absolutely central conceptual mechanism for
 overcoming the contradictions in the efforts to justify the
 NATO air war against Yugoslavia.

 These contradictions derive from one single source: the
 attempt to explain the origins of the NATO attack as lying in
 a reactive effort to respond to the plight of the Kosovar
 Albanians. The contradictions disappear if we explain the
 attack as an attempt involve the European NATO members in
 a war to destroy the existing Serbian state. But that latter
 explanation raises a great many new questions about this war
 which NATO governments are seeking, so far very
 successfully, to evade.

 The distinction between seeking to help the Kosovar
 Albanians and seeking to destroy the existing Serbian state
 may seem a fine one. Common sense may suggest that the
 two goals are simply two sides of a single coin: supporting
 one side in a local conflict against the other side. But the
 NATO attack on Yugoslavia has involved much more than
 support for one side against another. It has entailed a decision
 by NATO to overthrow the normative cornerstones of the
 post-war international order: the principle of state sovereignty
 and the outlawing of aggression against a state without UN
 Security Council mandate. To take that step, the NATO
 powers could not simply claim that they were opposed to the
 domestic policies of the Yugoslav state. They had to claim
 that they were taking drastic action to save the Kosovo
 Albanians from a genocidal catastrophe. More, they had to
 claim that nothing other than military aggression against
 Serbia could prevent the catastrophe because all other
 methods had been tried and had failed.

 >From this stance come all the contradictions in the NATO
 position. For during the 14 months up to the launch of the
 NATO war, the West European and Russian governments
 were in continuous conflict with the USA over Kosovo, the
 USA systematically tried to sabotage a peaceful settlement of
 the conflict in Yugoslavia and the way in which the Clinton
 Administration launched the war invited a genocidal slaughter
 of the Kosovo Albanians.

 The European variant says that for 14 months the
 'International Community' tried every possible means of
 resolving the conflict peacefully. All efforts were thwarted by
 the Yugoslav authorities. So there was no choice but to turn
 to US air power. The US variant claims that for 14 months
 the US was struggling to gain agreement to a war against
 Yugoslavia, but the Europeans and Russians were blocking
 war. But finally, the US managed to push the Russians out of
 the picture (along with the UN) and bounce the West
 Europeans into a just war that they had been resisting.

 These two variants may not appear incompatible, but a glance
 at that 14 month history shows that they were, because the
 failure of the European-Russian efforts to gain a negotiated
 solution was the direct result of the activities of the US State
 Department. Only for a brief moment at the very start of the
 current phase of the Kosovo crisis did the USA appear to be
 on the same line as the Europeans, in viewing the KLA as a
 terrorist group. To search for the real origins of the war we
 need to survey this history.

 1. The US both encouraged the Serbian government to
 launch the counter-insurgency and wanted war against
 the Serbian government because of its

 From early March 1998, Albright wanted war against Serbia
 on the grounds that the Serbian government was genocidal.
 On March 7th,1998, just after and in response to the Serbian
 security force operation in the Benitsar region of Kosovo, she
 declared: "We are not going to stand by and watch the
 Serbian authorities do in Kosovo what they can no longer get
 away with doing in Bosnia." Two days later she reserved the
 right for the US to take unilateral action against the Serbian
 government, saying, 'We know what we need to know to
 believe we are seeing ethnic cleansing all over again.' This
 remained the US line right the way through from that first
 Serbian counter-insurgency drive against the KLA in Benitsar:
 Albright demanded war against Serbia. But the signal for the
 Serbian government to launch its counter-insurgency in
 Benistar also, intriguingly, came from Albright's own State
 Department. This signal was given by the United States
 special envoy to the region, Ambassador Gelbard. The BBC
 correspondent in Belgrade reported that Gelbard flew into
 Belgrade to brand the KLA as a terrorist group.

 ' "I know a terrorist when I see one and these men are
 terrorists," he said...At the time, the KLA was believed to
 number just a several hundred armed men. Mr. Gelbard's
 words were interpreted in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, as a
 green light for a security forces operation against the KLA
 and the special police conducted two raids in the Benitsar
 region in March.'

 So the Clinton administration encouraged the Serbian
 counter-insurgency in order to liberate the Kosovo Albanians
 from it through a NATO war. The Europeans on the other
 hand, wanted the Serbian counter-offensive against the KLA
 to result in an internationally brokered compromise peace
 granting Kosovo Autonomy within Serbia.

