From James Rubin to Christiane Amanpour, the broad
range of government and media opinion is totally united in demanding that NATO bomb
Serbia. This is necessary, we are told, in order to "avert a humanitarian
catastrophe", and because, "the only language Milosevic understands is
force"… which happens to be the language the U.S. wants to speak.
Kosovo is presented as the problem, and NATO as
In reality, NATO is the problem, and Kosovo is the
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO
needed a new excuse for pumping resources into the military-industrial complex. Thanks to
Kosovo, NATO can celebrate its 50th anniversary next month by consecration of its new
global mission: to intervene anywhere in the world on humanitarian grounds. The recipe is
easy: arm a group of radical secessionists to shoot policemen, describe the inevitable
police retaliation as "ethnic cleansing", promise the rebels that NATO will bomb
their enemy if the fighting goes on, and then interpret the resulting mayhem as a
challenge to NATO’s "resolve" which must be met by military action.
Thanks to Kosovo, national sovereignty will be a
thing of the past — not of course for Great Powers like the U.S. and China, but for
weaker States that really need it. National boundaries will be no obstacle to NATO
Thanks to Kosovo, the U.S. can control eventual
Caspian oil pipeline routes between the Black Sea and the Adriatic, and extend the
European influence of favored ally Turkey.
Last February 23, James Hooper, executive director
of the Balkan Action Council, one of the many think tanks that have sprung up to justify
the ongoing transformation of former Yugoslavia into NATO protectorates, gave a speech at
the Holocaust Museum in Washington at the invitation of its "Committee of
Conscience". The first item on his list of "things to do next" was this:
"Accept that the Balkans are a region of strategic interest for the United States,
the new Berlin if you will, the testing ground for NATO’s resolve and US leadership. [...]
The administration should level with the American people and tell them that we are likely
to be in the Balkans militarily indefinitely, at least until there is a democratic
government in Belgrade."
In the Middle Ages, the Crusaders launched their
conquests from the Church pulpits. Today, NATO does so in the Holocaust Museum. War must
This sacralization has been largely facilitated by
a post-communist left which has taken refuge in moralism and identity politics to the
exclusion of any analysis of the economic and geopolitical factors that continue to
determine the macropolicies shaping the world.
Jean-Christophe Rufin, former vice president of
"Doctors Without Borders" recently pointed to the responsibility of humanitarian
non-governmental organizations in justifying military intervention. "They were the
first to deplore the passivity of the political response to dramatic events in the Balkans
or Africa. Now they have got what they wanted, or so it seems. For in practice, rubbing
elbows with NATO could turn out to be extremely dangerous."
Already the call for United Nations soldiers to
intervene on humanitarian missions raised suspicions in the Third World that "the
humanitarians could be the Trojan horse of a new armed imperialism", Rufin wrote in
"Le Monde". But NATO is something else.
"With NATO, everything has changed. Here we
are dealing with a purely military, operational alliance, designed to respond to a threat,
that is to an enemy", wrote Rufin. "NATO defines an enemy, threatens it, then
eventually strikes and destroys it.
"Setting such a machine in motion requires a
detonator. Today it is no longer military. Nor is it political. The evidence is before us:
NATO’s trigger, today, is… humanitarian. It takes blood, a masssacre, something that
will outrage public opinion so that it will welcome a violent reaction."
The consequence, he concluded, is that "the
civilian populations have never been so potentially threatened as in Kosovo today. Why?
Because those potential victims are the key to international reaction. Let’s be clear: the
West wants dead bodies. [...] We are waiting for them in Kosovo. We’ll get them." Who
will kill them is a mystery but previous incidents suggest that "the threat comes
from all sides."
In the middle of conflict as in Kosovo, massacres
can easily be perpetrated… or "arranged". There are always television crews
looking precisely for that "top story".
Recently, Croatian officers have admitted that in
1993 they themselves staged a "Serbian bombing" of the Croatian coastal city of
Sibenik for the benefit of Croatian television crews. The former Commander of the 113th
Croatian brigade headquarters, Davo Skugor, reacted indignantly. "Why so much
fuss?" he complained. "There is no city in Croatia in which such tactical tricks
were not used. After all, they are an integral part of strategic planning. That’s only one
in a series of stratagems we’ve resorted to during the war."
