Scarcely had the dust settled on NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbia when prolific political commentator Noam Chomsky brought out The New Military Humanism
, which raises incisive, unsettling questions about the motives of the United States and England--the two most vocal proponents of Operation Allied Forces--and the efficacy of their handiwork. Chomsky pulls together much damning evidence, including testimony from the military commander who led the attack, to demonstrate that the assault was not intended to bring an end to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's "ethnic cleansing" of the disputed territory in Kosovo; it seems very likely, in fact, that President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair knew full well that their actions would ultimately exacerbate the situation. Chomsky also points out that if the United States was genuinely concerned with ending the horrors of genocide, its continued financial and military support of repressive regimes in countries like Turkey and Indonesia is at the very least extremely puzzling. (The New Military Humanism
was written and published before the international community decided in September 1999 to intervene in East Timor, which had been subject to Indonesian occupation for over 20 years.) Ultimately, Chomsky suggests, such contradictions exist because what the United States claims to be a "humanitarian" mission is--no matter how glowingly the mass media portrays it--nothing more than American muscle flexing. "The contempt of the world's leading power for the framework of world order," he concludes, "has become so extreme that there is little left to discuss." --Ron Hogan
From Library Journal
The essays in The Politics of Human Rights are reprinted from the third issue of the irregular serial Belgrade Circle Journal (ISSN 0354-635X). The Belgrade Circle is a nongovernmental organization founded in 1992 that, according to its web site, promotes "a free, open, pluralist, democratic, and rational civil society" and looks forward to a new Europe rather than back to old Serbia. A better title for the collection would have been "The Political Theory of Human Rights" as the contributors advocate a legal framework as the best protection for human rights, basing their arguments on the early Western European political philosophers of those rights. Three of the essays are analyses of human rights texts; only the last two, written by the volume editor, consider contemporary Yugoslavia. The publication of such essays in Belgrade may be a subversive activity, but they will hardly seem radical to American readers. Furthermore, the photo of Slobodan Milosevic on the cover misleads the reader to expect the contents to focus on Serbia, which is barely mentioned. Chomsky (MIT), a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, contributed one essay to the preceding book as well as writing his own book during the spring 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia. He compares the rhetoric of the U.S. government justifying this intervention to its rhetoric and actions in other parts of the world both recently (the Kurds) and in past decades (several incursions into Central America). In all cases, he depicts the United States as a rogue superpower intent on enforcing its wishes everywhere while flouting international legal conventions and undermining world order in the process. Intense anger and strong passion drip from every page, but the haste of composition has led to numerous nonsense statements, such as "If we had records, we might find that Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun professed humanitarian motives." His arguments would be better served by a thorough revision. Neither volume can be recommended.AMarcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York
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