 2. The ''international community' tried for 14 months to
 broker a peaceful solution, but the Clinton
 Administration did not.

 The UN (in its resolution 1199), the West European powers
 and the Russians sought, during 1998, to bring about a cease
 fire and a negotiated solution in Kosovo, granting autonomy
 to the Albanians within Serbia. The Serbian government,
 from March 1998 declared its support for this, and there was
 support for this approach, as an interim solution, from the
 Rugova shadow government in Pristina. Only two major
 actors opposed this: Madeleine Albright and the KLA.
 Albright and the whole Clinton administration gave massive
 political support to the KLA, undermining the line of the other
 members of the Contact Group and the line of UN resolution

 Support for the KLA did not involve support for its aims: the
 Clinton administration has always opposed the aims of both
 the KLA and the Rugova leadership, both of whom demand
 independence for Kosovo. The Clinton administration did,
 however, support the KLA's means -- guerrilla warfare
 against the Serbian state -- by repeatedly and vigorously
 making demands upon the Serbian government which
 strengthened and encouraged the KLA war.

 This US support for the KLA became unequivocal by June
 1998, by which time NATO military planning for an attack on
 Yugoslavia was completed. In that month, White House
 spokesperson Mike McCurry asserted that Serbia 'must
 immediately withdraw security units involved in civilian
 repression, without linkage to...the 'stopping of terrorist
 activity.' In parallel, Pentagon spokesperson Kenneth Bacon
 said: 'We don't think that there should be any linkage between
 an immediate withdrawal of forces by the Yugoslavs on the
 one hand, and stopping terrorist activities, on the other. There
 ought to be complete withdrawal of military forces so that
 negotiations can begin.' In other words, Washington was
 insisting that before any cease-fire or negotiations on a
 Kosovo peace settlement, the Serbian authorities must
 withdraw all their forces for Kosovo, handing over the
 territory to the KLA's military forces despite the fact that the
 urban Albanian population of Kosovo was far more
 pro-Rugova than the KLA. As Gary Dempsey explains, the
 US was demanding that the Serbian government 'effectively
 hand over one of its territories to an insurgency
 movement.....This...led many ethnic Albanians to further
 conclude that the Clinton administration-- despite its official
 statements to the contrary -- backed their goal of
 independence....Although US policy was officially opposed to
 independence for Kosovo, Washington would not allow
 Belgrade to forcibly resist it.'

 Air War supporters thus have a choice of interpretations on
 these matters: either the US was right to back the KLA and
 sharpen the internal conflict in preparation for a NATO
 attack, in which case the Europeans are the Russians were
 presumably covert supporters of the dictatorial, genocidal
 Milosevic regime. Alternatively, they can argue that the
 European-Russians-UN were right to seek an internal
 cease-fire and negotiated solution and the US was wrong to
 try to sabotage this. But Air War supporters cannot embrace
 both variants.

 3. Sabotaging the October 13th Cease-Fire:

 On 13th October, Albright's rival in the Clinton
 administration, Richard Holbrooke, negotiated a cease-fire
 agreement with Yugoslav President Milosevic. The cease-fire
 would be monitored in Kosovo by OSCE observers.
 Milosevic agreed on the basis that the US administration
 would ensure that the KLA did observe the cease-Fire.

 But the Clinton administration sabotaged the whole operation.
 The OSCE monitors did not enter Kosovo for a whole month
 after the agreement. During that time, the KLA did not
 respect the cease-fire, continued its operations and extended
 its reach in Kosovo. During the delay, the Clinton
 administration took control of the OSCE, placed William
 Walker, a key organiser of the Contra operation in Nicaragua
 and the blood-bath in El Salvador, in charge of the OSCE
 monitoring force. Some 2,000 trained monitors waiting in
 Bosnia to be sent into Kosovo were blocked by the US, who
 put US ex-military personnel in as the monitoring force and
 from mid-November they surveyed every bridge, cross-roads,
 official building, security force billet and barracks -- every
 item that could be relevant to a future NATO-KLA joint

