Wednesday, 19 January 2022

US Should Leave the Balkans Be



Foreign policy is a dangerous instrument in the hands of modern liberals. Indeed, few people are as fearsome as one filled with good intentions wielding military power. One result, nearly three decades ago, was the unloved artificial state of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Now Serbian leader Milorad Dodik is moving to dismantle the tripartite nationDodik denounced what amounts to a Western colony, ruled by a European governor with the inflated title of high representative, as a "failed country" and Western "experiment" that "does not work." This threat to their dubious handiwork left disbelieving US and European diplomats near hysteria. After all, it is one of the few interventionist "successes" they routinely tout. European Union grandee and current High Representative Christian Schmidt wailed that Bosnia faced "the greatest existential threat of the postwar period."

Oh, the horror! Can Western civilization survive? Will a new Dark Ages descend upon Europe?

The Balkans has been the fount of much tragedy over the last century and more. The low point for Bosnia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, came on June 28, 1914 when the Serb terrorist, Gavrilo Princip – armed by Serbia’s head of military intelligence – assassinated the Habsburg heir to the throne. In doing so Princip lit the slow-burning fuse to World War I. Upwards of 20 million people died in the ensuing conflict.

The Habsburg monarchy did not survive the war, and Bosnia ended up as part of the new polyglot state of Yugoslavia, whose name was concocted from words meaning south and Slavs. Yugoslavia survived World War II and the Cold War, but ingloriously collapsed after the death of dictator Josip Broz Tito and dissolution of the Soviet Union. A series of civil wars erupted, with secession actively encouraged by Germany followed by other Western governments.

Bosnia became the bloodiest battleground. The Bosniak (Muslim) plurality hoped to maintain a multi-ethnic state in which it was dominant. Ethnic Croats and Serbs wanted out, hoping to join their co-nationals in other, ethnically unified states. In 1992 they all agreed to separate as part of the Lisbon Agreement. The accord was killed by Warren Zimmerman, then America’s ambassador in Belgrade, who recklessly promised US support for the Bosnian state. The result was a terrible civil war in which all sides committed atrocities, though the Serbs most ostentatiously so. Washington policymakers later admitted that they blundered in blocking the settlement.

At the time, however, frustrated that the unruly natives refused to listen to their American betters, the US launched a bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs. (Washington refused to even acknowledge atrocities by other factions, such as the violent ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Croatia.) Taking the side of the Bosniaks led to the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which created a hideous, ungainly, purposeless state atop two semi-autonomous political entities and three ethnic communities. Above them all was placed the impressively titled European gauleiter.

The only reason Bosnia exists is because US and European officials were excited to take advantage of their unique opportunity to engage in social engineering and create the sort of multiethnic state that they believed should exist and others should welcome. What the Bosnian people actually wanted was irrelevant. Their role was to obey their foreign overlords and, as Americans once said of Mexico after the Mexican-American war, to learn "to love her ravisher."

However, Serbian subservience ended under Dodik, who announced plans to systematically withdraw from Bosnia’s joint military, judiciary, and tax authority. The caterwauling in Sarajevo, Brussels, and Washington was fearsome to behold. The high representative whined that that this was "tantamount to secession without proclaiming it."

The US imposed sanctions on Dodik, whose motives and actions admittedly are not pure. However, this is Washington’s initial response to everyone who disagrees with Washington and resists its dictates. Moreover, personal sanctions such as these are largely symbolic, with no impact on government policy. Indeed, Dodik played off of the hostility, proclaiming that "There is no authority in the world that can stop us."

Which sent the usual suspects running wildly, like headless chickens. Harkening back to World War I, journalist Srecko Latal warned that "The fuse on the Balkans’ powder keg has been lit. It must be stamped out before the region, and even Europe itself, is engulfed in fire." Appealing more to US audiences, Hikmet Karcic of the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy urged American intervention lest Bosnia "become another Afghanistan."


Dodik hasn’t threatened anyone. He merely wants Sarajevo, Brussels, and Washington to leave his people alone. If there is a threat of war, it only comes from the Croats and Bosniaks if they attempt to hold the Serbs in. That is the possibility which the US and European Union should reject.

Instead, as good liberals, American and European officials back the authoritarian, undemocratic structure unfairly imposed upon Bosnian residents. They act as if it was chosen by the people, despite having been preceded by a US bombing campaign. For instance, State Department Counselor Derek Chollet urged Bosnian officials "to rise above their own self-interest and to try to keep in mind the broader interest of their country."

