TCS Daily

Creeping Wars

By Austin Bay - March 17, 2006 12:00 AM

Serbian dictator Slobodon Milosevic didn't invent the "creeping war of aggression." Prior to the invasion of Poland, Hitler pursued one via intimidation and diplomacy; Imperial Japan attacked China bite by bite.

Milosevic, however, was one of the first to pursue "creeping war" (with some success) in the post-Cold War era, and certainly the first to practice it in post-Cold War Europe.

Milosevic observed what happened to Saddam Hussein's more direct method of aggression and empire restoration. (Remember, Saddam called Kuwait a lost Iraqi province.) Saddam's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait ended with Saddam losing an army.

While Saddam continued his genocidal machinations after losing in Kuwait, Milosevic calculated that he wouldn't survive an army-wrecking debacle.

Saddam sought a "Greater Iraq"; Milosevic fought for a "Greater Serbia." After he had killed, exiled or intimidated a sufficient number of Serb democrats to solidify his Belgrade power base, he began his just-above-the-radar war designed to play on European military reluctance and U.N. political weakness.

I don't come to this subject in hindsight. In November 1991, an article I wrote for The Dallas Morning News fingered Milosevic as the criminal mastermind directing a strategy designed "to create a 'greater Serbia' by winning a 'creeping' war of aggression." The article also described the technique: "(The Serb military) attacks, takes a niche of Croatia, halts and waits for the international community's diplomatic rhetoric to subside. Then it attacks again." I also argued Milosevic had to be stopped because "Serbian war-making encourages pocket fascists in Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R. who would use civil war as a means of gaining power."

Note that Milosevic's war in 1991 was fought against Croatia. Milosevic's "ethnic cleansing" of Bosnian Muslims didn't begin in earnest until early 1992. Croatia is predominantly Catholic Christian; Serbia predominantly Orthodox.

When Milosevic turned up dead in his Dutch jail cell last week, a few brazen and misguided voices portrayed him as a victim of "U.S. aggression" (i.e., the 1999 Kosovo War) or a misunderstood defender of Europe who fought Muslim radicals. The second assertion is certainly false. Milosevic's first victims were democratic reformers and other European Christians. They were the first of many murdered as Milosevic moved "from red to brown" — morphed from communist to ultra-nationalist fascist.

For Milosevic, that amounted to little more than a shift in rhetoric. Nazis and communists are cut from the same hideous human mold. They share a common disdain for liberalism and a disregard for human life. German Nazis joked that their cadres included "beefsteaks" -- party members "brown (shirt)" on the outside and "red" inside.

The world doesn't do a good job deterring "creeping wars." Iran's bait-and-switch quest for nuclear weapons is a diplomatic, economic and covert "creep." Saddam's battle against post-Desert Storm U.N. sanctions was based on Saddam's bet that over time the United Nations' attention would wane and he could corrupt the sanctions regimen. Sudan's genocidal war in Darfur definitely follows the "attack-halt-wait" script.

Why the problem? There are many reasons, with structural weaknesses in the United Nations among them. But personal accountability is another. Vicious megalomaniacs like Milosevic and Saddam are certain they can outtalk, out-wait, out-corrupt, out-threaten and, when necessary, out-kill opponents domestic and foreign. These brutes never believe they will be held accountable.

Milosevic finally fell from power in 2000. However, he survived U.N. peacekeepers and the Croats' 1995 counteroffensive (an attack "advised" by the United States that led to the Dayton Accords). He even survived the American-led Kosovo War (a war that was not approved by the United Nations).

In concept, Milosevic's trial in the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia would finally hold a dictator accountable for his aggression in a court of law. But instead of by hangman, Milosevic went by heart attack and escaped conviction.

Despite the deadly serious charges, Milosevic's trial became an interminable farce. The Iraqis are doing a much better job with Saddam's trial than the international court did with Milosevic. Saddam's trial has moved forward despite Saddam's courtroom shenanigans (antics similar to Milosevic's shtick). Milosevic outtalked and out-waited. The Iraqi people and the United States won't let Saddam escape accountability for his aggression.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and a TCS contributing writer.



