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<nettime> geertogram 042899: uncertainties, jewish world review, exile

Geert Lovink <>
          Uncertainties of a Conflict
          Jewish World Review April 27, 1999 /11 Iyar 5759
          "Exile" "Editorial"

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Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 07:31:44 +0200 (CEST)
From: Geert Lovink <>
Subject: (fwd) Uncertainties of a Conflict


Uncertainties of a Conflict
Ernesto Galli Della Loggia

"We entered this war without precise objectives, unprepared, without
plans: nobody knows when it will be possible to win it, and how"; "The
bombardment of Serbia from air does not produce the foreseen effects, it
clearly does not serve the purpose, and it was a mistake to consider it a
strategic fulcrum of the operation"; "The war has not put an end to the
deportations of Kosovars: so why do it?  The NATO has committed an error
in calculation, believing that Milosevic would give up."

These are, more or less, the views and questions which could have
frequently been read and heard since the beginning of the attack against
Serbia.  Views and questions, let us be clear about it, which almost never
correspond automatically to a rejection of the attack in principle, but,
on the contrary, quite often accompany an approval thereof; and yet they
are of such weight that in the end the approval is pushed into the
background, or almost disappears.

The fact that these views and questions are so widespread is not in itself
a proof that they are well-founded and/or reasonable.  On the contrary, it
seems to me that they bear witness of a whole of ideas which, disregarding
experience from the past completely, prove to be utterly unrealistic (and
therefore wrong): not just with regard to this war, but, in general, with
regard to what any war is and how it "functions".

I will examine a couple of these unrealistic and unreasonable ideas, but
not before I reiterate a banal and important truth, which regards all
social facts in general, and war in particular.  And that is that, as a
rule, almost nothing of what is thought of as being logical to happen
actually happens: this to the point that only when an event arrives to its
conclusion one can say with some certainty that it was concluded in
positive or negative way, and for whom it was positive or negative.  It
will suffice here to remind to the beginning of the Gulf war, eight years
ago, when in every possible way many - and the pacifists in particular -
tried to convince us that the war would create a scary anti-Western wave
in the entire Arab world, on the long run it would have a destabilizing
effect in the area, and relations between Israel and the states in the
region would reach a level of unimaginable tension.  Well, as we know now,
nothing of this happened, and, moreover, a peace process between Arabs and
Jews has affirmed itself, and continued to resist.

That said, it should be remembered that for democratic countries it is
rather difficult to start wars with precise plans and fully prepared.
Blitz-kriegs, devastating attacks a la Pearl Harbor, are appanage of the
regimes which have planned hostilities and aggressions in secrecy, instead
of resorting to them as extreme measures.  The line of conduct of the
democracies is inevitably consisted in the motto "Let's start, then we'll
see"; even more so because democracies have to subordinate every military
move to an external political limitation, that is to the consensus of the
public opinion.  In other words, in democratic countries as the ones
belonging to the NATO, military options cannot be exclusively adopted on
the basis of a criterion of technical efficiency, but rather have to
possess a political practicability.  The most destructive military
instruments, and the ones most expensive in terms of human lives
(including the ones on its own side), can be used only when the public
opinion arrives - even if only because of a continuation of the
hostilities - to consider it justified resorting to them.

It is rather probable, for example, that in September 1939 only a small
number of Englishmen would have accepted that the RAF proceeded with an
all-out bombardment of German cities; not more than a year later, however,
as we know, the situation was quite different.

This helps explaining why many feel that the NATO operations against
Serbia are uncertain and inconclusive, and therefore lack any "plan" and
do not have any precise objective.  But, even leaving out of consideration
the reasons for which these operations are, at least in part, inevitably
such, or seem to be such, who can assure us that they really are such?  
Who can say, to us laymen, that the bombardment really serves no purpose?

Certainly, until the moment just before Milosevic will have given up, the
operations will make such impression; but it is perfectly possible - and
even quite likely - that due to the bombardment the moment is getting
close.  Even the [Italian] Fascism, seen from outside, on July 24, 1943,
seemed to stand firmly in power.  The day after it was obvious to what
extent it had been a pure appearance.

As for the deportations of Kosovars, it is true that the war was not able
to stop them, and to some extent even accelerated them.  But those who
find this a strong argument proving uselessness of the military operation
against Serbia, and even blame the operation for these deportations, for
the reasons of consistency should apply the same line of reasoning to all
other similar cases.  And then, for example, they should equally argue
that the war against the Hitler's Germany was not only "useless" but even
counterproductive, from the point of view of the victims, as the Nazi
persecution of the Jews did not stop and even proceeded to the stage of
their extermination.  They would have to claim, in short, that it is
always better for the victims that their butchers remain undisturbed,
because otherwise they might get angry and proceed with even worse

For the time being, the war continues.  Only its outcome will tell us
whether it was useful or useless, and, above all, who won and who lost,
and what were the consequences for both sides.  Or, better: regardless of
any present doubt in that respect, the outcome will tell us who was
winning the war from the beginning, and who was losing it from the

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Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 07:34:36 +0200 (CEST)
From: Geert Lovink <>
Subject: Jewish World Review April 27, 1999 /11 Iyar 5759


   Jewish World Review April 27, 1999 /11 Iyar 5759

   By Sam Schulman

   A Sahibs' War

   WHATEVER HAPPENED TO TRAGEDY? The tragedy craze of the mid-twentieth
   century had many causes: Freud and his Oedipus complex; the
   Bomb-easily seen as punishment for forbidden knowledge; individual
   anxiety about facing the unprecedented power of the State.

