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June 1999
Volume 17, Number 6

The Lies of War
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.

After the US government attacked Yugoslavia, the first act of the Republicans was to take tax cuts off the table (if they were ever really on it). This symbolic gesture underscores a point: when a war is on, the work of liberty is off. For this reason, everyone concerned about freedom must oppose war.

At the outset, Clinton gave reasons for his military intervention. A quick look showed them to be models of the state disinformation we've come to expect in wartime.

He said he was dropping bombs to prevent the spread of war. But this is straight out of Orwell. Escalating war does not prevent its spread. It encourages it. It brings about more property destruction, suffering, and death.

He said he wanted to underscore the credibility of Nato. The truth is that Nato has had no credibility since the collapse of the Cold War. The entire world now sees this organization for what it is: a fig leaf for the retention of US military domination of Europe. Nato has become a threat to peace because the US believes Nato must fight wars to preserve US hegemony.

As the war dragged on, Clinton became more expansive. He said the war is about stopping intolerance. The problem, he said, is that the Serbs (read: the embodiment of all evil) were oppressing Albanians (read: morally unimpeachable minorities) because they happen to be born different. Thus, the civics-book version of American civil-rights history is invoked to justify aggression against a civilian population halfway around the world that has never threatened any American citizen.

The actual conflict in Kosovo comes down to this: Serbia believes that the territory belongs to it, and bases this claim on history dating back 600 years. On the other hand, Kosovo is today (as versus a few years ago) inhabited by a majority Moslem population that demands the right to secede.

Which principle should prevail: the claims of history or the political rights of the majority in a polyglot territory? Look at American history. Both the claims of history and the rights of the majority were solidly in favor of Southern secession. But the US decided on union by force. Ever since then, the US has generally opposed secession, not only at home but around the world.

Only during the first world war did the US back self-determination, when the fanatical Woodrow Wilson used this principle as a weapon against the multinational monarchies he was dead-set on destroying. It was political propaganda, then and now.

The hypocrisy is nowhere as clear as in US opposition to Kurdish demands for separation from the Turkish government. The US sees Turkey as a reliable satellite, so the US turns a blind eye to ethnic oppression of the most brutal sort. It turns out, then, that the principle is not that downtrodden ethnic groups ought to have autonomy, but that the US ought to centrally manage the entire map of the world.

And how well does the US do this? In the same region the US is now bombing, Clinton enforced a unified, multicultural Bosnia, where US troops are permanently stationed, against the pleas of every ethnic group that resides there for independence. This is the peace of a prison camp, which also deprived Serbia of the Bosnian Serb area that wanted to be part of the Serbian nation state, an act which inflamed the present crisis.

So who is right? The Kosovo independence movement that claims to speak on behalf of the Moslem majority, or the Milosevic government that claims to represent the Christian majority's desire for a Serbian-controlled province?

The short answer is: this is not for the US government to decide. When we consider the original American vision--of a peaceful, commercial republic staying out of the endless quarrels of the Old World--we can only be utterly alienated from the ruling regime, which dominates a country conceived in liberty. It is clearer than ever that the welfare-warfare state must be demolished, so that it can no longer threaten the world, or trample on true American ideals.


Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Further reading: The Costs of War, John V. Denson, ed., 2nd ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1999) and Secession, State, and Liberty, David Gordon, ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1998).


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