 At the same time the European-Russian-UN line continued to
 be to seek an internal solution and blamed the KLA for the
 failure to achieve it. Thus, for example, at their General
 Affairs Council on 8th December, 1998, Cook and the other
 foreign ministers of the EU assessed the situation in Kosovo.
 The report of the meeting in the Agence Europe Bulletin of
 the following day stated: 'At the close of its debate on the
 situation in the Western Balkans, the General Affairs Council
 mainly expressed concern for the recent 'intensification of
 military action' in Kosovo, noting that 'increased activity by
 the KLA has prompted an increased presence of Serbian
 security forces in the region.' ' Thus, the EU saw the KLA as
 the driving force undermining the possibility of a cease fire
 and a compromise solution. They were simply on a different
 line from Albright. And they continued to be right through

 4.Turning the Rambouillet Negotiations into an
 Ultimatum, while overthrowing the Rugova Leadership:

 The two variants continue into the Rambouillet process. The
 idea of bringing the two sides together into face to face
 negotiations under international auspices came from the
 French government. The Clinton administration had been
 against such an idea, favouring a straight move towards
 bombing. But on this occasion, the differences were
 overcome in favour of the French getting their way on the
 form while the US would get its way on the substance. This
 was a turning point. The French and British switched over to
 the US position at a meeting of the contact group in London
 on 29th January,1999, exactly a week before the opening on
 6th February of the Rambouillet 'negotiations'. From that
 moment on the NATO attack on Yugoslavia was a virtual
 certainty. We can see why when we appreciate that the
 Rambouillet 'negotiations' were not negotiations at all: they
 were an ultimatum to the Serbian government which was
 drafted in such a way as to ensure that it would be rejected.

 The Serbian government wanted face to face negotiations at
 Rambouillet with the Kosovo representatives. This the
 Americans absolutely refused, presumably with British and
 French support since they were formally supposed to be in
 charge of the process. It is also fairly clear that there were
 some on the Kosovo side who were interested in discussing
 with the Serbian authorities. Why else would be Clinton
 administration have decided to overthrow the elected Rugova
 government of Kosovo and replace it with a KLA-led
 government, there and then, at Rambouillet?

 The Serbian side was then required to agree to the
 'Agreement' without changing it, or face NATO attack on
 Yugoslavia. If the Serbian government had signed the
 'Agreement' the agreement would have had no status in
 international law, since treaties signed under threat of
 aggression have no force in international law. But the Serbian
 authorities, probably wisely, did not have any confidence in
 their ability to rely upon international law, so they refused to

 Most people assume that the Serbian government refused to
 sign, because the 'Agreement' would lead to the independence
 of Kosovo. The 'Agreement' did involve a de facto NATO
 Protectorate (not, by the way, a democratic entity. The Chief
 of the Implementation Force could dictate to the Kosovo
 government on any aspect of policy he considered relevant to
 NATO (ie US) concerns.)

 But the real sticking point for the Serbian government seems
 to have been the threat that the 'Agreement' posed to the rest
 of Yugoslavia. The NATO compliance force would have
 complete control of Kosovo deploying there whatever types
 of forces it wished: ' NATO will establish and deploy a force
 (hereinafter KFOR) which may be composed of ground, air,
 and maritime units from NATO and non-NATO nations,
 operating under the authority and subject to the direction and
 the political control of the North Atlantic Council (NAC)
 through the NATO chain of command. The Parties agree to
 facilitate the deployment and operations of this force.' Thus,
 if the US wished to use Kosovo as a base for the invasion
 and occupation of the rest of Yugoslavia it could do so.

