Few issues have provoked as much debate among progressive Americans in recent years as the war in the Balkans. In the following article, Edward S. Herman responds to Paul Hockenos' essay "Human Wrongs: How the Great Powers Failed the Balkans," which appeared in the August 7 issue of the magazine.
The mainstream framing of the issues in the Balkans has had demonization at its core. This framing has been effective, causing many liberals and leftists to support NATO policy, and to look upon any harsh attacks on NATO as "pro-Serb" or "pro-Milosevic." But while the several dozen critics I know whose anti-NATO stance I share agree that Milosevic is a thug and that Serbs have done terrible things, none of us regard these as the heart of the issues at stake here.
What is at stake is the real purposes and effects of NATO policy (which has nothing to do with humanitarianism), the NATO powers' long-standing interventions that have exacerbated conflict in the Balkans, their failure to explore - let alone exhaust - possibilities of a peaceful resolution of conflict, and their final resort to extreme violence in violation of U.N. prerogatives and international law. These are matters on which Paul Hockenos follows a pro-NATO line and deals cavalierly with evidence.
A notable feature of Hockenos' review of books on the Balkans is the close correlation between his positive appraisal and an author's support for NATO intervention. His highest accolade is for the "astute" and "outspoken proponent of NATO air strikes" Michael Ignatieff, a New York Times favorite.