The fact remains that there really is a very
serious Kosovo problem. It has existed for well over a century, habitually exacerbated by
outside powers (the Ottoman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Axis powers during World War
II). The Serbs are essentially a modernized peasant people, who having liberated
themselves from arbitrary Turkish Ottoman oppression in the 19th century, are attached to
modern state institutions. In contrast, the Albanians in the northern mountains of Albania
and Kosovo have never really accepted any law, political or religious, over their own
unwritten "Kanun" based on patriarchal obedience to vows, family honor,
elaborate obligations, all of which are enforced not by any government but by male family
and clan chiefs protecting their honor, eventually in the practice of blood feuds and
The basic problem of Kosovo is the difficult
coexistence on one territory of ethnic communities radically separated by customs,
language and historical self-identification. From a humanistic viewpoint, this problem is
more fundamental than the problem of State boundaries.
Mutual hatred and fear is the fundamental human
catastrophe in Kosovo. It has been going on for a long time. It has got much worse in
recent years. Why?
Two factors stand out as paradoxically responsible
for this worsening — paradoxically, because presented to the world as factors which
should have improved the situation.
1 – The first is the establishment in the
autonomous Kosovo of the 1970s and 1980s of separate Albanian cultural institutions,
notably the Albanian language faculties in Pristina University. This cultural autonomy,
demanded by ethnic Albanian leaders, turned out to be a step not to reconciliation between
communities but to their total separation. Drawing on a relatively modest store of past
scholarship, largely originating in Austria, Germany or Enver Hoxha’s Albania, studies in
Albanian history and literature amounted above all to glorifications of Albanian identity.
Rather than developing the critical spririt, they developed narrow ethnocentricy.
Graduates in these fields were prepared above all for the career of nationalist political
leader, and it is striking the number of literati among Kosovo Albanian secessionist
leaders. Extreme cultural autonomy has created two populations with no common language.
In retrospect, what should have been done was to
combine Serbian and Albanian studies, requiring both languages, and developing original
comparative studies of history and literature. This would have subjected both Serbian and
Albanian national myths to the scrutiny of the other, and worked to correct the
nationalist bias in both. Bilingual comparative studies could and should have been a way
toward mutual understanding as well as an enrichment of universal culture. Instead,
culture in the service of identity politics leads to mutual ignorance and contempt.
The lesson of this grave error should be a warning
elsewhere, starting in Macedonia, where Albanian nationalists are clamoring to repeat the
Pristina experience in Tetova. Other countries with mixed ethnic populations should take
2. The second factor has been the support from
foreign powers, especially the United States, to the Albanian nationalist cause in Kosovo.
By uncritically accepting the version of the tangled Kosovo situation presented by the
Albanian lobby, American politicians have greatly exacerbated the conflict by encouraging
the armed Albanian rebels and pushing the Serbian authorities into extreme efforts to wipe
The "Kosovo Liberation Army" (UCK) has
nothing to lose by provoking deadly clashes, once it is clear that the number of dead and
the number of refugees will add to the balance of the "humanitarian catastrophe"
that can bring NATO and U.S. air power into the conflict on the Albanian side.
The Serbs have nothing to gain by restraint, once
it is clear that they will be blamed anyway for whatever happens.
By identifying the Albanians as
"victims" per se, and the Serbs as the villains, the United States and its
allies have made any fair and reasonable political situation virtually impossible. The
Clinton administration in particular builds its policy on the assumption that what the
Kosovar Albanians — including the UCK — really want is "democracy," American
style. In fact, what they want is power over a particular territory, and among the
Albanian nationalists, there is a bitter power struggle going on over who will exercise
Thus an American myth of "U.S.-style
democracy and free market economy will solve everything" is added to the Serbian and
Albanian myths to form a fictional screen making reality almost impossible to discern,
much less improve. Underlying the American myth are Brzezinski-style geostrategic designs
on potential pipeline routes to Caspian oil and methodology for expanding NATO as an
instrument to ensure U.S. hegemony over the Eurasian land mass.
Supposing by some miracle the world suddenly
turned upside down, and there were outside powers who really cared about the fate of
Kosovo and its inhabitants, one could suggest the following:
1 – stop one-sided demonization of the Serbs,
recognize the genuine qualities, faults, and fears on all sides, and work to promote
understanding rather than hatred;
2 – stop arming and encouraging rebel groups;
3 – allow genuine mediation by parties with no
geostrategic or political interests at stake in the region.