   I don't miss the bomb shelters or the Gulag, but it's too bad that
   Tragedy and its vocabulary has gone out of style. What has replaced it
   is the language our leaders use to describe this dreadful war, derived
   from the Christian theology first developed by Origen in De principiis
   (220 C.E.).

   There the opposition of Good and Evil replaces Greek philosophy's
   antagonism between knowledge and ignorance. In Greek tragedy the hero
   suffers not because he is evil but because of hamartia --- he is
   ignorant about something crucial. Our leaders have plenty of hamartia
   --- in Parliament last week NATO's air campaign was called the "most
   incompetent operation that Britain has been involved since the
   Crimea". But we're not to mind because we fight a war of Good against

   NATO is waging what Kipling would call a Sahibs' war, the title of one
   of his greatest stories, narrated by Umr Singh, a Punjabi-speaking
   trooper from the Indian army marooned in South Africa during the Boer
   war. At stake is not a matter of right and wrong but of knowledge ----
   the hero understands that had the Indian troops of the Indian Army
   been permitted to fight, the Boers would have been defeated in months.
   "Why have they not sent for the men of the Tochi? Folly, a thousand
   times. We could have done it all so gently-so gently." The British
   army is a disaster: "They will foolishly show mercy to these Boer-log
   because it is believed that they are white. There is but one fault in
   this war, and that is that the Government have not employed us, but
   have made it altogether a Sahibs' war. Very many men will thus be

   Exactly a century later the Sahibs of NATO are attacking
   Serbia in a way that does not hamper Serbia's war aims in the
   slightest-and in fact may ensure their success. According to John
   Keegan, the military historian, NATO's bombing plan has been ready for
   years. And while we're working through its target list, the real
   enemy-small, lightly-armed bands of irregulars in Kosovo-do their work
   unhindered by any NATO opposition at all. And those victims whom we
   humanitarians fight to protect? As the English journalist Bill Deedes
   writes, it's an odd strategy, "if that is the right word, [which]
   requires those whom we strenuously seek to protect to suffer more than
   anyone else a war in which those whom the armed forces seek to defend
   suffer all the casualties."

   Serbia wages a war based on its knowledge of our ignorance, and we
   fight a humanitarian war because we are good and they are evil. And
   the Kosovars and the Serbian civilian population-until March 22
   opposed to Milosevic-are the only ones who pay the price.

   So if we were to be wise? The choices are tragic. We can wage the war
   that our war aims would require: assemble an army to invade and
   conquer Kosovo and sufficient in strength to take Belgrade as well.
   Or we can admit the failure of the air war strategy, and face the
   destruction of NATO and the utter collapse of any faith in our ability
   to protect South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, or the Arabian peninsula.

   To choose the former involves the destruction of an entire country to
   whom we have been allied, and the death of thousands of civilians and
   soldiers. Its primary purpose would be to save the faces of
   politicians responsible for the whole mess - politicians whose
   habitual mendacity make the case for genocide a difficult one to
   accept at face value. But to choose the latter-simply to abandon the
   fight because we have lost-would probably sacrifice the basic security
   we've won after half a century of struggle and sacrifice. Either
   choice is sickening.

   Perhaps the way out is to turn back to Tragedy-the Greek version - and
   away from Origen's way of thought - give up on Clinton's good versus
   Milosevic's evil. In tragedy it is occasionally necessary to sacrifice
   a single person for the good of the community; after which the world
   is put back together. Could the resignation in disgrace of an
   individual-Madeleine Albright would be an excellent and just
   choice-cover a retreat? We would "internationalize" the conflict,
   suddenly decide that the UN, Russia, Israel, everyone could join in an
   arrangement by which the Serbs might be rewarded for outwitting us,
   the refugees compensated and protected, and our own honor restored by
   the sacrifice?

   Euripides would understand --- so would Kipling.

   JWR contributor Sam Schulman is deputy editor of Taki's Top Drawer,
   appearing in New York Press, and was formerly publisher of Wigwag and
   a professor of English at Boston University.