If not, he threatened "to punish that kind of behavior." That he felt the need to promise coercion if Serbs failed to love and obey their ravisher merely demonstrated again that Bosnia is not and never has been "their country." Of course, Washington’s position on Bosnia has nothing to do with serving the interests of Bosnians and everything to do with advancing Washington’s geopolitical interests by, admitted Chollet, placing Bosnia "back on its path towards its Euro-Atlantic destination," no deviations allowed.

What will Washington and Brussels do if Dodik moves ahead? The Biden administration sanctioned him again in early January for "significant corruption and destabilizing activities." Alas, this had no impact. Last fall he told an American envoy that he "didn’t give a shit" about such threats. After Washington’s latest blast Dodik held a rally on a banned holiday celebration the territory’s 1992 declaration of independence, which was attended by top Serbian officials. He declared: "This gathering is the best response to those who deny us our rights … who keep imposing sanctions on us." He added that "It proves to me that I must listen to you, that you did not elect me to fulfill Americans’ wishes but to fulfill the wishes of Serb people."

How about allied military action? The Europeans won’t fight for each other against a real threat; they certainly won’t intervene in the Balkans for nothing. Nor does Biden seem likely to go to war for a united Bosnia. What if the Croats and Bosniaks mobilize? The Bosniak president, Sefik Dzaferovic, opined: "It will not be peaceful." Why not? Absent an attack on his people or institutions, why should he object to the departure of ethnic Serbs?

Dodik is confident that he will prevail, though his career has featured dramatic political pirouettes. Last fall he insisted: "Sooner or later, the U.S. will have to embrace a realistic policy instead of threatening us with sanctions." Maybe, though Washington has a long history of clinging to braindead policies, as in Afghanistan, as long as others are paying the cost.

Whatever the result, Dodik’s independent course doesn’t constitute a crisis. The Balkans never mattered much to the US and even to most European nations. The region no longer is aflame or likely to burn anew. If the Bosnian Serbs choose to leave, Washington and Brussels should encourage negotiations among the three groups to make the split as efficient and amicable as possible. And then everyone should get on with their lives, leaving the people of the Balkans to decide their own futures.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. A former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan, he is author of Foreign Follies: America’s New Global Empire.


Executive war on China would be unconstitutional and disastrous

A House Democrat is pushing a measure that does not seem democratic. It would let the president bypass Congress’s constitutional authority and fight China at will.

Its foremost advocate is Rep. Elaine Luria, vice-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who has represented Virginia’s 2nd district (Virginia Beach area) since 2019. She retired as a naval commander in 2017 after 20 years in the Navy. Presumably her training emphasized forceful, not peaceful, solutions to international problems.

We solved the problems of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq neatly, didn’t we? It was easy getting in – presidents, rather than the unwieldy Congress, made the decisions to commence firing. It took between three and 20 years to get out, leaving millions dead and countries in ruin.

Those nations were all smaller than ours. So were all other presidential foes: Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Libya, etc. China is the world’s most populous country at 1.4 billion souls, over four times our population. And it has hundreds – some say thousands – of nuclear warheads.

Notwithstanding China’s Communist government, America shows no objection to doing commercial business with the "People’s Republic." Is there any humane alternative to reaching a peaceful political accommodation with it, as our treaties require?

China claims Taiwan as a province. Taiwan wants self-rule. The issue can be negotiated, mediated, arbitrated, compromised, argued in the United Nations, or amicably settled some other way.

Rep. Luria wrote an op-ed headed "Congress must untie Biden’s hands on Taiwan" in The Washington Post last October. She commended as a basis for legislation the "Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act," introduced by Republicans. It would grant the president authority to fight China "in hours, not the days or months congressional debate may take."

She twice noted the Biden administration’s "rock solid" commitment to a democratic Taiwan. But that was political rhetoric, not law. She pointed out that U.S. Special Forces and Marines had been training men there for at least a year. (Add provocative cruises of US warships near China. The legality of the training and cruising is dubious.)

Does the US have an obligation to defend Taiwan? "Yes, we do, and the Chinese must understand that," President George W. Bush said in 2001, Then-Senator Biden countered in The Washington Post, "The United States has not been obligated to defend Taiwan since we abrogated the 1954 mutual defense treaty…. Under the Constitution, as well as the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, the commitment of US forces for the defense of Taiwan is a matter the president should bring to the American people and Congress."

