October 23, 2000


Is George W. Bush a secret non-interventionist, or, as the title of George Szamuely's recent column put it, is Dubya a "closet Buchananite"? That such a question can be raised, these days, even in a half-serious manner, only underscores the disorienting effect of our seasonal fever, presidential election year politics. I suggest that purveyors of this theory take a deep breath, two aspirin – and a look at the facts.


This comes up because of a recent New York Times news article, with the traditional triple-decker Times-style headline: first on deck was "Bush Would Stop US Peacekeeping in Balkan Fights"; second was the laconic "Europe to Bear Burden"; and the third headline, in a burst of verbosity, declared unequivocally that this was "A Plan for the Most Important Shift in NATO Duties Since the End of the Cold War" – thus providing Al Gore with the theme of his own overstated critique of recent statements by Bush advisor Condolezza Rice. Gore's shrill and womanish response – "I can't believe anyone who understands the importance of NATO could make such a proposal!" – was typically exaggerated: "I believe it demonstrates a lack of judgment and a complete misunderstanding of history to think that America can simply walk away from security challenges on the European continent, which is, after all, a core American interest in the world." If US troops should leave Bosnia and/or Kosovo, it "would lead to the collapse of NATO and eventually threaten the peace in Europe," he said. But this addresses a proposal the Bush camp never made: no one is saying that, in belated recognition of the end of World War II (not to mention the end of the cold war), we should bring our troops home from Europe – no one, that is, but Pat Buchanan and (when asked) Ralph Nader. What the Bushies are up to is quite different, and has nothing to do with their sudden conversion to "isolationism" and the cause of peace: indeed, quite the opposite.


The Times piece starts out trumpeting the sensational news that "If elected president, George W. Bush plans to tell NATO that the United States should no longer participate in peacekeeping in the Balkans, signaling a major new division of labor in the Western alliance, according to Mr. Bush's senior national security aide." What is this division of labor? Since Bush supported and continues to support the initial decision to bomb Yugoslavia, what the Bushian policy comes down to is: we'll do the bombing and you police the ruins. But it's not as simple as that. What Ms. Rice has in mind is something far grander, and far more ominous as far as opponents of US global meddling are concerned.


In spite of the rather misleading plethora of headlines that adorned the Times piece, Rice's statements are the clearest evidence yet that war is definitely on the Bushian agenda – just not a war in the Balkans. "The governor is talking about a new division of labor. The United States is the only power that can handle a showdown in the [Persian] gulf, mount the kind of force that is needed to protect Saudi Arabia and deter a crisis in the Taiwan Straits," she said, "and extended peacekeeping detracts from our readiness for these kinds of global missions." Never mind Kosovo, the Bushians are saying, we have bigger fish to fry and we don't need any "distractions." This seems like a pretty straightforward statement that, if Bush is elected President, we will soon be at war in the Middle East – more than likely in another Western crusade against the arch-villain Saddam Hussein, whom we have made (in the eyes of the Arab street) into a twenty-first century Saladin.


Nothing must "distract" the incoming Bush administration from Big Oil's goal of seizing effective control of Middle East oil supplies: the biggest discovery of oil in years (as much as 50 billion barrels) in the lands bordering the Caspian Sea has Western corporate and government officials (or do I repeat myself?) slavering at the mere thought of the profits to be had, provided an initial taxpayer "investment" is forthcoming. Iraq is the gateway to the Caucasus, and the breakup of the country as a unitary state will give the West entry. This has been the long-term goal of the Clintonian policy in the region, thus far with little or no success: the Republicans say they can do better, and, if elected, can be fully expected to go about proving it. This is one campaign promise that one can only hope is not kept: unfortunately for the Iraqi people, who have suffered enough, that hope will probably be in vain. . . .


The phrase "division of labor" describes exactly what is going on in this phony debate, although not in the way Rice meant it – and not the way the Gore camp is spinning it. This is a bi-partisan division of labor, with the Republicans calling for an Asia-first policy and the Democrats concentrating on the rest of the globe: Europe, Africa, Colombia, East Timor, etc. etc. In the end, by way of a compromise, both sides win – and we get to intervene everywhere. Very cozy, and hardly a "conspiracy," at least in the formal sense – but purely and simply good old American "log-rolling."


