Log Cabin Chronicles

Escalation
&
The Art of War

CHRISTOPHER C. GOODFELLOW

The first victim is truth.

Canada is in a state of war with Yugoslavia and yet we have little sense of a feeling of war here. In fact it was a marvelous sunny and warm spring weekend in eastern Canada. It's like a nightmare at distance. Thirty years ago I remember quite clearly the same feeling about Vietnam. I was in graduate school at Cornell and we would sit between classes and watch Dan Rather, media sound bytes, videoclips, and bodycounts.

As the situation in Yugoslavia I hope we could turn to our government for the honest truth. We deserve some answers. It's time to come clean before Parliament and define the goals and limits of Canada's involvement in this affair. All Canadians deserve to know where we are going with this.

Most of all the Canadians who have either come from Yugoslavia or who have roots in Yugoslavia deserve to know exactly and precisely what Canada is doing? If we are bombing grandparents and relatives of Canadians in Yugoslavia they deserve to know exactly what our mission is.

We are told this is about ethnic cleansing - a horrible and totally inappropriate euphemism for murder but yet are we not committing murder ourselves at this point by dropping bombs on de-personalized people in Belgrade and elsewhere? Are the Yugoslavs in general our enemy? I don't think so.

Or, more to the point, is our problem really just with Milosevic and a few thugs?

In a world full of hot spots where other genocides of even greater scale than Kosovo are happening, Canada is not dropping bombs.

Why here? What's different?

I wish I could answer the question but its up to Mr. Chrétien as Prime Minister to make these things clear to the Canadian people. This is war. It is most definitely not peace-keeping.

This is the most major and significant change in Canada's foreign policy in forty years and Canadians should think long and hard of the repercussions upon our international standing. At least, before dispatching our planes, the entire matter deserved a fair hearing before Parliament with a thorough understanding of the consequences. Our role which we have uniquely developed for ourselves and with which we have been identified us as a nation has centred around United Nations Peacekeeping.

In the flash of the first bomb dropped from a CF-18 our credibility as peacekeeper exploded. The honoured role commenced by Lester Pearson has ended.

In fact, the most disturbing element in all of this is the lack of a clear definitive goal of exactly what we have set out to do by moving to "hot" war from diplomacy. War is quite distinct from diplomacy. At various times, the art of diplomacy demands the prospect and threat of war to achieve its goals. Threats are very useful.

However when the line is crossed from diplomacy to the use of force, the art of war is quite different and demands a complete abandonment of diplomacy.

Somehow in our western democracies we have lost sight of clear thinking. You can't do war and diplomacy both at the same time. This not lunch at the Ritz. Time and again history has given us lessons. Start with Vietnam. The proposition that "limited" war or simple bombing will achieve the result is far from proved.

We will just soften you up a bit until you agree with us.

"Limited" war. Almost like an April Fools joke.

If the decision to move to force from negotiations was because Milosevic refused to sign an agreement to allow foreign troops to go in on the ground to protect the Kosovars from his thugs, a campaign of bombing in Yugoslavia is certainly not going to bring him to the table.

We shouldn't kid ourselves. We are going to have to go and get him.

But it has been reported that President Clinton says he has no intention of introducing ground troops until an agreement is reached. It seems to me that is telegraphing a pretty important message to Milosevic: hold on through the bombing long enough and if Western resolve isn't there to bring in the ground troops, you'll eventually wear down the Nato alliance.

Tens of thousands of Yugoslavs attended a rock concert in downtown Belgrade with paper "target" circles pinned to their t-shirts on Sunday. Are we to bomb thousands of civilians? It would seem to me Milosevic has every reason in the world not to capitulate now.

Nato has a pretty strange strategy. A pretty unclear strategy. A strategy guaranteed to lead nowhere but into a deeper morass.

Meanwhile, we Canadians are murdering innocent Yugoslavs as our bombs rain down. We shouldn't fool ourselves. Our hands are not clean any longer.

Once the line was crossed to use force and violence to settle this issue, the art of war dictates that only a complete and total commitment to removing Milosevic will bring about the final result we wish.

Negotiate with Milosevic?

Even if we bring Milosevic to the table by bombing, common sense and history tells us we still will not have solved the problem. We never seem to learn.

Was it to rid the mid-east of a bad apple or to free Kuwait that we went up against Saddam? We freed Kuwait but Saddam is very much alive.

? You cannot lay claim to winning the war if you still have to keep huge military resources present in the area to keep the tiger in its cage. You've just got a bigger and longer lasting bill to pay.

So this "second phase" of air strikes against Yugoslavia leaves me a little perplexed. Where are we going with this? If my government wishes to commit this country to war, I'd certainly like a clear statement of goals.

The Canadian people deserve to know this week the limits of our commitment.

We also deserve to know what measures the government is taking to protect us domestically from possible terrorism or has it completely escaped everyone's attention that if you drop bombs on someone's family they might just be angry enough to take extreme measures themselves on Canadian soil?

So what is it, Mr. Chrétien? The Canadian people are involved and the situation is clearly escalating both militarily and from the human tide of refugees. It is pure nonsense and misleading to tell us that ground troops won't solve this problem now. Mr. Milosevic will never go quietly. Why should he?

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