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Carnage in Kosovo: Wheres the Western resolve?

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  • Carnage in Kosovo: Wheres the Western resolve?

    National Review Online
    March 22 2004

    Carnage in Kosovo
    Where's the Western resolve?

    By Nikolas K. Gvosdev

    The world should be watching Kosovo, but it probably isn't. In the
    United States, many believe that the dispatch of additional forces to
    the troubled province of Kosovo "solved" the crisis. The problem is,
    the damage to NATO's credibility has already been done - and is
    worsening by the day. The alliance that for 50 years was prepared to
    spit in Joe Stalin's eye is frightened to death by rampaging ethnic

    The whole premise of the American-led intervention in 1999 was that
    the Western Alliance could stop ethnic cleansing "at the heart of
    Europe" and bring the conditions necessary for the creation of a
    peaceful, multiethnic society. It was an embarrassment, of course,
    that in the first weeks of NATO's deployment nearly 100 Serbian
    Orthodox holy sites were destroyed and some two-thirds of the
    province's Serb population (along with other non-Albanian ethnic
    groups) were ethnically cleansed. But the line adopted in Washington,
    London, Berlin, and Paris was that once NATO was firmly in control of
    Kosovo these outrages would cease. The Serbs who remained in the
    province took the West at its word.

    The latest outbreak of violence, which in a three-day period has
    already left 25 churches and monasteries - including UNESCO-protected
    sites - in ruins and made nearly 4,000 people homeless took place
    under the noses of 18,000 international peacekeepers and exposes the
    hollowness of Western guarantees. No one should have been caught by
    surprise. "It was planned in advance," said Derek Chappell, the
    U.N.'s Kosovo Mission spokesman. Another put it more forcefully:
    "This is planned, coordinated, one-way violence from the Albanians
    against the Serbs. It is spreading and has been brewing for the past
    week.... Wherever there is a Serbian population there is Albanian
    action against them." International officials have used the terms
    "pogrom" and "Kristallnacht" to describe the violence against the

    And yet, even in the last few weeks, the NATO mission in Kosovo has
    been touted as an example of successful peacekeeping. Over the last
    year, proposals have been advanced for deploying NATO forces to keep
    the peace in other sensitive areas in the Balkans and the Greater
    Middle East such as Moldova and Georgia, among the two communities in
    Cyprus, and between Israel and the Palestinians once a settlement is
    reached. After the events of this past week, does anyone believe that
    others will trust NATO promises?

    Two sad lessons have been communicated. The first is that NATO
    countries have placed such a high value on "no-casualty" missions
    that aggressive and effective peacekeeping - including disarming
    militias, hunting down war criminals and combating organized crime
    and terrorist groups - takes a back seat to "not stirring things up."
    Even if the deployment of additional U.S. and British forces this
    week to Kosovo calms things down, we simply return to the pre-March
    2004 status quo.

    The second is that ethnic cleansing still works as a strategy,
    despite all the West's moralizing. Throughout the region, there has
    been a clear logic at work: When an ethnic community that forms an
    overall minority in a country wants to purse self-determination, it
    finds it useful to establish itself as the absolute majority in the
    territory in question. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Abkhaz,
    and the Turkish Cypriots all found it politically expedient to push
    out residents of the titular majority (Azeris, Georgians, Greek
    Cypriots, respectively) to bolster their case for separation.

    Kosovo was supposed to be different. Then-president Clinton and Prime
    Minister Blair stated that the West had to draw the line and stop
    this cycle of violence. The immense power of the Western Alliance was
    to be deployed to first reverse the expulsion of the Kosovo Albanians
    by Slobodan Milosevic, and then to make members of all Kosovo
    communities feel safe and secure, so as to construct civil society
    and lay the foundations for democracy. The whole justification for
    ending actual Serbian jurisdiction over Kosovo and placing it in the
    hands of an international authority backed by NATO firepower was to
    prevent any further ethnic cleansing.

    And now you find that many of the same people who pushed for
    intervention in 1999 are arguing that, regretfully, the only solution
    is to push for an independent Kosovo. Yet the attempt to advance a
    political agenda through the use of violence and terror tactics
    should be of particular concern to the West. Apparently NATO, the
    grand alliance prepared to stop the forces of the Soviet Union from
    overwhelming Western Europe, is unable to prevent mobs from
    frustrating the West's stated desire to ensure that ethnic cleansing
    will not be legitimized.

    The Bush administration can throw up its hands and do nothing - and,
    in so doing, kiss goodbye to any hope of solving the area's other
    protracted conflicts. Or, it can take action to make a reality the
    declaration made on Friday by Deputy Secretary of State Richard
    Armitage and Foreign Minister of Serbia and Montenegro Goran
    Svilanovic that "no party can be allowed to profit or advance a
    political agenda through violence."

    And it is essential that the West not abandon its commitment to
    "standards before status" with regard to Kosovo. Aid and assistance
    must be made conditional upon a fundamental improvement of the
    security of the non-Albanian population. As far as the reality on the
    ground is concerned, we are back to June 1999: We need to start from
    scratch in how we approach the province's governance. The failures of
    the past five years do not provide a workable foundation for further

    It may be that the ultimate solution to Kosovo is cantonization
    between an Albanian and a Serbian entity (with extraterritorial
    supervision for Orthodox sites in an Albanian zone). But that should
    come about through negotiation and compromise, not murder and arson.

    In Iraq and in Kosovo and elsewhere, the United States has made
    promises about providing peace and security. Extremists and
    terrorists everywhere are challenging America's commitment to seeing
    its promises through. And others are watching to see how our resolve
    holds up.

    - Nikolas K. Gvosdev is a senior fellow for strategic studies at the
    Nixon Center