"Times have changed," Luria wrote, failing to explain how current times brightened the prospect of war with China.

Constitution and peace in peril

"The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it," James Madison wrote Thomas Jefferson. "It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war to the legislature."

Kings often declared war merely for personal reasons, like "thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition …," John Jay wrote in The Federalist, 4.

So in an attempt to minimize wars, the Constitution’s framers permitted Congress alone "to declare war" (i.e. to initiate it), in Article I, Section 8, Paragraph 11.

As James Wilson, a framer, told the Pennsylvania ratifying convention in 1787, "This system will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be in the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress; for the important power of declaring war is vested in the legislature at large."

Paradoxically, Wilson was the constitutional convention’s leading advocate of a one-man executive, as opposed to a collective executive, which some delegates wanted. Putting all executive power – including command of the military – in one person’s hands has enabled each of the fifteen presidents from F. D. Roosevelt to Biden to misuse his power by waging unauthorized warfare. Remember Madison’s comment on executive affinity for war.

The Korean conflict was Harry Truman’s doing. His overt waging of war without congressional approval began the cult of the president as war-maker. Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, L. B. Johnson, and Nixon shared responsibility for Indochina bloodshed.

As for Afghanistan and Iraq, President Bush Jr. attacked them after Congress lawlessly handed him its constitutional authority to declare war. The blank check for war issued three days after 9/11/2001 did not even mention Afghanistan. An October 2002 resolution left it up to Bush whether to attack Iraq (a decision he had already made).

An enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq resolution was Joe Biden, then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose judgment congressional advocates of the Taiwan bill would substitute for their own. As president, Biden has bombed Syria and Iraq without congressional OK.

Thus with the constitutional war power hanging by a thread, Democrat Luria and her GOP colleagues aim at snipping even that, in effect giving the president total dictatorial power over the life and death of millions of people.

The Taiwan bill – is it lawful?

The "Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act" may not guarantee prevention of an invasion but it comes close to guaranteeing war with China. It would let the president use armed force to defend Taiwan against a Chinese attack, seizure of Taiwan’s territory, or a threat to lives of its civilians or military.

Introduced last February in the Senate by Rick Scott (R-FL) and the House of Representatives by Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), it reposes in committees. The House bill has eight cosponsors, all Republicans; the Senate bill, none.

What does existing law say about delegation of constitutional power?

"The Congress is not permitted to abdicate or to transfer to others the essential legislative functions with which it is vested," Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote, though approving the delegation of subsidiary rule-making (Schechter Poultry Corporation v. United States, 1935). He forbade delegation of (unspecified) "powers which are strictly and exclusively legislative."

The late Professors Francis D. Wormuth and Edwin B. Firmage, of the University of Utah political science and law faculties respectively, wrote the following in To Chain the Dog of War: The War Power of Congress in History and Law (1986), pp. 198-199:

"… The framers believed that certain political powers must be exercised only by Congress if republican government were to survive. Presumably these could not be delegated to the President. Distrust of the executive, prompted and supported by all history, caused them to vest the power of initiating war exclusively in the Congress. Hamilton, in The Federalist, and supporters of the Constitution, in the state conventions, argued that the system was safe precisely because the President would never be able to exercise this power.

"… The philosophy that governs the delegation of power by Congress precludes legislation authorizing the President to begin a war…. It is impossible for Congress to enact governing standards for launching future war … in a future international environment in which significant details, perhaps even major outlines, change from month to month or even from day to day….

"If Congress authorizes or mandates a war without regard to the entire complex of international relations, it is not determining policy for the future; it is casting dice."

So let’s keep the president’s hands tied – at least his trigger finger.

Paul W. Lovinger, of San Francisco, is a journalist, author, editor, and antiwar activist. (See


US Has Stepped Up Aircraft Carrier Deployments in South China Sea

Aircraft carrier strike groups entered the disputed waters 10 times in 2021, compared with 6 times in 2020

Reflecting the Pentagon’s new focus on China, US aircraft carrier strike groups almost doubled deployments to the South China Sea in 2021 compared to the year before.

According to the Beijing-based South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI), US carrier strike groups entered the South China Sea 10 times in 2021, compared with six times in 2020, and five in 2019.

“The US military have drastically reinforced their military deployment in the South China Sea since last year, in terms of training scales, sorties and scenarios,” SCSPI director Hu Bo said Friday, according to The South China Morning Post.