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Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 07:38:30 +0200 (CEST)
From: Geert Lovink <>
Subject: "Exile" "Editorial"

Subject: "Exile" "Editorial" (Americans from Moscow)

the eXile
April 22, 1999-May 6, 1999
Editorial (
Exiled from Apathy: Call Us Dissident Emigres

"eXile". When we first thought up the name, we were at least half-joking.
In a country where millions of people over the centuries have suffered
genuinely gnarly exile--sent to ice-covered hell-holes far to the east to
be worked to death--the idea of a bunch of TV-overdosed dweeb dropouts
from the American suburbs calling their two-bit biweekly club guide an
"eXile" publication was preposterous at the very least, and genuinely
offensive at most. At the time, we didn't really care, though...The
important thing, as far as we were concerned, was that the name allowed us
to use that annoying, overworked "X" on the cover. It let our readers know
that we were aggressively behind-the-times. And the X looked great on
t-shirts. Back then, a bunch of free t-shirts was about as much as we
hoped to get out of the venture.

Then came war in Kosovo. Our country bombing the shit of our Russia's
favorite li'l nation in the world that it doesn't share a border with.

America could have chosen dozens of countries to bomb, none of which would
have pissed off the Russians. If being a humanitarian Tom Clancy was what
this was all about, we could have taken sides in the Ethiopia-Eritrean
conflict. It's all flatland desert, and they're pretty poor. If what we
were after was lousy weather, bad terrain and tribal warfare, we could
have taken our pick from Sudan to Sri Lanka and no one in Russia would
have batted an eye, while the eXile would have been able to mosey along
sneering at all and sundry, and proudly flashing our Death Porn T-shirts
to the world.

Most people here, us included, probably wouldn't have given a spotted
owl's ass about Kosovo if we hadn't been stranded, suddenly, overnight,
like citizens of a hostile country during wartime. That's because, by
bombing the Serbs, the Clinton people forgot that we were, in effect,
bombing the Russian people. It doesn't matter whether WE think it's a
rational reaction; they do, and they're pissed off. We'd have been just as
apathetic and indifferent as the 265 million Americans living on the
mainland. Like them, we'd return from our unsatisfying jobs every evening,
turn on CNN and pop woodies during the Pentagon briefings while gorging on
a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey, before flipping to the Discovery
Channel's documentary on the F-117. In other words, we'd care as long as
our attention spans would allow. That's our right.

But this time, we have no choice. Much as we'd like to, we can't be
apathetic, if only because our pimply, hairy asses are suddenly on the
line. Our hosts are now convinced that we're citizens of a terrifying,
unpredictable, aggressive country. If one day the Russians snap and make
us do a rope dance from a Tverskaya Ulitsa lamppost, then we at least want
to know why.

In fact, it's not too difficult to understand the Russian position.
Americans may think that this war is about Nazis versus Jews, but most
people here know that the Serb-Albanian flareup is just the latest episode
in a centuries-old Balkan blood feud. One meth-fueled night on the
Internet reading the American media reports on Kosovo was enough to crank
our paranoia pistons into high gear. American newspapers, television
programs and wire services are so lazy, provincial, jingoistic and smug
that they barely even bother to repackage the fluff they're fed by the
Pentagon and NATO--who, you might think, would have a certain interest in
spinning the story in a certain way. Even a macho hippie like Oliver Stone
couldn't have woven together a more perfect, evil war-propaganda
conspiracy. Only Stone would have had at least one sympathetic character:
the poor, innocent, betrayed American public.

Tchya, right. The American public isn't innocent; it just can't be
bothered.  As every publisher and producer knows, the surest way to lose
your public is make them question what they hear on the news. Phone calls
and emails to family in the US are proof. Try presenting them with solid,
irrefutable evidence of your government's idiotic, savage behavior in
Serbia and they'll say, "Yeah, well, look, whatever. I don't really give a

The lucky bastards have no idea how good they have it, being apathetic and
all. Goddamn apathy-hogs. In fact, it's downright maddening that because
of the American public's resolute will-to-apathy, we ourselves can no
longer say things like, "Who cares, man?" without risking having our
stripped and bloodied corpses dragged from the back of a Volga around and
around the Garden Ring Road.

So now we're taking revenge. If the entire American press is going to
spout the NATO position on Kosovo with one single, collective Soviet mind,
and if the public is going to continue accepting--in fact, demanding--the
kind of apathy-friendly good NATO/bad Serb narrative that they're now
receiving, then we have no choice but to take a steaming hot dump on their
front doorstep. It's the only language these people understand.

So here's what we propose. From now until the end of the Kosovo War, the
eXile is hereby transforming itself into a dissident American newspaper.
That's right, you heard us: we are now dedicated to being a dissident,
EmigrE newspaper, along the lines of Novaya Russkaya Slovo. If the entire
American press corps is committed to showing only one side of the war, and
if America's idiotic Balkan aggression is going to make us pariahs in the
Russia we love, then we're going to do our best to take as many Americans
as we can grab down with us.

Don't take us seriously? Well, you better.

We got the team. That's right. We've got the extra time on our hands.
That's double-right. And we've got you, the eXhole reader, stuck reading
us whether you like it or not. The days of mentally grazing in the fields
of abundant idiocy are over, folks. We're gonna put America's propaganda
machine through a turbocharged woodchipper--remember that woodchipper
scene in Fargo?  Yeah--like that. And we aim to make it as messy as

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