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   171 7 Kosovo and the Reaffirmation of American Power We believe that no lasting solution [in the Balkans] can be reached through violence. —Brent Scowcroft, 1992 Let’s at least have a real air war. . . .The stakes have to be very clear: Every week you [the Serbs] ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too. . . . Give war a chance.­ —Thomas Friedman, 1999 From 1991 to 1999, the international response to the Yugoslavia case evolved considerably. In the early phases, during 1991–1992, the world community opposed the use of violence to resolve conflict and condemned the Yugoslav military for its very modest use of force to stop secession in Slovenia. Both Serb and Yugoslav forces were condemned again during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. With the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, however, the NATO powers agreed that force was a perfectly legitimate way to achieve their objectives. And had Belgrade not capitulated when it did, NATO officials were prepared to intensify their use of force.The international attitude toward the acceptability of violence had been transformed. Another transformation related to the role of the United Nations in mediating the conflict. In the early phases of the Yugoslav war, the United Nations played a prominent role, at least formally, in authorizing international activities in the Balkans; by 1999, the United Nations was marginalized, as the war was initiated without authorization from the Security Council or any other UN organ. Above all, the 1999 Kosovo war marked the decline of Europe’s politi­ cal sway, combined with a reassertion by the United States. In 1991, the United States had initially been reluctant to become involved in the conflict ; by 1999, it was unquestionably playing the lead role. The Kosovo war 172   First Do No Harm definitively established US primacy on the European continent and ensured that the United States would remain the dominant power for years to come. The European effort to assert its independence at US expense was effectively checked, accomplishing a long-standing US objective. The Kosovo Conflict in Context The 1999 war in Kosovo has been widely remembered as a humanitarian war motivated by altruistic considerations.1 We will consider the merits of this argument at greater length later in the chapter. For now, we will note that there were other, more concrete motivations for US policy. We will see that the principal motivations for the war were to establish a new basis for US hegemony in Europe and a new rationale for the primary institutional embodiment of that hegemony—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But first let us consider the larger context: The late 1990s was a period of increasing tensions among the advanced industrialized countries and especially between the United States and the European Union. Such tensions threatened to disrupt the system of multilateral trade and investment, undergirded by US hegemony, that had been the hallmark of the post-1945 economic system. The EU tendencies toward monetary unification throughout the 1990s were viewed as serious threats to US financial power, and especially to the role of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, as we saw in Chapter 2.This specific threat came to a climax on January 1, 1999, when the euro was officially established as the currency of eleven members of the European Union. The Financial Times termed the euro “a seismic challenge to the dollar.”2 In the view of Germany’s Helmut Schmidt, the launching of the euro “could set up a monumental conflict; . . . it will change the whole world situation so that the United States can no longer call all the shots.”3 The advent of the euro coincided with a gradual upsurge of contention between the United States and Europe regarding trade in aircraft, genetically modified foods, telecommunications, and fruit products.4 These conflicts seem to have been peaking during March 1999—which was the month that the Kosovo war began. What was needed was a new military crusade, one that could serve as a substitute for the Cold War, to give the United States and Europe a new sense of common purpose. Kosovo was to provide this crusade. Another factor that affected official thinking during this period was a renewed European effort to establish an independent foreign and military policy. This was of course a major European ambition throughout the post– Cold War period. However, this...


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