World weighs in on NATO's war
Three weeks into NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, world opinion about the operation has divided along very clear-cut lines.Skip to next paragraph
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In the 19 NATO member countries in Europe and North America, citizens and government officials have rallied round. Support for the daily bombardment is not unanimous, but it is solid.
Elsewhere in the world, in Asia and Latin America, in Africa and Russia, and in the Middle East, the mood is much more skeptical. Western military intervention in another country's internal affairs has raised hackles and fears for the future of weaker states.
"NATO is basically the United States and I have some doubts about its aims," says Yoshinori Yokoyama, a laptop-toting businessman in Tokyo.
"We don't have a conflict with the West right now," he says, "but we are watching what they are doing."
The sense that NATO is merely doing Washington's bidding is not confined to Japan. In China, where the government has lashed out in the state-run press against the campaign to protect ethnic Albanian Kosovars, the anti-American diatribes have found an echo on the streets.
"By attacking a small country like Yugoslavia, the US is showing that it wants to become the world's unchallenged hegemonistic power," says a young factory worker in a Beijing restaurant.
In India, where "American imperialism" has long been a popular bugbear, the trend of opinion in political circles runs against the bombing for much the same reasons. "NATO is coming across as a bully," says Deepu Saha, a young marketing executive in Calcutta. "There is no international justification for Bill Clinton to assume the role of international policeman."
On the other side of the globe, in a country that has dedicated a whole museum to the foreign military interventions it has suffered, Mexicans seem almost resigned to what is happening in Yugoslavia.
"No country should intervene in the affairs of another country, but we know from experience that the United States involves itself when it wants and as it pleases," says Luis Enrique Jarillo Garca, a Mexico City chauffeur and bodyguard.
That sort of attitude is widely shared throughout Latin America, where decades of US intervention in countries' domestic affairs leave many average citizens with a dim view of the allied war.
'Coup against the UN'
Behind much of the criticism lies the fact that NATO launched its bombing campaign without specific authorization from the United Nations Security Council. (NATO countries did not seek such authorization, knowing that Russia and China, two permanent members, would veto the plan.)
It is the UN that has given smaller countries of the developing world a voice in international affairs, and the way that NATO acted behind its back naturally worries them.
South African Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo has attacked the bombing as an affront to the authority of the UN, and in The Monitor, an Ethiopian newspaper published in Addis Ababa, commentator Misikir Sultan called it "a coup against the United Nations" and warned that "if what NATO is doing in the Balkans is the norm for handling future crises, there looks to be no point in maintaining a Security Council."
Also disturbing to many third-world countries is the way in which NATO has justified its violation of Yugoslav national sovereignty in the name of something it says is a higher value - preventing a humanitarian crisis in the form of "ethnic cleansing" of ethnic Albanian Kosovars by Serbian forces.
For at least one NATO member, Canada, which uses its troops more often for peacekeeping than for warmaking, it is this concern for "human security" that has put Ottawa on the side of military intervention.
A staunch advocate of the idea that securing human rights should be a policy goal on a par with securing state sovereignty, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy declared last week that, although Canada would have "strongly preferred" a UN go-ahead for the NATO operation, "NATO is engaged in Kosovo to restore human security to the [ethnic Albanian] Kosovars."
Importance of sovereignty