Wednesday, June 10, 2020

21 Years Ago: The end of the Bombing of Serbia. And the Start of the Decline of the Western Empire

Nato Bombing of the city of Novi Sad, Serbia, 1999 (image from Wikipedia)

21 years ago, on June 10, 1999, the NATO campaign against Serbia ended after 78 days of bombing. We still don't know exactly the number of victims, civilian and military, nor the amount of damage and it would be difficult to say who actually "won" the bloody mess. But the bombing of Serbia was a turning point for many reasons.

In 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of the "cold war" and gave rise to expectations of a "peace dividend" once the old enemy of the West had folded out. Needless to say, that never happened. It appeared clear with the Serbian campaign that saw the whole Western world allied against a single state of less than 8 million inhabited.

There was nothing special in the Western Empire taking an aggressive posture after the fall of the rival Soviet Empire. It is the way empires work: they are military organizations dedicated to shifting economic resources from the periphery to the center. So, empires last as long as the cost of their huge military apparatus can be paid for by the resources they can control. Since resources are never infinite, they tend to be overexploited and empires suffer of a classic economic problem: diminishing returns. That's the reason for the cycles of growth and collapse of empires in history.

One peculiarity of empires is their capability to mask their mechanisms of operation. After the end of WW2, the Western Empire had managed to paint itself as a "non-empire," a force for the good of humankind. Within some limits, it was not wrong: The Imperial Government in Washington did a lot to rebuild Western Europe, to restore peace and justice, to promote democracy, to keep in check the rival Soviet Empire. Up to the 1990s, it was still possible to believe that, although it required a certain degree of faith.

We can say that the turning point of the way the empire presented itself was the bombing campaign of Serbia. With the best of good will, the idea of "humanitarian bombing" sounded hollow and absurd, no matter how many times it was repeated by the mainstream media. The bombing of the Chinese Embassy of Belgrade, on May 7, 1999, was the turning point in the perception of the campaign. Perhaps, it was also the turning point that led to the end of the bombing about one month later.

Again, no big surprise: the declining trajectory of empires in history starts when their propaganda ceases being believable -- and believed. It had to happen, and it did. It is the moment when the empire starts discovering that it is not so mighty as it believed to be. It is when the imperial coffers start being emptied by the gigantic expenses of keeping alive a monstrously overgrown military machine that has become not only too expensive but also obsolete.

21 years after the end of the Serbian campaign, we have moved to a point in which the decline of the Western Empire is evident. Mr. Trump as a noisy and despised emperor who seems to be unable to keep the empire together among external and internal problems. The main problem may simply be that the Empire is not believable anymore as a force of justice and democracy. There is nothing that can be done about that, it is history moving onward. And we all move with it


  1. Another important inflection point may be when Richard Nixon abrogated the Bretton Woods Agreement and removed the US Dollar, the world's reserve currency, from its loose ties to gold. This has allowed the world to 'paper' over diminishing returns and keep the masses relatively mollified.
    I continue to believe that the real 'fun' will begin when the switch on the wall stops working...

  2. After the bombing, when NATO occupied the southern part of Serbia, Italian soldiers from the NATO contingent were surprised to see US soldiers wearing protective gear. Later, they discovered that too much radioactive bombs were used during bombing and unfortunately some Italian soldiers died of exposure. I hear that families of died filed a law suits at Italian courts and received compensation. But that's something that Ugo can comment with more details.

    1. That's a long story clouded in legends and political disinformation. I am afraid that we'll never know exactly if and how much the depleted uranium affected the health of the Italian soldiers in Serbia. One more known unknown.

    2. As Mark Twain once said: "If you don't read newspapers you are uninformed, if you read newspapers you are misinformed."

  3. Interesting post. After Srebrenica, I was not too bothered about how much bombing went on in Serbia. Srebrenica was a disgraceful episode as much for the Western Empire as for Serbia. Were the Serbs, the general population, ever fully informed about what went on at Srebrenica?

    Trump in his earlier years made various noises about downsizing the USA military (the obvious one being pulling out of Afghanistan), and in particular seemed to want to make some sort of peace with Putin. He still gets accused of being Putin's puppet. In the meantime, I suspect a colleague advised him if he did not change his ways he would find himself having a lethal heart attack. The USA military budget continues to reach record highs. At the same time as govt debt also reaches record highs. Primed for collapse? I suspect the process may have begun.

  4. When Austro-Hungarians attacked Serbia in the WW1, it marked the downfall of their rotten Empire. No need to say that they did numerous atrocities against Serbian civilians in that war. Germans viciously bombed and occupied Serbia in the WW2, performed numerous atrocities, including killing of several thousand of school children in the cities of Kragujevac and Kraljevo. Four years later they were in ruins themselves. USA and it's repugnant Western European NATO servants attacked Serbia in 1999. It was the sign of their future demise. USAians, Germans, Austrians and Western Europeans in general proved to be the most savage and primitive barbarians. They are the same now as they were two thousand years ago. Nobody will regret when they fall. The worst scum the world has ever seen.

    1. How long ago was it when a Western power tried to attack Serbia for the first time?

      Earlier you quoted Mark Twain. Last time I checked he was also an American.
      Blogspot is also developed and run by Americans as well.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)