The unusual spectacle of the secretary of state engaging in the kind of partisan one-upmanship one might expect from, say, James Carville, was underscored by the reported fact that it was Albright who called the media, and not the other way around, going out of her way to denounce Bush for even daring to bring up the subject of our troops in Kosovo: "I am secretary of state of the United States until noon on Jan. 20, and this is damaging to American foreign policy," screeched the witch Albright, explaining why she was bitch-slappin' Ms. Rice so hard. The Witch made a major point of the upcoming Kosovo (October 28), Bosnian (November 11) and Serbian elections (tentatively slated for sometime in December): "Frankly, to be talking about this right now, when [Yugoslav President Vojislav] Kostunica is putting together his new coalition ... I think is truly dangerous," she averred to one reporter. "Is this the time to be saying we're not sure we're going to stay there?"


This is precisely the time to announce that we are for sure withdrawing all our troops from the Balkans – not just from Kosovo and Bosnia, but also from Macedonia, Hungary, and other surrounding countries. For now that Kostunica has won, the rationale for the US troop presence, the pretense for the Bosnian occupation and the Kosovo war – Slobodan Milosevic, the rapacious Hitler of the Balkans – has evaporated, along with the remnants of Slobo's support. Milosevic, we were told, was committing "ethnic genocide" and the US-NATO alliance had to intervene in the name of "humanitarianism." Now that Slobo is out of power, and may well go on trial in Serbia for his crimes against his own people, what exactly is the mission of the US occupation troops? The Serbian "Hitler" is fallen, although he and his very own Eva Braun have yet to follow the example of Slobo's own parents (and an uncle) and share the fate of that infamous German couple. Indeed, Slobo and Mirjana Markovic, his loony wife, are no doubt plotting their political comeback, and US intransigence may, once again, be their ally – either witting or unwitting, in the end the result will be the same.


Kostunica, a constitutional lawyer who translated The Federalist Papers into Serbo-Croatian, is the newly-installed President of what remains of the Yugoslav federation, with more moral and international stature than any leader of the southern Slavs since Tito. He's supposed to be our friend – or, at least, one of the good guys, one of the few in the region. Since Kostunica is not about to launch a military strike, either against NATO or any of his neighbors, there is no longer any reason for the presence of US troops, or any occupation forces, in the former Yugoslavia. Then, what gives with the Wicked Witch of the West – has she gotten her broomstick stuck in an uncomfortable position?


It is true that Albright's unusual effort to intervene in a US presidential election is a purely partisan affair, but her partisanship is on behalf of the Serbian Democratic Party. For an announcement that US troops were going to get out would help Kostunica and the best elements within the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition – albeit not the most cravenly pro-US and even pro-NATO parties, such as Zoran Djindzic's Democratic Party, President Kostunica's chief rival within the DOS.


During the Yugoslav election campaign, the propaganda of the state-run Tanjug, Politika, and other organs of the Milosevic clique relentlessly pushed home a single point, simple to the point of crudeness: that Kostunica was the candidate of NATO, and if he won US troops would soon be marching through the streets of Belgrade, celebrating their triumph without a shot having been fired: Yugoslavia would be occupied territory, they said, just like Kosovo. As an election strategy, it worked pretty well – I mean, here is a man who presided over the virtual destruction of his country, not only economically and militarily but also geographically – and in every other possible sense you care to name – and who still managed to garner some 30-plus percent of the vote. Kostunica, for his part, campaigned against the twin evils of Slobo and NATO, pointing out to his countrymen that the former had to be disposed of before they could effectively stand up to the latter. Implicit in his pledge to make Yugoslavia a "normal" nation again was the promise that the West would back off, militarily, as well as lift economic sanctions. US failure to do so will endanger Kostunica's power – that is what is "dangerous" about recent events in Yugoslavia, and not the modest proposals advanced by Ms. Rice.


Having taken credit for the Serbian revolution against Slobo, and placed themselves at the head of the democratic opposition in place of Kostunica, Western heads of state are now doing their best to undermine the new President. By insisting on the authority of the Hague Tribunal to try Milosevic – and make of him a martyr instead of a pathetic failure – sponsoring Djindic, and failing to disavow the recent statement by occupation overlord Bernard Kouchner that the UN administration of Kosovo must go on for another 20 years, the Clinton administration has done everything in its power to place obstacles in Kostunica's path, but he has jumped every hurdle with impressive speed and grace. Yet the effort to trip him up is far from over: . . .


