A round of applause, please, for the Serbian people. No
                          matter how often they're pounded with bombs or told their
                          leader is Hitler incarnate, none of them seems to be
                          launching impeachment proceedings. 

                          Instead, they gather in Belgrade
                          for patriotic rock concerts
                          featuring some of the very same
                          performers who, only a couple of
                          years ago, were busily rocking
                          against Slobodan Milosevic. In an instructive contrast to
                          NATO, which fights only when the weather is agreeable,
                          the Serbian civilians don bullseyes and form human chains
                          over vulnerable bridges.

                          Confronted with this extraordinary surge of Serbian
                          solidarity, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea opined that they'll
                          get over it soon enough. A follow-up question, if you don't
                          mind, Mr. Shea: If the Serbs are still smarting from their
                          defeat at the Battle of Kosovo more than 600 years ago,
                          what makes you think they're going to forget the bombings
                          of Belgrade, Novi Sad and Aleksinac in a couple of weeks?

                          The historical analogies are far from encouraging. When
                          the Luftwaffe bombed London, you may recall that the
                          English failed to rise up against Winston Churchill.
                          Similarly, the obsessive bombing of Iraq by the United
                          States has yet to produce a mighty pro-democracy,
                          anti-Saddam movement on the ground. In fact,
                          persecution--real or perceived--is the very seedbed of
                          nationalist enthusiasm. Observe how the Australians still get
                          misty-eyed over the Battle of Gallipoli, at which they were
                          soundly whipped. 
                          You don't have to read Serbo-Croatian to understand what
                          the Serbian rockers and demonstrators are trying to tell
                          us--namely, that there's more than one person in Serbia.
                          This should come as no surprise, since the almanac lists 11
                          million residents in addition to the president and his
                          immediate cronies. But the NATO assault so far has been
                          conducted against a single individual, just as the United
                          States likes to imagine that Iraq contains only one
                          occupant, Saddam Hussein.

                          This is the one-man theory of the nation-state, and its
                          effect is to transform war into an S/M psychodrama: Now
                          that we've degraded "his" infrastructure and knocked out
                          "his" supply lines, will he finally break? When will he cry
                          uncle? No one in NATO seems to have realized that when
                          Milosevic looks out his window, he doesn't just see
                          mangled bridges and smashed ministries, he sees the same
                          militant crowds that we do. Imagine the warm feeling it
                          must give him to know that this time the people aren't
                          calling for his ouster, they're hailing him as their beloved

                          The one-man theory of the nation-state undoubtedly has its
                          charms. For one thing, it eliminates the psychological
                          imponderable that is nationalism, which can be ignored
                          while we concentrate on the individual psychopathology of
                          a Slobodan or a Saddam. Furthermore, it eases any guilt
                          occasioned by civilian casualties, since those civilians never
                          fully existed in the first place. Finally, it restores the lost
                          glories of the days of individual combat, when brave men
                          rode out on horseback to joust with the other side's warrior
                          heroes, while the foot soldiers fell back in awe. Which
                          would you rather watch on TV: NATO vs. the Federal
                          Republic of Yugoslavia, or Bombin' Bill going mano a
                          mano against Sadistic Slobo?

                          The alternative, multi-person theory of the state is not only
                          conceptually more challenging, but it requires an entirely
                          different approach to conflict. You would start, not with
                          bombs, but with an information blitz aimed at an entire
                          population. If, for example, it's true that the Serbian people
                          think the Kosovar Albanians are fleeing NATO bombs, not
                          Serbian forces--why not deluge them with faxes and
                          e-mail? Maybe an information war wouldn't work, but with
                          a literate, PC-possessing population, there's no excuse for
                          not giving it a try. Next, you'd bend over backward not to
                          injure a single Serbian civilian, even if this means passing
                          on a tempting downtown target or two.

                          If peace is the aim, then the peacekeeper's rule should be
                          the same as the medical profession's: First, do no harm. If
                          all this sounds disgustingly soft-minded, bear in mind that
                          the current NATO strategy seems designed to turn the
                          children in Belgrade's bomb shelters into tomorrow's
                          international terrorist menace.
                          In the end, of course, we bomb because bombing is what
                          we know how to do. Here, another historical analogy may
                          apply: In the Hundred Years War, the French knights tried
                          to battle English archers by charging them on horseback in
                          the usual knightly fashion. Again and again--Crecy through
                          Agincourt--the French knights charged very nicely indeed,
                          and were duly slaughtered by English arrows. Yes, NATO
                          does a commendable job of bombing. But it has yet to
                          prove it can accomplish anything useful. 

                          Barbara Ehrenreich is the author, most recently, of Blood Rites. 

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