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Rajpal's Column

16th May 1999

Couldn't Mr. Bean have done this better?

By Rajpal Abeynayake

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Mr. Bean couldn't have been more inept in handling Kosovo than the NATO …NATO bombs hit trains, buses and bridges and literally caused civilians to be incinerated alive. In the melee, a NATO bomb hit the Chinese embassy building killing four Chinese including a couple of journalists.

Now, even the British, generally slavish supporters of Mr. Clinton, appear to have had it. British editorialists last week said that "smart bombs" which are supposed to hone in on specific targets have now been preferred less by NATO to brute bombs. Brute bombs kill willy nilly, and know only brute force.

The NATO and the American led campaign in Kosovo was supposed to have been Madeline Albright's coup. Probably sensitive to the criticism that American passion for human rights is ignited only when American interests are involved, she evolved what is called an upright (rhymes with Albright ) American interventionist ideology.

The ideology comes a little too late, because the Americans have passed up several opportunities in which intervention from a purely humanitarian standpoint would have been acceptable. In Bosnia itself, American intervention was far too late; Muslims had been massacred in ethnic genocide and hundreds of women raped in a new repugnant method of waging terror.

After all of this it strains credibility for America to come back as born again protector of the world. The clumsiness of the intervention isn't helping. Richard Nixon, one of American foreign policy's most consummate ideologues, said once during the Cold War that "America should be a madman. "Nixon's theory was that America couldn't play world policeman without effecting a streak of gangster abandon— in order to scare the rest of the world. Nixon thought it best for America to protect its interests by sheer aggression coupled with some degree of unpredictability and a healthy lack of respect for international law, which was of course just a developing branch of the law at that time.

But conditions after Nixon was forced out of office forced America to rethink, and in the years of Jimmy Carter for instance, America's madman image may have had to recede.

But that was only an interregnum, and with Ronald Reagan the American cowboy ensconced in power, America reverted right back to the madman school of foreign policy whether it was articulated in just those terms or not.

The funny thing is that after all those years of shoot from the hip foreign policy that was singularly devoted to advancing interests of the USA abroad, a woman now comes along, and professes to give a gentle touch to American interventionism. She says that American foreign policy must be led by noble motives, the noble motive here being to stop Slobodan milosevic's genocidal aggression.

It is simply difficult to think that American foreign policy is suddenly turning out to be angelic in the hands of a lady. .

Not even Bill Clinton could parcel out American foreign policy to a lady who abruptly wants America to be a real champion of human rights.

On the contrary, what Madeline Albright and the Clinton White House wanted to plot was perhaps a redemption of the American image.

By intervening in some places where there were no apparent American interests such as oil for example, the Clinton foreign policy team wanted to create a better rationale for America to intervene in future situations in which American foreign policy is involved. By intervening in Kosovo, and breaking Slobo the genocidal maniac's back, America may have bought into some honour.

That honour would have helped in the long run, especially when America wanted to carry out on some future date a blatantly unjustified intervention, motivated only by its personal interests such as the availability of oil.

But Nixon's madman image has taken its toll. The madman tendency has, it appears, almost got into the American system. It's so ingrained, that now when America wants to do smart bombs and appear like a clinical humanist, the smart bombs turn dumb and unleash madman like violence. And this is what the British newspapers, no less are saying about ally America's campaign in Kosovo.The British editorialists have gone a step further to say that the ragtag forces of an economically depressed enclave have been able to keep the world's most technically superior force, NATO, from getting the better of it. In other words, when America has desperately tried to play angel, it has miserably failed. America finds it difficult, the British editorialists may consider, to go against its grain. The American grain as Nixon said, is to go for the jugular, smash its fists around, and with a splash of blood and gore, pronounce its invincibility against all perceived evil. Try any other sort of veneer, and the true colours still spill out from under the skin……as they seem to have done in Kosovo.

Endpiece: The Indian commercial behemoth seems to have generated a storm over the World Cup, and it's worth considering why. Does the sheer size of the market above all govern the way in which the Indian commercial enterprises are cashing in on the World Cup? Or are Indians crazier over this game, than we Sri Lankans, defending world champions and underdogs though we maybe?

Whichever the answer — it looks we are mentally healthier than the Indians not to come close to losing our sanity over the game. But funnily enough wasn't it an Indian, Gauthama the Buddha, who said "victory and defeat treat these two impostors just the same, and thou shall be the master of thy fate?" On that score, we Lankans seem to have a leg up over our sub-continental brethren, by choice or otherwise.


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