Peacekeepers as warmongers and peacemakers as warkeepers

The war is more often than not fought like this: I kill your cow, so you poison my horse; then I burn down your barn and you retaliate by throwing your dead cow into my well; then I scorch your field and you burn my house; then I blow up your home while you are away raping my wife; then you come with all your pals and raze my village to the ground, killing whoever was found there; then I burn down your village and bomb your nearest town, while you blow up my water dam; I shell your refineries and you blow up my railway lines ... and so on.

By Slobodan Drakulic | 1993-11-01 12:00:00

At face value, the relationship between the warmongers and the peacemakers is one of antinomy. In other words, peacemaking is diametrically opposed to warmongering, and the two have no common ground. Scratch behind the face value, however, we discover that the twain indeed do meet, and, furthermore, belong to one and the same political continuum. Peacekeeping belongs to the world in which war itself is a common occurrence. Otherwise, peacekeeping itself would be highly exceptional, which is hardly the case these days. On the contrary, one has the impression that the United Nations' troops are well on the road to becoming a global police force, deployed in the growing number of areas, chosen mainly by the American-dominated Security Council.

Consequently, the U.N. troops are increasingly perceived as occupation forces by the populations of the countries where they are supposedly keeping peace. Ultimately, they are viewed as instruments of the American neo-imperialist schemes, revamped after the downfall of the Soviet Empire.

Leaving aside the truthfulness of such claims in any particular case, perceptions of this kind seriously undermine the very possibility of peaceful peacekeeping, and peacekeeping that involves combat is peacemaking, i.e. imposition of peace by means of armed force. Similarly; it should go without saying that peace imposed upon the local population by an armed force, regardless of what color helmets its soldiers wear, approximates pacification rather than appeasement. That is obviously a highly problematic affair. If the United Nations are not independent and neutral, and if their armed forces bring peace on the tips of their bayonets, as for example in Somalia, then peacekeeping gets transformed into its opposite, which is warkeeping.

Peace achieved in such a way is a peace of the dungeon, where nobody moves around freely, because everybody is either locked in or out. Obviously, the jailers' freedom of movement is greater, but nevertheless limited.

As a result, U.N. troops become one of the parties in conflict, hence incapable of either peacekeeping or peacemaking. No wonder. One has to be a bigot to believe that a Pakistani soldier, wielding a gun under the U.N. banner, can behave better in somebody else's country than in his own, where he is dreaded by friends and foes alike. There is no reason why Croats or Serbs should trust Nigerian troops more than Ibos and Yorubas, or the Nigerian political opposition, for that matter. And we do know that Nigerians themselves are apprehensive regarding their own national army. Let's face it. One person's peacekeeper is another person's warmonger, depending on their respective interests. United Nations troops are no exception. Besides, many of the U.N. member states are a shameful bunch of national state concentration camps, governed by tyrants and policed by mercenary thugs. Oppressors at home, how can they be liberators and saviors abroad?

Now to Yugoslavia. I omit the obligatory prefix, "former" because Yugoslavia in flames of war evidently has more substance and cohesion than while it existed. Assorted Yugoslav warlords that strut around the globe bargaining over the proper measure of their respective peoples' misery, are more mutually interdependent now than three years ago when they lived in the same country.

Those warmongering chieftains of miscellaneous totalitarian extremist parties (neo-Nazi, neo-fascist, and neo-clericalist), are portrayed by most media as statesmen (virtually no women hold power in the "New Democracies," nota bene), as national leaders. We are seldom told that they belong to the murky realms of the far lunatic right, being the prophets of blood and soil, ethnic hatred and revenge.

They are, more often than not, raving madmen, obsessed with domination, command, might, destruction, and power over life and death. Supermen, and thus inhuman, they suffer from a severe case of psychological imbalance between erotic and thanatoid impulses, leaning heavily towards the latter. Did you know, for example, that both the Croatian and the Serbian presidents' parents committed suicide? Probably not. Who would tell you? As to the recent history of peacekeeping in Yugoslavia, let us remind ourselves that the first peacekeeping intervention in Yugoslavia arrived from the Germandominated European Community, in the form of the three foreign ministers' mission, in the summer of 1991. By mid-July, they had succeeded in dismembering Yugoslavia and keeping Slovenia and Croatia in-until October. Their memorable diplomatic-political success had nothing to do with what happened on the ground, however. The Croatian government forced the Serbs out of Croatia from the region of Krajina which was under their control.

Croats were seceding from Yugoslavia, while Serbs were seceding from Croatia. Intertwined as they were, they could not disentangle the Gordian knot composed of their own ethnic bodies. So they set out to cut it. Not being Alexanders, nor Great, they did it like feeble children trying to kill a cat. Viciously, slowly, cut by cut, blow by blow. In a war, small is weak and often ugly. And this war surely is petty.

This war is more often than not fought like this: I kill your cow, so you poison my horse; then I burn down your barn and you retaliate by throwing your dead cow into my well; then I scorch your field and you burn my house; then I blow up your home while you are away raping my wife; then you come with all your pals and raze my village to the ground, killing whoever was found there; then I burn down your village and bomb your nearest town, while you blow up my water dam; I shell your refineries and you blow up my railway lines... And so on.

