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
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