As described in the article, this was once known as "salami tactics". No one notices that one little slice of salami is gone, nor is it worth fighting over, until suddenly the whole salami is missing.

In the case of politics and war, the stakes are high but nations willfully disregard indirect threats (Sudetenland, Croatia, Iran) because doing something forceful about one little old slice of salami lacks comity. Besides, it's too much work.

There is no question that Hitler could have been stopped early and easily, when Germany was weak and some of the military commanders seriously questioned Hitler's aggressive tactics. Hitler's early victories gave him a tremendous psychological advantage with the German military and the German people, while his opponents continued to dither. But stopping Hitler lacked comity and was too much work, so we fought WWII.

The United Nations was specifically chartered to deal with such matters, but it has become corrupt and ineffectual, and is not inclined to stop wars or genocides, regardless of provocation.

The only peoples who have learned anything in the last seventy years are the democracies, specifically free-market democracies. We should retain the UN for its contributions, such as they are, in health (WHO) and in uh, umm, oh, whatever, and let the democracies take charge of peacekeeping, within their capabilities, of course. Which may open up a whole new can of salami, uh, worms.

Good job, Crotalus...But what free-market deomcracies are we to rely upon? The French? Germans? Canadians? How about the non-governmental British people? If so, I think we're in trouble. Only the Aussies and Americans seem to have the stomach for doing what needs to be done and that will change if the Dems. gain political power. We'll then just be a Europe that happens to speak English and, like Europe, North America will be a continent of cowards.

Saudi Creeps
The day we no longer rely upon Saudi oil exports is the day we will hold the oppressive monarchy accountable for Militant Wahabism, al Qaeda, and the repression of its citizens.

Saudi Creeps --
The day we no longer rely on Saudi oil imports will simply be the day the Saudis sell that same oil to someone else. Oil is a comodity in high demand that can be sold to anyone in the world with enough money to buy it. While I'm no fan of the Saudis, and I hate Wahabism (using the term "militant" Wahabism is a redundancy), don't fool yourself into thinking that you'll punish the Saudis by not buying their oil. Someone WILL buy it.

Creeping Appeasement
No, the point is not to punish the Saudis by taking our oil business elsewhere, the point is to free ourselves to act in our own defense.

Our oil dependence prevents us from using stronger measures against the Saud royalty. And it's one reason why the neocons pursued Iraq prior 9/11 -- during the PNAC days of the late 1990's. Indirect threats against the Saudis are not effective. Supporting a repressive monarchy while championing freedom and democracy is not effective. Relying upon the exports of terrorist sponsors is not effective.

In short, appeasement for the sake of oil is not effective.

French? Germans?
Ummm, no. The Social Democrats of Old Europe are not free-market practitioners. That is why their economies are so screwed up. It is interesting, however, that the Canadians and Germans have recently moved to the right.

The Anglosphere is the core of the free-market democracies, in spite of the wavering, waffling Canadians. But don't fault the Canucks; we have waverers and wafflers in the USA also, only they are known as Democrats.

Other free-market practitioners include some of the newly liberated in Eastern Europe and oldly liberated Japan and, increasingly, India.

The 2006 Index of Economic Freedom calculates objective scores for economic freedom for all the world's countries. Economic freedom correlates closely with individual and political freedom.

There is simply no point in allowing Cuba or Libya to participate in human rights forums or to make decisions on war or genocide, as the UN currently does.

No Subject
It is interesting, however, that the Canadians and Germans have recently moved to the right.

Maybe a "smidgeon" to the right. What is interesting is the behind the scences involvement and cooperation by the German government with the so-called CIA overflights. They of course denied it for domestic consumption but...

