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The following article appeared in Left Business Observer #90, June 1999. It retains its copyright and may not be reprinted or redistributed in any form - print, electronic, facsimile, anything - without the permission of LBO.

For the interview during the war with anthropologist Robert Hayden of the University of Pittsburgh, "A very European war," click here. For a polemic written during the war, click here.

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After the war

 

What a glorious victory. NATO killed more civilians than soldiers, accelerated the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees, destroyed the infrastructure and poisoned the environment of southeastern Europe - and in the name of humanitarianism.

As Peter Gowan explains in a fine piece in New Left Review, the Balkans have long been an imperial playground, and since the transformations of 1989, the play has been intense, with the U.S. and the EU (especially Germany) dickering for influence. At first, Germany favored the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the U.S. its continued togetherness under the bonds of the IMF - Germany, to increase its influence in the East, the U.S. to take advantage of its control of the IMF. Lately, the U.S. used the destruction of Yugoslavia to remind the Europeans that for all the pretensions of their (wobbly) new currency, Washington still called the military and political shots. Clearly the U.S. provoked the war by demanding terms at Rambouillet that the Serbs could never accept, like the freedom to roam across Yugoslavia without paying even a bridge toll. For its part, the EU used the war to flatter itself as a civilizing influence on its eastern neighbors. Germany at last overcame its guilt pangs and sent the Luftwaffe on bombing runs.


None of this is to exonerate Serbia, which has been plenty brutal. One of the many depressing things about this war is all the side-taking that's been going on. Almost every position was built around the endorsement of some nationalism or other; internationalism, difficult enough in practice, could h