Magazine article Commonweal


Magazine article Commonweal


Article excerpt

One can debate the merits of interventionist versus noninterventionist foreign policy, but the worst policy of all is one that makes promises it fails to keep, backing off when things become difficult. Exactly this, on the part of Washington, underlies the serious crisis of interethnic fighting in Macedonia.

Albanian guerrilla forces have taken advantage of NATO's occupation of Kosovo to launch themselves into Serbia and Macedonia. Doing so, they profited from a short-term decision by Washington to sponsor attacks into Serbia as a way of undermining Slobodan Milosevic.

Now that Milosevic has been overturned by conservative and constitutionalist leaders in Serbia, the Albanian guerrillas--unchecked and emboldened by Washington's noninterventionism--have become instigators of war in Macedonia, as well as obstacles to political reconstruction in Serbia.

Three years ago, for the action-minded in Washington, backing the Kosovo Liberation Army seemed a good idea. The NATO allies were not so sure about this, but Washington prevailed. After NATO's occupation of Kosovo, the United States encouraged KLA militants to set up in the so-called buffer zone in southern Serbia, largely Albanian-populated, where Serbian army forces were prohibited. The guerrillas attacked Serbian police and demanded the region's reunification with Kosovo (from which it was separated only in the 1950s).

It was easy for them to move clandestinely from there into the adjoining Albanian-populated part of Macedonia, whose territorial integrity the United States has formally guaranteed. No one blocked them, even though there was a sharp dispute between the United States and London over Britain's call for aggressive NATO patrols inside the buffer zone to check the guerrillas. The Pentagon has formally limited the U.S. Army's role to peacekeeping inside Kosovo.

The United States even vetoed NATO protection for thirty European Union monitors. They were meant to observe a limited Serbian army movement back into the buffer zone, authorized to block access to Montenegro. "There is no guarantee the Serbs are going to behave," an American official explained, as if assurance of good behavior were not the point of such an exercise.

Washington says that it wishes to preserve its "credibility" with the Albanians. In fact, it is appeasing Albanian extremists. A factor in the situation is that the guerrillas are blackmailing Washington. They, or extremists among them, know that if the United States turns against them, they can provoke a major crisis between Americans and NATO allies, and profit from what follows.

The scenario would involve killing enough U.S. soldiers to provoke the Bush government and Congress into pulling American troops out of the Balkans. …

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