Hu said that the carrier training patterns have become “more complicated and unpredictable.” In the past, US warships typically entered the South China Sea through the Bashi Channel, a waterway between the Philippines and Taiwan. But Hu said over the past year, the US has diversified its routes, and the time span of the deployments varies.

The US shows no sign of slowing down its carrier deployments to the South China Sea. The US Navy’s Seventh Fleet said Monday that the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson just wrapped up joint operations in the disputed waters with an amphibious group led by the USS Essex, a landing helicopter dock ship.

In Kyiv, US Senators Promise More Weapons for Ukraine If Russia Invades


The UK announced it's sending anti-tank weapons to Ukraine

by Dave DeCamp 

Amid simmering tensions, a bipartisan group of US Senators visited Kyiv and promised the US would provide Ukraine with more weapons if Russia invades the country.

After the delegation met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said if Russia invades the US will “impose crippling economic sanctions, but more importantly, we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms they need to defend their lives and livelihoods.”

Russia strongly denies that it is plotting an invasion, but the US won’t let the narrative die. Last week, Blumenthal joined 25 other Senate Democrats in introducing a bill that would sanction Russia and give more arms to Ukraine if the president determines Russia is being hostile towards its neighbor.

The Senate bill would authorize an additional $500 million in military aid for Ukraine on top of the $300 million authorized by the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. Since the 2014 US-backed coup in Kyiv, the US has provided Ukraine with about $2.5 billion in military aid.

In Kyiv, Blumenthal said the US could give Ukraine more anti-tank Javelin missiles, as well as stinger missiles, small arms, and boats. The other Senators that joined Blumenthal in Ukraine were Rob Portman (R-OH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Roger Wicker (R-MS).

Russia is not happy about the push to arm Ukraine, and it’s not just the US supplying weapons. The UK announced that it began providing Ukraine with anti-tank weapons. “We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armor defensive weapon systems,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament, adding that the first delivery was made Monday.

Why US Diplomacy Fails



The nuclear deal with Iran is not dead yet, but the prospects for its revival and longer-term survival are bleak. While there are reports of some progress in the latest round of talks in Vienna, the U.S. and its European allies keep insisting that time is running out for the negotiations. The Biden administration has already begun laying the groundwork for its damage control campaign in the event that the talks fail, suggesting that they have already all but given up on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is possible that the talks might still yield something of value, but it is more likely that the most successful nonproliferation agreement in recent history will be consigned to the ash heap because the US cannot make durable, credible diplomatic commitments.

The Iranian government has demanded that the US make a binding "legal pledge" to ensure that a future administration can’t do what the Trump administration did when it reneged on the JCPOA in 2018. The demand is understandable given that the US violated all its commitments when Iran was fully complying with theirs, but the Biden administration isn’t in a position to make such a guarantee. Even if the administration could provide such a formal pledge right now, there would be nothing to stop the next president from tearing up that pledge just as Trump tore up more than one ratified treaty during his term. Biden’s Republican critics have already said that the next administration would throw out any revived agreement. Formal pledges mean nothing to ideologues that despise all diplomatic engagement.

A basic problem with US diplomacy is that there are major political obstacles to concluding almost any agreement with a hostile or pariah state and virtually no political incentives to honor those agreements when they are made. When a president negotiates with these states, he has to burn a tremendous amount of political capital to get an agreement, and his successor can undo all of that effort with the stroke of a pen. Trump’s decision to renege on the nuclear deal is now widely condemned as one of his worst foreign policy moves, but the reality is that he paid no political price for doing it and he encountered remarkably little resistance from Congress or the foreign policy establishment. Even when tensions with Iran brought the US very close to a new unnecessary war, Trump faced almost no backlash against the policy that had taken the US to the brink.

Diplomacy with Iran is further complicated by the fact that the US does not view Iran as an equal or even as a sovereign state, but instead treats it as if it were a disobedient vassal that has to be forced back into submission. Iran is expected to adhere to the restrictions contained in the nuclear deal without exception, but the US and the other major powers are effectively free to flout their obligations without suffering any penalties. The US now disingenuously cites Iran’s reduced compliance since 2019 as justification for keeping in place all the sanctions that spurred Iran to take those actions, and that means that the upfront sanctions relief that could break the current impasse won’t even be considered.

