Kosovo Lesson

What lessons have emerged from NATO’S self-proclaimed victory in Kosovo?

Bombing supporters chanted "stop ethnic cleansing." Indeed, ethnic

cleansing demanded a strong response. But those who shunned the flawed law and

the UN backed a campaign to pulverize Kosovo and Serbia from the air. Now they

face some embarrassing facts.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright had insisted at Rambouillet that

Yugoslav President Milosevic accept all the points in the NATO proposal, or

face NATO bombers. Milosevic accepted all but two conditions – that NATO

troops could patrol all of Serbia not just Kosovo, and that Kosovars would be

able to vote for independence within three years.

Milosevic refused and NATO then bombed Yugoslavia to force acceptance of

peace accords that, surprisingly, contain neither of those two provisions. If

these terms meant so much, why did NATO delete them after setting a new, world

record for number of bombs dropped in two and a half months?

Second, if going to war to stop Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing involved

"basic principles," the NATO leaders will have to explain their new

morality: defense of "basic principles" does not include risking the

lives of NATO soldiers. Is this the famous Bill Clinton-Tony Blair "third

way," which will redefine the words "basic" and


A preliminary death inventory shows western nations lost no soldiers. NATO

estimates that its bombs killed some 6,000 Serb soldiers and 2,500 Serb

civilians. 200,000 Kosovars remain unaccounted for. Add to the dead count,

those who can or will never return to their homes. Is this what Clinton and

the other NATO leaders mean by victory and defense of basic principles? Not to

mention the incredible mess left on the ground in Kosovo and the damage done

to Yugoslav infrastructure.

Humanitarians – left, liberal and conservative — who supported the bombing

to stop ethnic cleansing may want to reevaluate the air war strategy in light

of these figures.

Did the bombing actually lead to more killing? Or if NATO hadn’t struck

would Milosevic’s para-military squads have done even more damage? An iffy


Los Angeles Times correspondent Paul Watson, who observed inside

Kosovo throughout the bombing, reports that NATO strategy only intensified the

Kosovo bloodshed. The hatred that existed before the hurricane of bombs fell,

has been multiplied because of the bombing.

New York Times reporter Steven Erlanger likewise reports that Serb

forces responded to NATO bombing by unleashing "a five day orgy of rage

and psychosis" – against ethnic Albanians. Other reporters have already

observed KLA guerrillas retaliating by committing atrocities against Serb


Before the bombing KLA guerrillas and Serb forces both terrorized parts of

Kosovo. Can anyone argue that bombing has set an example for peaceful

relations? Will NATO members appropriate funds to maintain peacekeepers in

Kosovo for twenty years?

A sloppy peace has emerged from a dubious war. Will those who care about

ethnic cleansing, refugees, and the long mess that ensues after a war,

re-examine law and the United Nations, however flawed, as better alternatives

than bombing?

Saul Landau is the Hugh O. LaBounty Chair of Interdisciplinary Applied

Knowledge at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, 3801 W. Temple

Ave. Pomona, CA 91768 tel – 909-869-3115 fax – 909-869-4751

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