Whether or not it is true, as Václav Havel famously claimed, that NATO's attack on Yugoslavia represents the first war to be waged "in the name of principles and values," the first "ethical war," it might well be the case that it is the first act of armed aggression against a sovereign state whose popular legitimation relied almost wholly upon an alleged historical analogy. NATO spokespersons and apologists could not allude often enough to the Second World War, Hitler, and the Nazi regime's persecution of the Jews. They did this in lieu of providing reasoned justification for NATO's action, perhaps because under existing international law there was surely no such justification to be found. The NATO attack had to be presented as morally urgent, since it was manifestly illegal. For this purpose, allusion to the "Holocaust" and, in Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's words, the "absolute evil" of its perpetrators, was the most obvious and effective instrument.
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