Sanctions advocates like to claim that the economic wars they support facilitate negotiated agreements by using sanctions as "leverage" against targeted states, but in practice their pressure tactics provoke the target governments to engage in more of the unwanted behavior to build up their own "leverage." Because it is taken for granted that the US never grants sanctions relief first, the US just keeps applying more pressure with predictable counterproductive results. When the additional pressure also fails to deliver the desired outcome, the US begins casting around for any other "option" except the obvious one of lifting sanctions. According to the conventional view in Washington, lifting sanctions amounts to "rewarding" the targeted government, and sanctions advocates believe it is preferable to keep useless sanctions in place rather than make any concession that might resolve the outstanding issue.

Another reason why the US so rarely delivers sanctions relief is that it is much easier politically to demand more sanctions on a targeted government than it is to remove them. That makes it extremely difficult if not impossible for US negotiators to make promises that the other side can believe. If the main thing that the US has to offer is the removal of the sanctions that it imposed, and if it cannot credibly commit to that removal because it is too politically risky at home, that guarantees that US diplomacy won’t succeed. In the rare event when the US does provide sanctions relief, however halting and partial, the targeted government cannot trust that the relief won’t be reversed in a few years when American hardliners come back into power.

US diplomacy is compromised by its heavy reliance on using an economic weapon that achieves nothing except inflicting misery on ordinary people. Because American policymakers are so attached to the idea that the economic weapon gives them leverage, they never want to put the weapon down and instead they keep holding out for the other side to capitulate. Even though a gesture of goodwill and some early sanctions relief would likely lead to a mutually beneficial agreement in most cases, US policymakers would rather watch a good agreement go up in flames than show the slightest flexibility that their domestic critics could denounce as "weakness." If the talks in Vienna are going to be successful, the Biden administration will have to break with that pattern.

Daniel Larison is a contributing editor and weekly columnist for and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

NATO Says Attacks in Space Could Trigger War With the Alliance


The military alliance released its first formal space policy

by Dave DeCamp 

NATO publicly released a policy on space for the first time Monday that says any attack on an allies’ assets in space is considered an assault on the alliance and could trigger a war with all of its members.

The policy says that NATO allies agreed during the 2021 Brussels summit that any “attacks to, from, or within space present a clear challenge to the security of the Alliance …  Such attacks could lead to the invocation of Article 5.”

Article 5 refers to the NATO “collective defense” clause, which states an attack on a NATO member is an attack on the entire alliance. This means an attack on a space satellite or other space infrastructure could trigger a response from all 30 NATO members, although the policy appears to be intentionally vague.

“A decision as to when such attacks would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis,” the policy reads. The policy formalizes a joint statement released last year by NATO leaders after the Brussels summit and is part of the US-led push to militarize space.

NATO first added space to its list of “domains” of operations in December 2019, the same month the US created Space Force. Since its inception, Space Force and other US military leaders have been busy hyping up the threat of Russia and China in the new war-fighting domain.

While they are portrayed as a threat in space, in 2008, China and Russia proposed an international treaty that would ban weapons in space. The US rejected the treaty, but Beijing has recently renewed its call for Washington to join China and Russia in talks to prevent an arms race in space.

White House Claims Russia Could Attack Ukraine ‘at Any Point’


The US is also claiming Russia could use military drills in Belarus as cover to attack Ukraine from the north

by Dave DeCamp 

Continuing the hysteria surrounding Ukraine, the White House warned on Tuesday that Russia could invade the country “at any point.”

“Our view is this is an extremely dangerous situation. We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Also on Tuesday, the State Department claimed that Russia could use military drills in Belarus as cover to attack Ukraine from the north. Russia said Tuesday that it has begun deploying troops to Belarus for joint exercises that will be held in February.

“The reports of Russian troop movements towards Belarus, which these movements are supposedly under the auspices of regularly scheduled joint military exercises, are concerning,” a State Department official told reporters.

By the State Department’s logic, US and NATO military exercises in countries that border Russia could also be seen as preparations for possible invasions. In 2021, the NATO held massive military exercises in Estonia and Latvia, which both share a border with Russia.

The US and NATO presence near Russia’s border and in the Black Sea is Moscow’s main gripe with the Western powers. If the US views Russian military drills in Belarus as a threat to Ukraine, the Americans should be able to understand Russian President Vladimir Putin’s view that NATO is threatening Russia.

During talks last week, the US and NATO rejected Russia’s demands for a halt in NATO’s eastward expansion. But the dialogue continues, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.