Kosovo is not Albania. Numerous commentators have warned that
today's conflict in Albania could spread tomorrow to Kosovo, the
troubled ethnic-Albanian populated land in the south of what
remains of Yugoslavia. Yes, the battle in Albania dangerously
increases the chance of intensified conflict in Kosovo. But no, the
conflict in Albania will not "spread" to Kosovo.
The analogy of a fire spreading out of control, from the
hinterlands of Albania across the border into Kosovo, dangerously
misdiagnoses the connection between the two lands and prescribes
the wrong course of cures.
The troubles in Albania and Kosovo differ tremendously. First,
the protagonists are not the same. Albania's struggle pits Albanian
against Albanian. Kosovo's struggle sets Kosovar Albanians against
Serbs. Not only are the pairs of protagonists different, but each
actor stands in distinction. Albanians in Albania are not
interchangeable with Kosovar Albanians.
Although they do share relatives across the borders and a real
and imagined history, their lives have been defined most recently
by distinct struggles. Albanians are struggling to form a
democratic state in the wake of a Stalinist leader and in the midst
of a nonfunctioning economy; Kosovar Albanians are contending for
autonomy after the collapse of Yugoslavia and the rise of Serbian
Second, the protagonists are not likely to cross lines. An
ironclad, heavily militarized border keeps them physically apart,
and their own self-interest divides as well. Kosovar Albanians'
hope that a democratic Albania would become a megaphone for the
interests of their struggle has been crushed by the reality of the
new Albanian state, a land too consumed with its own problems to
offer much of a hand to kinfolk elsewhere. Although they would
surely attempt to aid Kosovo's Albanians should a war erupt there,
Albanians have little interest in seeing that happen - at least not
now. So too, while watching the battles in Albania with great
consternation, and with sympathies leaning heavily toward the north
and the preservation of a democratic state, Kosovar Albanians have
not neatly taken sides.
Different reasons for battle
Third, the nature of the problems have little in common. Ask
Albanians the reason for the conflagration in Albania and hear a
confused mix of responses: anarchy and mob rule following economic
collapse; an attack on President Sali Berisha; an attack on
democracy by the socialists; a struggle for democracy by the
people; renewal of the struggle of south versus north. Ask Kosovar
Albanians the reason for their impending conflict and hear a
unified response: years of Serbian oppression against Kosovar
Albanians. Kosovar Albanians would fight a battle laced with the
rhetoric of liberation; the liberatory nature of the bloodshed in
Albania remains fuzzy.
The notion that each Albanian conflict must be about uniting
Albanians in a great Albanian state is simply wrong. …