Obama’s March to Folly: The Myth of Liberal Intervention & the Arrogance of Ignorance

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Chuck Spinney Sounds Off

Weekend Edition
December 17 – 19, 2010

The Myth of Liberal Intervention and the Arrogance of Ignorance

Obama's March to Folly

By FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY, Counterpunch

In a recent opinion piece, “Kosovo and the Myth of Liberal Intervention,” Neil Clark in the Guardian on 15 December gave the reader a good summary of the some of the myths surrounding the Kosovo war, although he helped to perpetuate one myth, namely that the so-called genocide of Kosovar Albanians by the Serbs could be as high as 10,000. While Clark fudged the issue by using a range of 2,000-10,000, the fact remains that examination of mass burial sites by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) exhumed 2,788 bodies in Kosovo, some of whom were undoubtably Serbs; nor could the ICTY distinguish how many of these bodies were victims of war crimes or were the unintended detritus of NATO's “precision” bombing. The number of 10,000 was a face-saving, last-ditch, “statistical” estimate produced by the US State Department (its earlier estimates were far higher), which had a vested interest in proving the genocide it claimed Serbia had committed as a justification for NATO's “humanitarian” bombing campaign. The estimate of 10,000 was based on dubious (to put it charitably) statistical methods for estimating the number of bodies the State Department said existed but could not find — once illustrating government's propensity to confuse the a priori with the a posteriori

Understanding the politics and propaganda surrounding the “goodness” of the Kosovo War, the less-than-predicted performance of our weapons, and the war's horrid aftermath (including trade in human organs, drugs, white slavery, etc) is crucially important, because Kosovo became the template for the kind of quick, painless, airpower-intensive, intervention that led Bush to recklessly think he had won a quick victory in Afghanistan, when the Taliban, faced with superior military forces, simply melted into the hinterlands in classical guerrilla/Sun Tzu fashion to fight another day. The initially pain-free Afghanistan operation fueled Bush's arrogance and seduced him into believing that, with a enough duplicity to justify his actions, he could repeat the quick trick by invading Iraq, which would be also a cakewalk — remember his childish “mission accomplished” performance on the aircraft carrier. The myth of precision bombing and targeted killing that created the false impression of a bloodless — at least for us — cakewalk to victory in Kosovo [1] is also reflected in the kind of denial that is now sucking Obama ever deeper into the Afghan trap Bush created, as well as Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and god knows where else.

Obama's denial can be seen in “march-to-folly” character of the just completed, hermetically sealed, strategic review by President Obama and his group thinking team of compliant rivals. They simply rubber stamped our current so-called counterinsurgency strategy to win hearts and minds by claiming that the war is “on track.” Meanwhile, over in the Pentagon, the military is planning to shift to a so-called counter terrorism strategy, because the current strategy is on track to what some strategist ridiculously called a “sub-optimal” outcome. This “shift” is code for an escalation of “precision” bombing and the increased use of special forces in “surgical” killing operations of “high value” targets, which of course assumes a degree of reliable, high-grade “actionable” intelligence that seldom exists. Moreover, we know from our experience to date, an escalation of these operations will produce in an unintended increase in the killing of innocent civilians and their property. We also know from experience to date that, in Afghanistan, escalating murder and destruction will fuel the passions of honor and revenge in what is one of the proudest, toughest, clan-based vendetta cultures in the entire world.

One other external factor ought to have ought to an penetrated the closed circle of advisors who conditioned Mr. Obama's decision to stay the course: namely the self-evident question of the cost and effectiveness that results from mirror imaging the kind targeted killing operations that are so popular with the Israeli military. We all know how successful the Israelis have been in creating an optimal outcome to their conflict with the Palestinians.

Franklin “Chuck” Spinney is a former military analyst for the Pentagon. He currently lives on a sailboat in the Mediterranean and can be reached at chuck_spinney@mac.com


[1] Kosovo is a case study in the failure of high-tech precision bombardment to live up to its promises. US military planners predicted a “precision” bombing campaign would force the Serbs to capitulate in only two to three days, but the air campaign grinded on for 79 days as the target list grew exponentially (because the destruction was not having its predicted effects). Yet when it was over, NATO intelligence determined only tiny quantities of Serb tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled artillery, and trucks were destroyed. Serbian troops marched out of Kosovo in good order, their fighting spirit intact, displaying clean equipment, crisp uniforms, and in larger numbers than planners said were in Kosovo to begin with. Moreover, the terms of Serb “surrender,” which the undefeated Serb military regarded as a sell out by Serbian President Milosovic, were the same as those the Serbs agreed to at the Ramboullet Conference, before US negotiators and Secretary of State Madeline Albright inserted a poison pill to queer the deal, so we could have what the politically troubled Clinton Administration thought would be a neat, short war.

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