LETTERS to the Editor

Harvard International Review, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

LETTERS to the Editor


"A Blank Check": Going to War over Kosovo

The decision by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to go to war over Kosovo was not a spur-of-the-moment mistake but the tragic outcome of faulty Western policy ("'Madeleine's War' and the Costs of Intervention," HIR, Winter 2001). There was, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, the curious incident of the NATO watchdog that did nothing in the night-time.

Common sense, international law, regional stability, and humanitarian considerations dictated from early 1998 onwards the closure of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) training camps in Albania and the sealing of the border with Kosovo. Such humdrum foot soldiering, admittedly not as glamorous as high-tech bombing, was deliberately rejected by NATO even though it could have had a Security Council mandate since a Russian and Chinese veto would not have been forthcoming. Furthermore, Albania was in no position to object, given that it was a bankrupt nation and a client state of NATO. In fact, NATO held "Partnership in Peace" exercises with the Albanian Army in Albania while turning a blind eye to the KLA camps. "Partnership for an Impending War" more aptly describes these exercises.

Imagine the impact on Ulster if the Irish Republic had briefly descended into anarchy with all of its armories looted, enabling the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to take control of the border areas and establish training camps. The equivalent occurred in Albania and was tolerated. Worse still, the KLA was eventually recognized as a legitimate party to the dispute without meeting requirements similar to those demanded of the IRA, who had to participate in elections, win seats, stop the armed struggle, and cease trying to establish no-go areas.

The KLA had, in effect, been given the nod to escalate its war in Kosovo in order to bring about intervention. One inevitable result was NATO's demand that all Yugoslav military and police depart Kosovo. The resulting police vacuum, which NATO's occupying forces and the United Nation's flown-in constabulary could not possibly fill, contributed to the murderous expulsion of most of Kosovo's Serbs, Roma, and other non-Albanian communities, as well as rampant criminality that threatens ordinary Kosovars.

If only NATO had acted in Albania, the "terrorist" KLA would not have supplanted the "pacifist" Rugova. Kosovo's Albanians would have realized that enhanced autonomy--already conceded in principle by Belgrade, providing it did not open the door to secession--was the most that could be achieved. It would also have reinforced diplomacy's refrain that Yugoslavia's territorial integrity was inviolable. At the very least, valuable time would have been bought.

Rugova's party admittedly did come out on top in Kosovo's recent municipal elections, but the KLA still calls the shots. Note the movement by the KLA of many hundreds of heavily armed men from Kosovo into the adjoining five-kilometer-wide demilitarized zone of Serbia proper, and this took place under the eyes of NATO-led Kfor patrols. …

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