 This was threat enough. But the so-called 'Appendix B' added
 to the document at Rambouillet itself and kept secret until it
 was leaked and eventually published in the French press,
 insisted that NATO forces could move at will across the
 whole of Yugoslavia. Thus: 'NATO personnel shall enjoy,
 together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment,
 free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access
 throughout the FRY including associated airspace and
 territorial waters. This shall include, but not be limited to, the
 right of bivouac, manoeuvre, billet, and utilisation of any
 areas or facilities as required for support, training, and
 operations.' NATO could also alter the infrastructure of
 Yugoslavia at will: 'NATO may.... have need to make
 improvements or modifications to certain infrastructures in
 the FRY, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, buildings, and utility
 systems.' It could thus move around investigating all
 Yugoslav infrastructures with a view to destroying them (in
 an attack) later. And the Yugoslav authorities 'shall provide,
 free of cost, such public facilities as NATO shall require.' The
 Yugoslav authorities 'shall, upon simple request, grant all
 telecommunications services, including broadcast services,
 needed for the Operation, as determined by NATO. This
 shall include the right to utilise such means and services as
 required to assure full ability to of cost.'
 'NATO is granted the use of airports, roads, rails, and ports
 without payment of fees, duties, dues, tolls, or charges
 occasioned by mere use.' The Yugoslav authorities must not
 merely tolerate this: they must facilitate it:' The authorities in
 the FRY shall facilitate, on a priority basis and with all
 appropriate means, all movement of personnel, vehicles,
 vessels, aircraft, equipment, or supplies, through or in the
 airspace, ports, airports, or roads used. No charges may be
 assessed against NATO for air navigation, landing, or takeoff
 of aircraft, whether government-owned or chartered.
 Similarly, no duties, dues, tolls or charges may be assessed
 against NATO ships, whether government-owned or
 chartered, for the mere entry and exit of ports.'

 And in all such activities in the whole of Yugoslavia, NATO
 shall be completely above the law: 'NATO shall be immune
 from all legal process, whether civil, administrative, or
 criminal.' And again: 'NATO personnel, under all
 circumstances and at all times, shall be immune from the
 Parties' jurisdiction in respect of any civil, administrative,
 criminal, or disciplinary offences which may be committed by
 them in the FRY. ' And again: ' NATO and NATO personnel
 shall be immune from claims of any sort which arise out of
 activities in pursuance of the operation'.

 This threat to move from Kosovo to the overthrow of the
 entire Serbian and Yugoslav regime was underlined by the
 fact that NATO claimed the right to dictate the fundamentals
 of socio-economic policy within Kosovo, with the Yugoslav
 and Kosovo governments completely under the diktat of US
 policies. Thus:' The economy of Kosovo shall function in
 accordance with free market principles.' And: 'There shall be
 no impediments to the free movement of persons, goods,
 services, and capital to and from Kosovo.' And again:
 'Federal and other authorities shall within their respective
 powers and responsibilities ensure the free movement of
 persons, goods, services, and capital to Kosovo, including
 from international sources. There must also be complete
 compliance with the IMF and World Bank. Thus:
 'International assistance, with the exception of humanitarian
 aid, will be subject to full compliance with....conditionalities
 defined in advance by the donors and the absorptive capacity
 of Kosovo.' The Yugoslav government must also agree to
 handing over economic assets to foreign interests. Thus: 'If
 expressly required by an international donor or lender,
 international contracts for reconstruction projects shall be
 concluded by the authorities of the Federal Republic of

 These statements made it perfectly clear that NATO was out
 to destroy the existing character of the Serbian economy. The
 ultimatum also demonstrated that NATO was determined to
 wage war against the Serbian media. It demanded 'Free
 media, effectively accessible to registered political parties and
 candidates, and available to voters throughout Kosovo.' And
 it said that 'The IM shall have its own broadcast frequencies
 for radio and television programming in Kosovo. The Federal
 Republic of Yugoslavia shall provide all necessary

 Rambouillet was thus an ultimatum for a war against Serbia
 and the terms of the ultimatum demonstrated that if the
 Serbian government accepted Rambouillet they would very
 likely face a crushing attack in the future from NATO forces
 on Yugoslav soil.

 5. The Launch of the War and the Need for Stupidity With
 the 'failure' of Rambouillet, the Clinton Administration took
 open charge of the preparations for war. And it is at this point
 that the analysis of those who support the NATO Air War
 faces absolutely irreconcilable contradictions. For the way in
 which the war was launched is, on the face of it, absolutely

 The bombing campaign was launched in 24th March. But
 President Clinton announced on the 19th of March that the
 bombing campaign would be launched and nothing now could
 block it. The US administration thus gave the Serbian
 government 5 days in which they could do as their pleased in
 Kosovo. And when the bombing started, it was organised so
 that the Serbian authorities could continue to have a free hand
 in Kosovo for more than a week. The air war's first phase
 was directed largely at targets outside the Kosovo theatre
 itself for a full week.

 And this military side of the attack was combined with an
 absolutely contradictory set of explanations for NATO's
 aggression. On one side, the attack was justified as an attempt
 to prevent the genocidal threat to the Kosovar Albanians from
 the Milosevic regime. But on the other side, the attack was
 simultaneously justified by the claim that the Milosevic
 regime had no such genocidal intentions and indeed wanted
 the bombing campaign in order to use it to sell Rambouillet to
 the Serbian people.

