Jewish World ReviewOct. 19, 1999 /9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760
Madeleine Genuflects at Lenin's Tomb
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT is back at work. She's been lobbying officials of the
European Union to withold fuel oil shipments even to constituencies in Serbia
that are governed by anti-Milosevic politicians. Her theory is that a cold
and miserable civilian populace will deliver the villain to foreign justice
more willingly than a warm and comfy one would do.
There are several problems with Albright's scheme. The first is that it has
often been tried and it has never worked. In fact, the opposite is more
usually the case only when your belly is full can you concern yourself with
right and wrong, as the morally repulsive but well-fed Brecht said so often.
Albright's strategy is really a continuation of the thinking that lead to the
unnecessary, disastrous and idiotic war itself. The Yugoslav war -- causing
thousands of pointless civilian deaths, dispossessing nearly a million people
temporarily, another hundred thousand forever, and forced NATO troops to
stand by and watch the KLA rid Kosovo systematically of its native Serbs -- was
conducted almost entirely against civilian targets. Milosevic's army was
virtually untouched -- the same can't be said for civilian Serbia. The result
of the air war was nil: Lt. General Mike Jackson has declared that only
Russian intervention brought the "war against ethnic cleansing" to an
end whereupon ethnic cleansing began in earnest.
What failed during the war, Albright reasons, will work now. So far it
hasn't. In fact, just last week, the EU's attempt to strengthen the
"democratic" opposition to Milosevic backfired, embarrassing opposition
leaders by making them look like "pro-Western puppets." Why bother to oppose
Milosevic if you'll be just as cold when winter comes?
Then there's the dirty provenance of this idea. Though no Marxisant will
admit it, the tactic comes from a persistent strain in Communist thought: the
worse the better. The more suffering among the masses, the sooner revolution
will come. Sometimes the notion is credited to Lenin, at other times to
Stalin or Trotsky, but every fraction has advocated it at one time or
another, since it fits so well into notions of historical inevitability.
Even today, among the Yugoslav left opposition, there are those who believe
in its power. A Serbian politician called Vladan Batic told the Suddeutsche
Zeitung in August that making civilians suffer is good for democracy.: "We
want to increase social tensions. We can then canalise them into political
demands." This is an old dream which has never worked, it's working now, and
is likely to bring the opposition into disrepute.
And then there's law and common decency. This administration believes in
international law, even when it is hypocritical or disadvantageous to our
national interest, like the nuclear test ban and ABM treaties (Of course our
National Security Advisor doesn't believe in nations, as he'll tell anyone
who will listen). But the U.S. is a signatory of the 1977 Protocol
Additional to the Geneva Convention. And while this document is full of
quaint fancy, can you imagine that the U.S. is obliged to forswear the "use of
force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political
independence of any State"? We are supposed to live under its provisions.
These include Article 51, which declares that civilians should not be
targeted, even incidentally, by military operations, and Article 55, which
suggests that civilians should not be starved or harmed and civilian
facilities not be destroyed.
The Clinton administration has harmed a lot of people, but usually has done
so with precision in the pursuit of some selfish but desired end. Those
who've been hurt have put themselves in harm's way, usually by the desire to
be a public servant or in some other way to help the Clintons. Albright,
like Lenin, targets not individuals but classes of people. Her methods are
about as refined as those of the KLA mob in Pristina last week who chose
their victim by asking him the time. Because the American UN aid worker
answered in his carefully learned Serbo-Croat, he was identified as a member
of a class which deserved only liquidation. The Serbs are in the same boat
in Albright's eyes, innocent or guilty, there's no escape from Albright's
notion of justice.
One tries to use words carefully, but I can't think of a person in public
life in the West who so thoroughly combines wickedness and incompetence, who
has caused so much immediate harm, and on so many continents has set so much
long-term mischief in train. Wouldn't it be nice if the people so upset
about the Brooklyn Museum affair might turn their attention to the crime
she's now urging in our
Sam Schulman Archives
JWR contributor Sam Schulman is deputy editor of Taki's Top Drawer, appearing in New York
Press, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at
Boston University. You may contact him by clicking here.
©1999, Sam Schulman