Have we learned any lessons from our wars of the last decade? Or do we just let them slip from our memory?
Have we all but forgotten the U.S. war on Iraq... and now our latest U.S./NATO war on Yugoslavia? Was the U.S./NATO bombing a humanitarian intervention?
We have to ask ourselves what might have been a more effective intervention than the ultimatums outlined in the Rambouillet Accords and the subsequent 78 days of U.S./NATO bombing that followed. Were there other types of interventions that would have worked more humanely and less destructively in resolving ethnic tensions without killing thousands of civilians and destroying their essential infrastructure -- a truly humanitarian intervention -- not a death-dealing military one?
Let us explore some possibilities.
* The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The OSCE, made up of 55 nations including Canada, the United States and Russia, is primarily a security organization dealing with human rights, preventative diplomacy, arms control, confidence and security building measures, election monitoring, and economic and environmental security. The organization is involved in all phases of the conflict cycle from early warning and conflict prevention to conflict management and post-conflict rehabilitation.
The comprehensive work of the OSCE is cooperative problem-solving and excludes any hegemonic behavior on the part of member states. The OSCE functions under the charter of the United Nations and serves as its regional agent.
Because the OSCE mandate is non-military, it is clearly a better intervention tool than NATO, whose charter is purely military.
In the Kosovo crisis, from October 1998 to March 1999, Slobodan Milosevic had accepted OSCE observers to monitor ethnic tensions in Kosovo. But NATO and the U.S. were not willing to wait and let the OSCE work out its problem-solving mission.
Perhaps the very first lesson we can learn from the NATO intervention is to do no harm -- the Hippocratic oath in action. And the second lesson is: follow existing laws and work within the legal structures of law.
* The United Nations.
According to Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, we don't have to invent new means of resolving human conflicts, we have the United Nations. It is our legal obligation to live by our commitment to that organization and have the patience to let the United Nations do its work. We must abide by the U.S. War Powers Act and our own constitution as well.
Numerous creative alternatives for non-violent interventions have surfaced during the recent NATO conflagration. These alternatives are provided not as a substitute for the United Nations or the OSCE, but as a supplement to these organizations.
* Assemble a non-violent peace force of world leaders.
One non-violent proposal presented by Karl Meyer, a peace activist, calls on the U.N. Security Council to define conditions for a just settlement of the crisis, with the secretary general assembling a non-violent force led by outstanding peace advocates, religious leaders, Nobel Peace Prize winners and outstanding world leaders committed to nonviolent intervention to world problems. This peace force would go into the problem area and meet with the leaders involved in the crisis.
* Assemble a civilian peace force of ordinary citizens.
Another intervention plan is based on the involvement of the ordinary citizen working non-violently for a solution to critical problems. This plan, proposed by Mel Duncan of St. Paul and David Hartsough of San Francisco called PEACE force does not enlist celebrities, but calls on the ordinary citizen to be trained in non-violent intervention strategies. This civilian force would work with existing peace teams already working in the crisis area.
* Create a multinational rapid deployment peace force.
A third intervention proposed by former Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali, back in 1992, has great potential. This proposal, already on the table for consideration at the United Nations would involve the creation of a multinational standby force that could be rapidly deployed to check serious tensions -- not a U.N. army but a peace force as envisioned in Article 45 of the U.N. Charter.
As of July 1999, 85 countries ranging from Argentina to Zambia have officially expressed willingness to participate in a standby peace force. Of the 85 countries, 24 have signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN that they are ready and willing to participate.
These are just four alternative interventions that are far more humanitarian than the so-called ``humanitarian'' bombing of the United States and NATO in Yugoslavia last spring.
We must find and use non-violent, truly humanitarian interventions to solve world problems. A NATO Swat Team is not the answer.
Katherine Vander Horck is a member of Women Speak for a Sane World, a Duluth citizens group that explores alternatives to war and violence.
© 2000 Duluth News-Tribune.