 These contradictions cannot be explained away by haste,
 improvisation and confusion on the part of the Clinton
 administration. We know that the US National Security
 Council and the State Department had been planning this war
 in detail for 14 months before it started. We know also from
 the Washington Post that the experts in the US administration
 spent those 14 months running over, day after day, all the
 variants of the course of such a war, all the scenarios of
 possible Yugoslav government responses to the air attack. We
 know that they foresaw the possibilities of mass refugee exits
 from Kosovo. The Pentagon foresaw a long air war: the
 notion that Milosevic wanted the bombing attack was political
 spin put about by General Wesley Clark: it was nonsense. So
 why did they plan the start of the war in this particular way?

 There is only one serious explanation: the Clinton
 administration was giving the Serbian authorities the
 opportunity to provide the NATO attack with an ex post facto
 legitimation. The US was hoping that the five days before the
 launch of the bombing and the first week of the war would
 give various forces in Serbia the opportunity for atrocities that
 could then be used to legitimate the air war.

 This was a rational calculation on the part of the US planners.
 They knew that the main political opponents in Serbia of
 Milosevic's Socialist Party -- the Radical Party of Seselj and
 various Serbian fascist groups -- supported the ethnic
 cleansing of Kosovo, though the Socialist Party did not. They
 knew also that Yugoslav military forces would pour into
 positions in Kosovo as the OSCE personnel left, clearing
 strategic villages, driving forward against KLA-US supporters.
 They could predict also that there would be a refugee flow
 across the borders into Macedonia and Albania.

 And the US planners were proved right. Extremist Serbian
 groups did, it seems, go on the rampage in Pristina for three
 days after the start of the war. Refugees did start to flood
 across the borders. And the resulting news pictures did indeed
 swing European public opinion behind the war. As for the
 Serbian government organising a genocidal mass slaughter,
 this did not happen: the Clinton administration organised the
 launch of the war to invited the Serbian authorities to launch
 a genocide, but the Milosevic government declined the

 It is simply impossible to argue that the US military campaign
 was designed to stop the brutalities against the Kosovo
 Albanians. It would be far easier to demonstrate that this
 thoroughly planned and prepared war was designed to
 increase the chances of such brutalities being escalated to
 qualitatively higher levels. The way that the war was
 launched was designed to increase the sufferings of the
 Kosovar Albanians in order to justify an open-ended US
 bombing campaign against the Serbian state. The technique
 worked. But this success cannot be acknowledged. Instead it
 must be hidden by the notion of Clinton administration

 And to this stupidity the European pundits of NATO can add
 many other supposed American stupidities. The stupidity of
 trying to save the Kosovar Albanians with an air war instead
 of a ground war. The stupidity of killing so many Albanian
 and Serbian civilians. The stupidity of not swiftly admitting
 such killings when they occur.

 And then there is the most fascinating stupidity of all: the
 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. This particular
 stupidity must have been a defining moment for the European
 powers, a moment for hard, focused thinking, for one very
 simple reason: stupid or not, the governments of Western
 Europe know that it was not a mistake. They know that the
 US military attaches in Belgrade had dined more than once at
 the Chinese Embassy compound in the city before the war
 started. They know very well how prominent the compound
 is and how professional the US intelligence operation for
 targeting is. They know that the Embassy was hit on a special
 mission by a plane from the United States. And they noted
 Clinton's casual response: no press conference to make a
 formal public apology. Just an aside about an unfortunate
 mistake in a speech about something else. They know too
 that China is by far the most important issue in the entire
 current US foreign policy agenda.