Milosevic and his cronies are laying low, for the moment, but they will spring back into action if and when the opportunity presents itself – the desire for revenge being the one universal Balkan sensibility, the cultural and historical leitmotif that gives the whole region its essential flavor. Disaffection with Kostunica will benefit only two groups – the remnants of the old regime and US protégé Zoran Djindic, who can then assume primacy within the DOS. Without the US presence, the Slobo-ists would be without a bogeyman and Djindic would be without a sugar daddy and protector. In this context, Mad Madeleine's raving reaction to Rice's rather mild statements makes perfect sense – that is, if you look at US policy in the Balkans as governed by madmen intent on plunging the region into a roiling maelstrom of perpetual war.


The alleged differences between Bush and Gore on the Balkan issue are being vastly overblown. Even Mad Maddy agrees that, as far as our troops in Kosovo and Bosnia are concerned, "I don't think they should be there any longer than they have to be." Both Gore and Bush announced their fulsome support for the immediate cause of the US troop presence – US military aggression against a sovereign country that never attacked us. During the second debate, Gore acknowledged some limits to the US commitment: "I certainly don't disagree that we ought to get our troops home from places like the Balkans as soon as we can, as soon as the mission is complete": his only real disagreement with Rice's proposal being the timing of it. There is no disagreement between the Bush and Gore camps on the general principle that ought to operate in the realm of foreign policy: their point of difference is only over the application of that principle, which is the necessity and desirability of the US as the builder of a global empire. Gore and Albright think that the Balkan mission, far from being completed, has just begun: the Bushies want to move on to other, more lucrative missions. This is not a policy dispute but more like a lover's quarrel, with the two architects of our bipartisan foreign policy merely quibbling over symbolic but largely meaningless details.


Dubya is no doubt eager to settle accounts with his father's old enemy – unless, of course, Clinton beats him to the punch. Although as of this writing it's only fourteen days until the election, two weeks can be more like two years in an election year – and it isn't over yet. This President, who called down the wrath of the US military machine on a Sudanese aspirin factory for his own political advantage, is capable of anything. But of one thing we can be sure.


We are headed for war no matter which one of the two major party candidates makes it to the White House. The extent of our "choice" is this: with Gore, we can have several separate wars for ostensibly righteous aims: Colombia (the "war on drugs"), the Balkans (a war against hate-thoughts), East Timor, West Timor, Uganda, etc. etc. Or we can have one big war, one big power grab made for purely mercenary reasons. Would you rather fritter away US power in a series of relatively small but nonetheless serious military interventions around the world, or would you rather focus the power and might of the US military machine in an effort to pull off a major conquest: the virtual conquest of Asia? Both are roads to defeat and decline, the result of the imperial pretensions and incredible hubris of Western elites.


The illusion that Bush is in any way more supportive of non-interventionism, in principle or in practice, is a dangerous one. If anything, the Bushian foreign policy agenda is far more ominous than the slow dribbling away of US power and influence that will be the end result of a Gore presidency, for it contains within it the possibility of a really major war involving many casualties: weighed on this moral scale, a vote for Bush bears with it a potentially far greater burden of guilt than does a vote for his principal opponent. The first principle, therefore, of a noninterventionist strategy in the voting booth must be to defeat Dubya. The second heaviest burden of guilt, of course, will fall on those who vote for Gore: I will leave it to theologians to decide just how much lighter their burden will be. Perhaps the task can be assigned to those learned scholars who determined how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.


Clearly, non-interventionists have only two major choices for President, this year: Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. To vote for either of the major-major candidates is to collaborate with one or the other wing of the War Party: to vote for any of the minor-minor candidates, such as Howard Phillips (of the Constitution Party) or Dave McReynolds (of the Socialist Party), is to truly throw your vote away. This would split up the protest vote, and, by implication, the antiwar vote, and allow the War Party to claim that no real opposition to their policies exists. The only way to register an effective protest is not by staying away from the polls – abstention is just what the War Party recommends for all antiwar voters, for obvious reasons – but to vote for one of the major-minor candidates, either Buchanan or Nader. That way, your vote will not only count, but it will be noticed in a race which every observer predicts is going to be very close. A healthy vote total for each of these major protest candidates, coming from both the left and the right, will send our elites a clear message: Yes, this many people are completely alienated from the two parties, and your system faces a real crisis. Either open up the electoral process, or else face what Milosevic and his cronies had to face: a loss of legitimacy and the prospect of mass rebellion.

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“Behind the Headlines” appears Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with special editions as events warrant.


Past Columns

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisted

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cargagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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