NATO vs. United Nations
Jude Wanniski
June 7, 1999


It would be nice if I did not have to clutter up your mail with geopolitical discussions of this kind, but the power struggle between "NATO" and the "UN" is fraught with danger. That is why we hope this conflict can be resolved without a nuclear, chemical or biological World War III. Kosovo has that potential, because by an accident of history it has become the chosen battlefield for the Forces of Diplomacy versus the Forces of Military Might in the establishment of a New World Order. The fact that these are international institutions -- sustained by grants of sufficient power and money by their members to do the tasks assigned them -- means they have no direct link to "voters" and the democratic constraints that ordinary people place on those spoiling for a fight. When the President of the world's only superpower is a man who Congress has assured is above the law anyway, the moderating influences of legal and institutional standards are further devalued. The United States of America suddenly becomes the greatest threat to the world because the Political Establishment here prefers Force over Diplomacy, whatever the rules, the laws or the standards.

How do I mean that? I mean that Daddy is in control, on top of the world power pyramid, and he wants the kids to obey him without question or backtalk. NATO is thought to be the perfect agent to effect this global dominance because it is, first of all, purely military in nature, with no history or tradition of negotiation or reconciliation. Yes, Washington might have to twist some arms to get some of the NATO countries into line, but it would be nothing like the United Nations, where the two Communist powers we defeated in the Cold War have veto power in the Security Council. The UN, remember, was established in 1945 as a "Mommy" kind of institution, where the peace would be kept by discussion, and when force was necessary for global intervention, it would require a unanimous agreement of the Security Council. There still was an assumption we would be able to get along with our WWII allies in Moscow, and China then was not yet into the hyperinflation that would tip it toward communism.

There really is no reason for the existence of NATO -- except to reduce the need to compose differences with Moscow and Beijing and Paris over how to deal with trouble spots here or there in the wide world that now is our ultimate jurisdiction. When we conclude our vital interests are involved, we hardly would bother with a gentlemanly debate in the Security Council. When the UN sent troops to Korea in 1950, the Chinese government in exile on Formosa had China's seat at the Security Council, and Moscow boycotted the meeting at which the Security Council authorized the "police action" of the Korean War. Our gladiators in the Political Establishment, which of course includes both political parties, somehow think they can avoid the difficult work of negotiation by now cutting Russia and China out of the action entirely.

The Establishment news media go along with the play. The Rambouillet "Accords," as they are called, were dictated to Belgrade by our power elite, through the agency of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. If Slobodan Milosevic would agree to take his troops out of Kosovo, a province of Yugoslavia, and permit a NATO force of 50,000 to roam at will throughout Yugoslavia, and permit the Kosovar Albanians a referendum in three years on independence, or not, then NATO would NOT BOMB Serbia or Kosovo. If Colin Powell were Secretary of State, he surely would have resigned before issuing what amounted to a declaration of war. Ms. Albright went ahead. Thousands of dead and millions of refugees later, a UN team came to the rescue of President Clinton and NATO, when it became clear the German and Italian People would veto ground troops. German and Italian politicians still may have a taste for fascism, but their constituents, ordinary people, are not interested. Been there, done that.

Please note that the "deal" struck with the Belgrade government this weekend did not involve Milosevic handing the keys to Kosovo over to the NATO generals. The agreement, which gave Milosevic everything he had a reasonable right to expect at Rambouillet, preserves Yugoslav sovereignty over Kosovo. There are no more Wilsonian rights to popular sovereignty, no promise of a referendum in three years. A peacekeeping force of 40,000 will come into Kosovo, but keep their boots out of Serbia proper. It will be a UN peacekeeping force, with NATO members contributing to that number, 7000 from the U.S. As Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) notes with approval, this provision insures the exercise will not drag on for decades. If NATO were in charge, the pitbulls would have an open-ended checkbook in the U.S. Congress. The Establishment's ntent is to have such NATO outposts all over the world, which dispenses with the idea of developing strategic partnerships with the other members of the Security Council.

This is why the deal has broken down. It is not Milosevic who has broken his promise, but NATO, which elbowed its way into the picture demanding the keys to Kosovo. The only place you can get a report close to the truth is in today's dispatch from Brussels by Craig R. Whitney of the NYTimes, who points out that the United States and Britain don't want to wait for the Security Council to approve peacekeepers to accept the keys. "France and most of the European allies do not see things that way, and neither does Russia." The U.S. and U.K. want NATO to take possession, when we all know by now that Milosevic has rejected this from the beginning -- knowing Serbia would get no protection from Moscow if he did so. While the "deal" is being worked out for the Security Council, NATO bombing continues.

None of NATO's actions are legally permissible under the NATO Treaty that was ratified by the Senate in 1949, a treaty which explicitly makes it clear that NATO's behavior is to be consistent with the UN Charter. No United States Senator yet has complained publicly about the unconstitutionality of what the President is doing. Of the presidential contenders in 2000, former Vice President Dan Quayle is the only one discussing it in these terms, having been opposed to the bombing campaign from the outset. In Bob Novak's column today, he quotes from a speech Jack Kemp gave in Rome last week, in which Kemp sounds like Quayle and Pat Buchanan: "Here we have an international entity (NATO) threatening literally to destroy a sovereign nation-state (Serbia) so that it can constitute a new protectorate (an independent Kosovo) under its auspices, after which one of the international courts will apportion blame and the international financial institutions will be sent in to reconstruct the societies and their economies."

How will this play out? We only can hope the people of Yugoslavia hang in there long enough to get the UN modalities worked out. That's only the first step in unraveling a process of destruction in the Balkans that began 12 years ago, when the international financial institutions persuaded the government to devalue the dinar. Even under the best of circumstances, the rebuilding of the region and the reconciliation of the ethnic and religious factions that have been killing each other -- as NATO's bombs fell on them -- will require further commentary as it unfolds.