It could happen before then with the right trigger.

another take on Milosevic
The case against Slobodan Milosevic would never have held up in a proper court of law
John Laughland
Tuesday March 14, 2006
The Guardian
I was one of the last western journalists to meet Slobodan Milosevic. Having been called to The Hague as a potential witness, I spent an hour in his cell in January last year. Like most who met him, I found him polite and intelligent. "We will win," he told me. "Freedom is a universal value. They have no evidence against me."
Such statements will shock those who have been assured that Milosevic was a nationalist dictator bent on establishing a racially pure Greater Serbia. But civilised societies ought to be reluctant to condone criminal convictions based on hate campaigns. The fact is that Milosevic's enemies have never been able to produce a single rabid nationalist, let alone racist, quotation from his mouth, while in the four years of his trial at The Hague not a single witness has testified that he ordered war crimes.

Instead, witnesses have been trooping into The Hague for nearly two years now, testifying that there was neither genocide in Kosovo nor any plan to drive out the civilian ethnic Albanian population, and that Milosevic could not be held responsible either for the break-up of Yugoslavia or the subsequent civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Establishing criminal responsibility is an exact science and the fact is that Milosevic was not in charge of Yugoslavia when it was breaking up. The 1991 order telling the (multi-ethnic) Yugoslavian army to fight the secessionist states, Croatia and Slovenia, was given by the then head of the federal government, Ante Markovic, a darling of the west - and western intervention made the situation much worse. Milosevic is often accused of upsetting the internal balance of the Yugoslavian federal constitution, but few seriously believe that a political system modelled on Switzerland's stood any chance of long surviving Tito.

The Hague prosecution issued the original indictment against Milosevic for Kosovo in May 1999, at the height of Nato's attack on Yugoslavia and in apparent justification of it. It was not until a year and a half later, and between seven and 10 years after the events, that the indictments for Bosnia and Croatia were added. This was presumably done because the prosecutors realised that Nato's allegations about genocide in Kosovo could not stand up in court. But the Bosnia and Croatia indictments were problematic too. Milosevic has always denied moral or legal responsibility for the atrocities committed by the Bosnian Serbs, for instance in 1995 at Srebrenica, because, as president of neighbouring Serbia, he was not in charge of Bosnia or the Bosnian Serbs. Even if he had influence over the Bosnian Serbs, that is a long way from criminal responsibility

If the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia were a proper court of law, the charges against him would have been dismissed long ago. Unfortunately, it is a highly politicised organ, created on the initiative of the very states which attacked Yugoslavia in 1999, and whose judges have disgraced themselves by bending the rules to facilitate the prosecution's task. In 2004, the judges imposed defence counsel on Milosevic, even though the ICTY's charter states that defendants have the right to defend themselves, and even though they knew he was too sick to stand trial. On February 24 2006, at the prosecution's insistence, they rejected Milosevic's request to be transferred to a heart clinic: he died a fortnight later.

It is corrosive of the core values of western civilisation for the chief Hague prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, now to say that Milosevic escaped justice by dying, for this assumes that "justice" means not due process but a guilty verdict. The day we start to believe that we will have abandoned the rule of law completely.

· John Laughland is the author of Le Tribunal Pénal International: Gardien du Nouvel Ordre Mondial (The International Criminal Tribunal: Guardian of the New World Order)

the empire of democracy
Speaking of creeping wars, what of the incessant efforts of the US government to "spread democracy" across the world mostly by force? Are Americans so inured to violence and forcing others to live as "we" see fit that they have become silent partners in the march of empire?
How can we crow so loudly about democracy when our very founding was that of a republic of united States. The men who wrote the great American documents abhorred democracy and there is not a single mention of it in either the Constitution or its Amendments (aka the Bill of Rights).

I can't access your comment above if it has no title.

To view kmwhit's untitled comment, view the previous comment (yours) and then select the [NEXT] button.

by force?
Where do you get this strange notion.

The only nations we have attacked are those that threatened us.

What would you have us do?

In other nations we have encouraged democracy by supporting those groups that support democracy.

What hog wash
I lived in Bosnia for the past 3 ½ years and my wife is from there. She spent 5 years fighting in the army against the Serbs.