 And the West European states have learned more about the
 stupidity of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy since it has
 occurred: it resulted in the collapse of weeks of
 German-Russian diplomacy which had gone into producing
 the G8 declaration agreed just before the Embassy was
 bombed. That G8 declaration threatened to undermine the
 US's 5 conditions for ending the war and threatened to
 rebuild the central authority of the UN over NATO: the
 Embassy bombing put a stop to all that. More, it completely
 sabotaged Schoder's planned business visit to China: West
 European efforts to steal contracts with China by taking a
 softer line than the Clinton administration were brought to a
 standstill and the West Europeans are being brigaded into line
 behind Washington's policy in a new confrontation with

 All this, for the West Europeans is surely the height of
 stupidity. But pennies have been dropping in the
 Chancelleries of Western Europe. They are realising that even
 if there has been plenty of stupidity in the NATO war against
 Yugoslavia, the stupidity may not lie in Washington. It may
 lie in quite a different quarter, namely in the state executives
 of Western Europe itself. To see why, we need an entirely
 different take on the origins of the NATO attack on


 The alternative take on the origins of the NATO war against
 Yugoslavia starts from the fact that the war did not derive
 from big power reactions to local events in the Balkans at all.
 Instead, this theory starts from the premise that the Clinton
 administration was seeking a war against Yugoslavia as a
 means for achieving political goals outside the Balkans
 altogether. The conflict between the Serbian state and the
 Kosovar Albanians was to be exploited as a means to achieve
 US strategic goals outside the Balkans on the international

 This conception turns the cognitive map used by the
 proponents of American stupidity on its head. Thus, for
 example, instead of thinking that the US was ready to
 overthrow the norms of the international order for the sake of
 the Kosovar Albanians, we assume exactly the opposite: the
 US was wanting to overthrow the principles of state
 sovereignty and the authority of the UN Security Council and
 used the Kosovo crisis as an instrument for doing so. Instead
 of imagining that the US was ready to shut Russia out of
 European politics for the sake of the Kosovar Albanians, we
 assume that the Clinton administration used the NATO attack
 on Yugoslavia precisely as an instrument for consolidating
 Russia's exclusion. Instead of assuming that the US was
 ready to abandon its policy of engagement with China for the
 sake of the Kosovo Albanians, we assume that the Clinton
 administration used the war against Yugoslavia to inaugurate
 a new phase of its policy towards China. And last but not
 least, instead of assuming that the US firmly subordinated the
 West European states to its military and political leadership in
 order create a new dawn in the Western Balkans, it used a
 number of ingenious devices -- especially the dilettantish
 vanity of messieurs Chirac and Jospin -- to drag the West
 European states into a Balkan war that would consolidate US
 hegemony over them, the EU and the Euro's development.

 This is where the European stupidity enters the theory. The
 one strategic interest of the main West European states
 (Germany and France) in the Balkans lies in maintaining
 stable and strong enough states in the region to keep their
 impoverished populations firmly in place. West European
 military intervention in the Balkans has essentially been
 concerned with preventing mass migrations Westwards when
 states collapse. Anglo-French military involvement in
 Yugoslavia through UNPROFOR was essentially about that:
 'humanitarian aid' in the war zone to ensure that the civilian
 population did not leave the war theatre. Italian military
 intervention in Albania in 1997 was about the same thing:
 stanching the flood of humanity out of Albania Westwards,
 by rebuilding an Albanian state while blocking emigration and
 asylum rights. Anglo-French efforts in Macedonia and
 Albania in the current war are similarly about caging the
 Kosovar Albanians within the Western Balkans. Yet now the
 American air force has, with European support, turned the
 Western Balkans into twenty years (minimum) of chaos from
 which all the energetic younger generations of all ethnic
 groups will rightly wish to flee West for decades to come.
 This is the first European stupidity.

 The second strategic interest of the West European states
 (especially Germany) in Eastern Europe is to maintain stable,
 friendly governments in Russia and Ukraine. That too can be
 ruled out as a result of this war as far as Russia is concerned;
 Ukraine will have to choose between Russia and the USA
 (the EU is not a serious alternative. And both Russia and
 Ukraine could spiral out of control with disastrous
 consequences for Central Europe Western Europe. This is the
 second European stupidity.

 The third strategic interest of the main West European states
 has been to combine an effort to bandwagon with US power
 with preserving an effective check on US efforts to impose its
 will on their foreign policies, whether in Europe or other parts
 of the world. That too seems finished now. The basic West
 European check on US power was the French veto at the UN
 Security Council, restraining the US with its 2 votes
 (including that of the UK). Now that Chirac has chosen to
 discredit the UN Security Council, he has undermined his
 own ability to speak for Europe at the UNSC and to be a
 useful partner for other states seeking to gain European help
 to restrain the US. That is a third stupidity.

