In a commentary on international relations published in August 1999, Henry Kissinger observed that “We are now moving toward a new style of foreign policy driven by domestic politics and the invocation of universalistic moral slogans,” adding that the slogans seemed designed for “liturgical purposes” but little else.
What prompted his dismay was NATO’s war against Serbia in spring 1999 and the outburst of humanitarian cant that accompanied it. Charges of Serb “genocide” appeared indiscriminately in the Western press, thus linking Serbia to Nazi Germany, and President Clinton likened the Balkan situation to 1914, when World War I erupted because of the “failure of the Great Powers to intervene.” What is more, just as the world wars inspired a “new diplomacy” embodied in the League of Nations and the United Nations, so did the war to save Kosovo launch what allied leaders dubbed a new NATO policy. British prime minister Tony Blair spoke of overcoming the pursuit of national interests in international relations and believed that “national sovereignty” itself was coming to seem archaic and narrow-minded. In line with this moral vision, Blair called for a Commission for Democratic Education to operate in the Balkans in conjunction with NATO. Likewise, Clinton warned that the “common future was threatened by the oldest problem in human society, our tendency to fear and dehumanize people who are different from ourselves.” This lament echoed his remarks in an interview with CBS news anchor Dan Rather in which Clinton vented his “pent-up feelings” about the fact that history was full of people who “could not get along with people different than they are, and their vulnerability to be led by demagogues who play on their fear of people who are different than they are.” Finally, the French press and President Jacques Chirac remained fixated throughout the Kosovo crisis on Serbian “genocide” against the Albanians, thus making NATO’s moral responsibility to act unassailable.