Canadian ambassador to (former) Yugoslavia from 1983-7. Since retiring from the foreign service in 1994, the author has given a course in Balkan affairs at the Institute of European and Russian Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa.
Kosovo and the Challenge of Humanitarian Intervention: Selective Indignation, Collective Action, and International Citizenship, edited by Albrecht Schnabel and Ramesh Thakur (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2000, xii, 536pp, ISBN 92-808-1050-2)
From Peacekeeping to Peacemaking: Canada's Response to the Yugoslav Crisis, by Nicholas Gammer (Montreal & Kingston: Queen's University Press, 2001, x, 243pp, $70.00 cloth, ISBN 0-7735-2151-8, $27.95 paper, ISBN 0-7735-2205-0)
Europe's Nightmare: The Struggle for Kosovo, by Miron Rezun, Westport CT and London, Praeger, 2001, xviii, 205pp, US$39.95, ISBN 0-275-97072-8)
THE DISINTEGRATION OF THE Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY - aka 'Former Yugoslavia') contained within it most of the major currents and dilemmas of 20th century international relations. They are likely to retain their salience for at least the first decades of the 21st. Kosovo, which may be said to have begun the process of disintegration and will, perhaps, complete it, has featured the same elements in microcosm.
Ethnic nationalism, confronting the principle of national self-determination (surely one of the most destructive notions of the 20th century), was a driving force. Questions of international law have been central. Just who is entitled to claim the right of national self-determination (if Croats can break away from Yugoslavia, why cannot Croatian Serbs break away from Croatia)? What is a state entitled to do to protect itself against nationalist insurgency, and what is the international community entitled to do if a state deals with its insurgency excessively? Just when, how, and in response to what circumstances is the use of military force justified in the cause of human rights (or 'human security' to use the current mantra)?
What is the role of international institutions? What can the United Nations do? What can legitimately be done with it? What is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) entitled to do, on what authority? If an enabling resolution of the Security Council for the use of military force cannot be obtained because of a virtually certain veto by one or more of its permanent members, does that mean nothing can be done? Is the international community rendered impotent (or ought it to be) in the face of such human rights violations as ethnic cleansing, or does it have the right (or even the duty) to intervene? At what point do human rights violations justify a military response? Who decides? What role is there for peacekeeping in its traditional form -- has it been superceded by 'peacemaking' (which can lead to warmaking)? What is the status of national sovereignty or territorial integrity if these collide with the pursuit of national self-determination?
For Canadians, the Yugoslav tragedy also raises the question of federalism. The former Yugoslavia was not a democracy, but it was certainly a federation - in many ways more decentralized than our own. Yugoslav officials were, indeed, fond of drawing parallels between our two countries (purposefully ignoring some important differences). Canadian diplomats occasionally found this useful: the Yugoslavs always understood what we were talking about when we raised federal-provincial complications.
When a Quebec minister came to Zagreb for trade talks with his Croatian opposite numbers, the Yugoslav federal officials thoroughly understood the insistence of the Canadian embassy that it should also be present in discussions between our provincial ministers and those of another country. 'Don't worry,' one Yugoslav official said: 'If the Quebec minister doesn't want you there, we'll make you part of the Yugoslav side!' Fortunately this offer did not have to be put to the test. …