This is rarely a war of armies fighting each other, but a very mobile war of roving bands of variable military and moral quality. More than most previous European wars, this one is being fought mainly by means of destruction of the adversary's economic potential and population. Battles are fought primarily as duels of highly mobile mortar and artillery units that hit and run as they please. Peasants and city-dwellers have no adequate answer to such attacks. They can only leave the area, or leave the country altogether.

And then we are outraged. Then we cry out against the horrors and terrors of war. For then their victims, for whom we show so much concern at great distance, might move in next door and even dare to ask if they could marry our daughters, some day. They would most certainly get themselves on our welfare system and live off our labor, which we find repulsive. Unlike the saints and prophets of old, in whom many of us claim that they believe, we shun, despise, or even hate the poor, the weak, and the downtrodden.

Such was, I suspect, the case of the Somalis beaten to death or executed point blank by Canadian peacekeepers in March of this year. That case should be taken as a serious bellwether, not as an embarrassing incident. Let us face it: it is seldom the cream of the educated social groups that flocks to the military schools, but the high school dropouts; it is not the meek and gentle that like the job of learning to kill and avoid being killed, but people attracted to guns and physical force.

Those who see the armed force as the possible solution of problems in human relations of any kind, are often totalitarians and apprehensive of freedom as such. Can they be peacekeepers? Sure, but then we have to question the nature of the peace they will be keeping, or imposing. I readily admit that I am apprehensive of such a prospect.

Returning to the unfortunate Yugoslavia with its multiple victims and executioners, let us ponder, in this context, the motivations that guide, say, Austrian, German, and Hungarian politicians, in their highly successful efforts to become the vanguard of the destruction of the post-World-War I, and the post-World-War II European and World order, which was anti-German, as well as anti-Austrian-Hungarian. Within that order, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were created specifically to check any renewal of the German and Austro-Hungarian power. As such, they were anti-German creations. When then German Foreign Minister Genscher backed the armed insurrection of the Slovenian secessionists, it became obvious that the actual German leaders don't look benevolently on the continuation of Yugoslavia. Let me add that under the dominant logic of our times, no German politician should think or act otherwise. This is a dog-eat-dog world, and you are either the eating or the eaten dog, unless you opt for abolishing such relations alltogether.

Peacekeeping in the world as it is, inevitably means to keep such a world in peace. As that is hardly in the interest of everybody, peacekeeping often becomes peacemaking, meaning that you have to put some guys down and keep them down by armed force, not necessarily because they are in the wrong, but because they object to the realignment of greater and lesser forces in the turmoil misnamed The New World Order.

We are, in fact, living in the midst of shambles created by the still crumbling post-World-War II order, with some of yesterday's victors going down and out (Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia), while some of the yesterday's vanquished (Germany, Japan), are making a comeback as the first class economic and political powers.

With the USA and Canada in a state of utter economic disrepair and financial frailty, this world-which has never known anything like international equality and international laws that apply to all evenly-has to follow whatever leaders offer themselves. In such a context, Germany with its satellites, additionally blessed by the obsessively anticommunist and neo-clericalist pope Woytila, appears as a natural leader of Europe.

British and French politicians are fully aware that the old European-and World-order in which they played some of the leading roles, is over. They also know that they will have to accommodate the reunified Germany in the decisive global powers' decision-making. But they don't want to be entirely overrun by events, losing more of their power than inevitable. That is why European Community endlessly peace talks about peacekeeping or peacemaking, which, under the circumstances, amounts to warkeeping. And so the Yugoslav ethnoreligious mutual slugging goes on and on. As to ourselves, with our own superiors being, to an uncomfortable extent, followers of our Southern neighbors' rulers, we end up occupying the Horn of Africa, or send our troops into the political-military helter-skelter of Yugoslavia, to be killed by land mines, artillery shells, snipers, or in various accidents-for what? To keep the bad guys down?

If you try to look for yourself, you will find some bad guys, some good guys, and mostly so-so guys on all sides, engrossed in the most gross endeavor imaginable, from the human point of view: namely, they are killing each other as a part of the dispute over whether their respective peoples should or could live in one, two, three, eight or more countries! Worse yet, they are being taken seriously, and furthermore supported in their homicidal efforts by most world powers and most influential member-states of the U.N. Or, do you sincerely believe that there is a war among small peoples like those of the former Yugoslavia, that cannot be stopped by the principal world powers, if they could agree to do so?! If you do, think again, asking yourself how is it that the totally besieged Muslim enclaves lack food but not ammunition or artillery. How come the good-guy Croats fry whole Muslim families alive in their homes? Why do the good old Muslims cut off Serb heads and photograph each other holding them by the hair as hunting trophies?

Everybody has been frying, flaying, beheading, blinding, dismembering, and reportedly even crucifying and impaling everybody else during this war, right from the beginning. Yet, the media serve us bad and good guys in turns: yesterday Serbs, today Croats, tomorrow Muslims. The only possible explanation for this is that the pendulum of power-far out of reach of the hapless Yugoslav peoples and their psychopathic leaders-keeps swinging back and forth.

We know it, don't we? Yet, most of us pretend that we don't see that in Yugoslavia and elsewhere, warmongers make peace, killers save lives, protectors kill their proteges, bigots introduce democracy, democrats rule by decrees, peacekeepers kill civilians, and U.N. troops save peoples from violence by violence.

Slobodan Drakulic is an associate researcher at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Toronto.

Peace Magazine Nov-Dec 1993

Peace Magazine Nov-Dec 1993, page 16. Some rights reserved.

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