Once again, and led by the United States as usual, a war is being conducted—this time in Europe—against an unprincipled and racist dictator who will almost certainly survive the onslaught, even though thousands of innocents will pay the actual price. The pretext this time is, of course, the persecution, ethnic cleansing and continued oppression of Albanians in the province of Kosovo by the Serbian forces of Slobodan Milosevic. For Palestinians, 1948 was like this minus cnn: at that time 780,000 were evicted from their houses and property by Zionist forces. They remain a nation in exile fifty-one years later.

No one at all doubts that horrific things have been done to the Albanians under Serbian domination, but the question is whether us/nato policy will alleviate things, or whether they will in fact be made worse by a bombing campaign whose supposed goal is to make Milosevic give up his policies. Certainly, the increased suffering of ethnic Albanians is a direct result of us policy.

Since, as in most cases, the bombing campaign is not all that it seems to be, a look behind the headlines is worth the effort, especially given the new ferocity and willingness to intervene militarily on the part of us foreign policy decision makers (Clinton, Cohen, Albright, Berger).

One needs to remember that, since the us is a world—and not merely a regional—power, one calculation that enters each of its foreign policy decisions is how the deployment of its military might will affect the us’s image in the eyes of other, especially other competitive, countries, in this case the European Union. Henry Kissinger made that point a central concern of his Indochinese policy when he undertook the secret bombing of Laos: your enemies will learn that there are no limits to what you are prepared to do, even to the point of appearing totally irrational.

Thus, the exercise of massive destructiveness wholly disproportionate to the goal, say, of stopping an enemy from advancing further, is a principal aim of this policy, as it has been of Israel’s occupation policy in southern Lebanon, where massive raids on civilian encampments do absolutely nothing to affect Israel’s main enemies, the Hizbullah guerrillas. Punishment is its own goal, bombing as a display of nato authority its own satisfaction, especially when there is little chance of retaliation from the enemy. In addition, the bombing of Iraq continues as a demonstration that the us can conduct several regional wars at the same time.

That is one set of considerations behind the current bombing of Yugoslavia. Another is the misguided and totally hopeless goal of humbling, and perhaps even destroying, Milosevic’s régime. This, as has been the case in Iraq, is illusory. No nation, no matter how badly attacked from the air is going to rally to the attackers. If anything, Milosevic’s régime is now strengthened. All Serbs feel that their country is attacked unjustly, and that the cowardly war from the air has made them feel persecuted. Besides, not even the Kosovo Albanians believe that the air campaign is about independence for Kosovo or about saving Albanian lives: that is a total illusion.

What transpired before the bombing was that the us seems to have persuaded the Kosovars that, if they went along with the ‘peace plan’, Kosovo would get its independence; this was never said, but only implied, leading the Kosovars to expect nato help. But, as usual, the us has never stated unequivocally that it is for full self-determination for all the peoples of former Yugoslavia, any more than it has supported self-determination for Palestinians or Kurds, 46,000 of whom were killed by Turkey, a us ally whose policies are in fact abetted by the us.