 A fourth West European priority was to be able to claim that
 the EU is an independent, West European political entity with
 a dominant say at least over European affairs. Yet the current
 war demonstrates that this is a piece of pretentious bluff: the
 EU has played absolutely no role whatever in the launching or
 the management of this war. It will play no role whatever in
 the ending of the war. It is simply a subordinate policy
 instrument in the hands of a transatlantic organisation, the
 North Atlantic Council, handling the economic statecraft side
 of NATO's policy implementation. And within the North
 Atlantic Council the United States rules: the way the war ends
 will shape the future of Europe for at least a decade, yet that
 decision will be taken in the White House: the West European
 states (not to speak of the EU institutions) are political
 voyeurs with their noses pressed against the windows of the
 Oval Office trying to read the lips of the people in there
 deciding Europe's fate. This is a fourth stupidity.

 To explain the background to these stupidities we must
 examine US strategy since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc.


 In some conditions the cognitive framework -- local actions,
 big power reactions -- is useful. Such conditions exist when
 the superpower is satisfied and secure that the structures
 which it has established to ensure its dominance are safely in
 place. It is sitting astride the oceans comfortably and it reacts
 now and again to little local blow-outs and break downs.

 Some might regard that as being the situation of the United
 States after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. If we look at the
 power of the United States in the 1990s in resource terms, it
 has had no rival or even potential group of rivals in the
 military field, it dominates the international political economy,
 there is no power on earth remotely able for the foreseeable
 future to challenge the United States for world leadership.

 Yet curiously enough, the United States has been far from
 satisfied with its situation in the 1990s. It has felt itself to be
 facing a number of important challenges in the two key
 traditional regions of the world where it must exercise
 leadership -- Europe and the Pacific Rim -- and the challenges
 there are linked to another big challenge: the battle to ensure
 the preponderant weight of US capitalism in the so-called
 'emerging markets'. Leadership of Europe and of the Pacific
 in turn ensure that the United States can channel the activities
 of these states to ensure that US interests predominate in
 designing regimes to open up and dominate the 'emerging

 These problems were all connected to another, deeper issue:
 concerns about the basic strength and dynamism of the
 American economy and American capitalism. When the
 Clinton administration came into office it was determined to
 rejuvenate the dynamism of American capitalism through an
 activist foreign drive to build a new global set of political
 economy regimes accented to the strengths and interests of
 American capitalist expansion. Getting leverage over the
 Europeans and Japanese to achieve that was key.

 To understand US policy in the 1990s, we must appreciate
 the double-sided situation that it found itself in: on one side,
 its old way of dominating its capitalist 'allies' had been
 shattered by the Soviet Bloc collapse, giving lots of scope for
 these 'allies' to threaten important US interests in their
 particular regional spheres. But on the other side, the US had
 gigantic resources, especially in the military-political field and
 if it could develop an effective political strategy it could
 convert these military power resources into a global imperial
 project of historically unprecedented scope and solidity. We
 must grasp both the challenges and the great opportunities
 after the Soviet Bloc collapse to understand the strategy and
 tactics of the Bush and Clinton administrations.

 (a) The Post-Cold War Problems

 The challenge to the US in Europe created by the collapse of
 the Soviet Bloc has too often been ignored. That collapse not
 only made the USA the sole global super-power. It also
 simultaneously destroyed the political structures through
 which the USA had exercised its direct leadership over West
 European capitalism. And it simultaneously opened the whole
 of Eastern Europe for business with the West, a business and
 political expansion opportunity which the West European
 states, especially Germany, would spontaneously tend to
 control. What if West European capitalist states threw off US
 leadership, forged their own collective military-political
 identity, joined their capitals with Russian resources and
 Russian nuclear capacity? Where would that leave the USA in
 Western Eurasia outside of Turkey?

 The central political pillar of US leadership over Western
 Europe during the Cold War was NATO. The US-Soviet
 confrontation positioned Western Europe on the front line in
 the event of a US-Soviet war. This situation enable the USA
 to gain political leadership over Western Europe by supplying
 the military services -- the strategic nuclear arsenal -- to
 protect Western Europe. In return for these military services,
 the West European states agreed to the US politically
 brigading them under US leadership. The US could exercise
 control over their foreign policy apparatuses, integrating the
 bulk of their military forces under US command, imposing
 discipline of the dealings of West European capitalism with
 the East and so on. And the US could also exercise this
 political leadership for economic purposes, especially to
 assure the free entry of US capitals into Europe, to ensure
 that Europe worked with the US over the management of the
 global economy etc. So NATO was a key military- political
 structure. The hierarchy was: US military services give
 political leadership which gives leadership on the big
 economic issues, those to do with the direction of
 accumulation strategies.

