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[Kosovo] En route to Beograd

par Eric Cotte
mise en ligne : 20 April 1999

With "reversals in the conflict", "new steps", and "additional measures", NATO is paving the way for a buildup towards a good big war... probably to avoid a nasty small peace.

I must admit that, at first, I took NATO people for a bunch of incompetent idiots. It’s logical: NATO is a military organization and, as such, not much can be expected from it besides launching missiles while making stupid comments.

Hence, sheepishly, when the strategy gurus of the Atlantic alliance explained that they hadn’t foreseen the Serb resistance, the intensification of ethnic cleansing and the human catastrophe, I believed them: they’re in the military, thus they’re dumb and it’s normal that they didn’t see anything coming.

But, thinking a little, I decided that it was too easy a way out. Sorry if I’m repeating myself, but everyone knows that a war is long and tough, and that retaliating on civilians is the weapon of choice of tyrants. Everyone knows that wars are accompanied by humanitarian problems (civilians fleeing combat zones and supermarkets closing down). Everyone knows it... so NATO had to know.

Why, then, this lie and self-beating?

NATO is applying one of the oldest methods of military propaganda: the buildup. It stems from the fact that people hate to throw themselves in a war from one day to the next. If one wants a good big war, one has to convince democracies. And the most efficient method is to make baby steps, to multiply the provocations, the slips and insults. Making people face facts allows to harden the discourse and to lead public opinion by the nose.

Each step obeys a classic scheme.

1. A reminder of the "objectives of the war", and deployment of a set-up insufficient to meet them.

2. The enemy replies through verbal provocations, and an augmentation of military actions. At best, he captures and kills a few soldiers (or counselors, inspectors, or blue helmets) and takes a few civilians hostage.

3. Communication campaigns denouncing the enemy’s propaganda, its military buildup, and the humanitarian problem taking place.

4. Hard facts: "it’s tougher than we thought", apologizes the military. Since people hate losing a war, they themselves ask for additional efforts.

5. As a reaction, the number of soldiers involved increases. Simultaneously, the "war objectives" are redefined (upped) in such manner that the military setup is still not sufficient.

It all works very well: it’s thanks to this system that democracies got involved in wars lost in advance, following "sound" military advice. If the enemy happened to be too meek, provoking slips that we attribute to him, or propagating false news, could do the trick.

Back to the conflict in Yugoslavia. The first day saw only a few hours worth of night strikes, to force Milosevic to come back and negotiate in Rambouillet. Of course, it failed: raiding cities is a show of force that never lead anywhere. Serbian answer: propaganda based on archaic religious and ethnic arguments.

Hence, the air strikes intensify, and the objectives become: "defending our values" (European values in Europe, American values in the US). Defending values using stealth fighters doesn’t work, no doubt... Serbian answer: intensification of the ethnic cleansing.

Re-intensification of the strikes, adding non-military targets located in the city center. New objectives: defending people from Kosovo. Another failure. Serbian answer: three American taken prisoner.

"Prisoners" implies "reversal in the conflict" (it doesn’t take more for the military). Air strikes are intensified and attack helicopters are deployed (whose goal isn’t strikes... what is it then?). New objective: preventing Milosevic, dubbed the new Hitler responsible for 300,000 deaths, from doing any more harm (we’re now straying somewhat far from the initial objectives: evoking Rambouillet becomes anachronistic when facing the Balkan Hilter). Serbian answer: Kosovo’s borders are mined and a few incursions into Albania are made (to be confirmed, but the fact is that we heard something about it).

Air strikes are now conducted 24 hours a day, "humanitarian" troupes (nice oxymoron, by the way) are deployed along the borders of Kosovo, and polls are conducted on the subject of ground intervention. Reserve soldiers are called...

What will be the next steps? We’re moving towards permanent strikes aimed at more and more civilian targets, perhaps the bombing of Beograd ("Phase 3" of NATO’s plan), and ground occupation of Kosovo. New Serbian provocations (real or imaginary) will be needed to justify new steps. Here are a few ideas: "Milosevic has some moles inside NATO", "Milosevic menaces to re-annex Montenegro", "Milosevic is trying to bring the whole Balkans into a war (then Russia and Greece, and we’re going towards a third World War)", "Milosevic has nuclear weapons", "Milosevic gets head from an intern"... As many good reasons as we need to reinforce our setup and to "put them under pressure". We can already hear "until the end" and "by all means necessary".

Step by step, military propaganda is making up and controlling this buildup. It is aimed at making people ask, on their own, for more force, more deployments and ground interventions. At the same time, initial objectives are being redefined and becoming tougher and tougher, so that halting the hostilities would look like a "bad peace".

We’re going towards war, progressively, each step becoming a no-turning-back point.

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