You could replace the name Hitler in that article and have a similar augment. He never order the extermination of the Jews, he just told the men under him to “handle the Jewish problem” and left it to them to determine what outcome he wanted. Milosevic did the same thing in Bosnia. Of course it is hard to find witness to testify against him when they all ended up in unmarked mass graves.

hung up on democracy
What I would suggest is the approach of our founders who admonished us to be a friend to all and the world's trading partner. Avoiding foreign political entanglements was also high on their list. Unprovoked attacks on sovereign nations does not fit the model. We should not run around the world attacking any nation who is perceived to "threaten us". There is a vast difference between legitimate self-defense and unprovoked attack.

For example, what do you think the police would do to you if you attacked anyone who merely threatened you verbally or who you perceived to be a personal threat? My money says you would end up in jail. If government derives its power from us, the people, how can we delegate authority that we as individuals do not have---ie to randomly attack others with impunity?

Moreover, democracy, as I have mentioned, was disparged by Jefferson and Madison--I refer you to Federalist 10.

What About the U.S. and Saddam?

What about him?
Yes we made an alliance with him during the Iran-Iraq war. We also made an alliance with Stalin during WWII. We also made an alliance with Ho Chi Minh during WWII.

We make alliance based on what is best at that time, not so much for what the future may bring. Also an alliance today does not mean you can’t be an enemy tomorrow. We are not talking about making friends, but making alliances to handle problems at the time. Sure it would be great if you could be friends and allies at the same time, but that rarely works. NATO could be seen as the best alliance we have ever formed, but look at it now. The issue is that like every other alliance it was formed to handle a problem and after that problem is taken care of the need for that alliance fades away.

In the case of NATO it was facing the USSR. In the case of Stalin it was Hitler. In the case of Ho Chi Mihn it was the Japanese and the need to stay “friends” with the French after WWII. In the case of Saddam it was the religious take over of Iran. In each case the “alliance” began fall apart soon after the problem was taken care of.

As with everything there is an exception to this rule. That would be the alliance between the US and the British Commonwealth. This is because of the underlying friendship and trust between the two powers. The alliance between us is based on more then just a common problem, it is based on a common outlook towards the world and what is right and wrong. Not to say that there are not issues between the two, but that there is more in common then in difference.

That's My Point
You've proven the writer wrong. Apparently, dictators don't have to be held accountable if what they are doing will be to the advantage of the one who accuses them.

More important, you've shown that the U.S. is no different from Iraq, the former USSR, Red China, and other countries which follow the same principles.

Big difference
“More important, you've shown that the U.S. is no different from Iraq, the former USSR, Red China, and other countries which follow the same principles.”

The big difference between us and them is….. They would track you down and make you disappear in the middle of the night for posting what you have written here.

It was once said that the US government was the worst possible government you could have.. expect for all the other forms of government out there.

No we are not perfect and only have three chooses to use when dealing with the outside world. First we can bury our head and hope they leave us alone. Second we can try to take over the world and run it all ourselves. Third we can take it one day at a time and try to work with what’s out there. The last option is the only real option. Sometimes that means you have to pick the better of a two bad chooses and try to work with the one you chose.

Big Difference?
Big difference? How do you think the U.S. is able to support thugs like Saddam and others? How do you think El Salvadoran death squads evolved, or the Indonesian Red Brigade, or LIC in the Philippines?

So now it is a matter of what is "worst." Worst for whom?

You argue that no one is "perfect, that is is better to act than to ignore one's enemies, and that one has to choose the lesser evil. Didn't it occur to you that the enemies of the U.S. give the same arguments?

What, then, is the reason for writing "Creeping Wars"?

The police quite frequently shoot madmen holding guns. Even if the madman in question has not fired the gun.

It is sufficient that when ordered to put the gun down, he refuses.

Salvadoran Death Squads
While bad, were not as bad as the communist guerillas they were fighting.

El Salvadoran Death Squads
You forgot the rest of the story: the police in this case will also arm the madmen with guns and train them to use them before shooting the latter. The police will also not shoot the madmen because the latter refuses to put down the gun; they will do so if madmen with guns no longer serve their own interests.

Not as Bad....Indeed
Not to mention the civilians they terrorized.

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