 But the Soviet collapse led to the redundancy of the US
 strategic arsenal which led to the redundancy of NATO, the
 collapse of the political leadership structure for the US in
 Europe and the undermining of the US's ability to impose its
 core political economy goals for Europe and for the world on
 the West Europeans. This is one of the key things that has
 made the United States a paradoxically dissatisfied power in
 the 1990s. It has had to combat all kinds of European
 schemes for building political structures that deny the US
 hegemonic leadership in Europe. And in combating such
 schemes it has had to develop a new European programme
 and strategy for rebuilding US European leadership. In short,
 the USA has been an activist and pro-active power in Europe
 during the 1990s, not a satisfied and reactive power. The
 1990s have been a period of political manoeuvres amongst
 the Atlantic capitalist powers as the key players have sought
 to advance their often competitive schemes for reorganising
 the political structures of the continent.

 And in these manoeuvres, the territory and peoples of the
 former Yugoslavia have played a very special role. The states
 bearing competing programmes for a new European political
 order have all sought to demonstrate the value of their
 political project for Europe by showing how it can handle an
 important European problem: the long Yugoslav crises.
 Yugoslavia has been the anvil on which the competing great
 powers have sought to forge the instruments for their new
 European orders. No power has been more active in these
 endeavours than the United States.

 And this means that a cognitive framework for understanding
 the Balkan wars cannot take the form of: local actions, great
 power reactions. We need an entirely different framework:
 great power European strategies, and the tactical uses of
 Yugoslavia's crisis for advancing them.

 (b)The New Opportunities.

 Yet the United States was not just a power dissatisfied with
 the international arrangements it confronted at the end of the
 Cold War. It was also aware that it had a gigantic relative lead
 over all other powers in the world in terms of the resources
 for entirely reshaping arrangements on the planet. It had not
 only unrivalled military capacity but command of new
 military technologies that could enable it to strike safely and
 fairly accurately at will anywhere on the planet. It could, for
 example, out of a clear blue sky, destroy the great dam on the
 Yangtse river and drown 100 million Chinese at the heart of
 the Chinese economy without the Chinese government being
 able to stop it: that kind of power. It could take on China and
 Russia together and win. It could militarily seal of Japan and
 Western Europe from their sources of vital inputs for their
 economies and from the export markets vital for their
 economic stability.

 The United States also have supreme command over the
 international political economy through the dominance of the
 Dollar-Wall Street Regime over international monetary and
 financial affairs and through US control over the key
 multilateral organisations in this field, especially the IMF and
 the World Bank.

 With resources like these, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc
 opened up the possibility of a new global Empire of a new
 type. An empire made up of the patchwork of the states of
 the entire planet. The legal sovereignty of all these states
 would be preserved but the political significance of that legal
 sovereignty would be turned on its head. It would mean that
 the state concerned would bear entire juridical and political
 responsibility for all the problems on its territory but would
 lose effective control over the central actual economic and
 political processes flowing in and out of its territories. The
 empire would be centred in Washington with Western Europe
 and Japan as brigaded client powers and would extend across
 the rest of the world, beating against the borders of an
 enfeebled Russia and a potentially beleaguered China.

 And it would be an Empire in which the capitalist classes of
 every state within it would be guaranteed security against any
 social challenge, through the protection of the new Behemoth,
 provided only that they respected the will and authority of the
 Behemoth on all questions which it considered important. It
 the US played its new strategy for empire building effectively,
 it could thus earn the support and even adulation of all the
 capitalist classes of the world.

 Thus the decade from 1989 to 1999 has been marked above
 all by one central process: the drive by the US to get from (a)
 to (b): from political structures left over from the Cold War
 which disadvantaged and even threatened the US in the new
 situation, to entirely new global political and economic
 structures which would produce an historically new, global
 political order: New Democrats, New Labour, New NATO,
 new state system, new world economy, new world order.
 This is the context in which we can understand the various
 Yugoslav wars, including the current one. CP

 Peter Gowan is a correspondent for the New Left Review.