There Are No Decent Solutions To The Ongoing Problems In Kosovo

2 April 1999

By Stentor Danielson

Unless you are living in a locked and duct-taped box behind the piano in one of the "soundproof" rooms in Dana, with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, you know that for the past week the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been bombing the folks in Yugoslavia. I donıt think there is anybody, with the possible exception of Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who hoped that it would come to this. Unfortunately, there seem to be plenty of people out there who think it will end with this, that a decisive and destructive military action by NATO will cow Milosevic and restore stability to the Balkans.

As far as I know, Milosevic doesnıt have any particular personal grudge against the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo. Itıs not like Hitler, who started hating the Jews because he thought that they prevented him from getting into art school. Milosevic hates the Albanians because it allows him to beat up on them, which gives him a feeling of power. We here in the U.S., with our record-setting stock market and political clout out the wazoo, tend to forget how helpless a tiny and rather poor nation, newly formed out of the wreckage of a devastating civil war, can feel. But Yugoslavia needs to find other ways to feel powerful. So the actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) must have been a godsend to Milosevic ­- an excuse to raise himself up by beating up on somebody else.

This notion of power explains why the incessant bombings by NATO, which Milosevic certainly ought to know has the military resources to turn his country into a giant charred Yugoslavia-shaped crater many times over, havenıt stopped the fighting between Milosevicıs forces and the KLA. Milosevic is counting on NATO not to wallop him with everything itıs got. With this in mind, he has two choices. First, he could give in to NATO, which is the intended end of the bombings. But that would make it clear that Yugoslavia is at the mercy of foreign powers, and that Milosevic canıt do as he pleases on his own soil. Or, Milosevic could stick it out, proving to himself and others that he is in control of Yugoslavia, and that he doesnıt have to answer to other countries just because theyıre bigger and richer and older than his. Therefore, unless a lucky bomb happens to hit Milosevic right in his head (fat chance), the bombings are not going to stop him from attacking the Albanians for a good long while. The threat of eradication is not so strong to the leader of a country at the bottom of the international barrel as it would be to a nation like the U.S., which has everything to lose.

Some people might take this analysis as justifying an immediate and destructively decisive strike against Yugoslavia. ³Letıs hit him so hard he canıt possibly get back up,² the logic goes. ³Then we can give him our terms.² But the proponents of this course forget that victory in war is far from resolution of the problem that caused it. Just think back to our own history. After the British surrendered, it took years to figure out a workable constitution. And as late as 1812, the British tried to appeal the decision of the Revolutionary War.

Even if Milosevic were to back down today, there would be months upon years of negotiations, during which whatever ³decisions² were made by military victory could easily be overturned. Even so, one could still argue that a decisive strike would, by ending the ³war² phase, speed up the journey toward peace. Unfortunately, in joining the war, NATO has committed itself, at least in Milosevicıs eyes, to supporting Kosovo and condemning Yugoslavia. And, in fact, the U.S. is currently debating changing its official policy to support the establishment of an independent Kosovo. This means that, when negotiations begin, Milosevic will see NATO and its member countries as ³the enemy.² He will feel helpless again, as his most powerful ally in the world would be crisis-stricken Russia. So he will act like what is known, in the jargon of international politics, as a ³jerk.² He will be unconducive to the peace process in various ways, much as he had before the bombing started, in order to salvage some personal and national dignity and autonomy. He will feel like he is at the mercy of bigger and stronger countries, and he wonıt be happy about it.

Our leaders ought to know this. They were around for the Persian Gulf War. They saw how beating Saddam Hussein ­- and we really, really beat him -­ didnıt end the troubles in that corner of the world. The fighting stopped, for a little while. But Saddam didnıt ³learn his lesson.² He just got madder and more determined. Thatıs why we almost had a Persian Gulf War II over Winter Break. While I make no pretense of claiming that Yugoslavia is analogous to Iraq, there are certain principles that hold true regardless, such as why leaders of little countries would dare to attack littler countries, despite threats by superpowers and international organizations.

It would probably be to my benefit to state that I know that people are suffering and dying in Kosovo because of Milosevic, and that as a Christian and a human, I feel like something ought to be done to stop it. But good intentions donıt help people. Looking logically at the situation, I see that using military might to force Milosevic to mend his ways is unproductive, and sometimes counterproductive.

So, as much as I abhor what is happening to the ethnic Albanians, I canıt accept that killing off Yugoslavian soldiers and/or destroying Yugoslaviaıs facilities and infrastructure will accomplish the ends that my religion and conscience implore me to seek. All it does is make guilt-stricken superpowers feel good because they think that they have done something to stop the work of evil and make the world safe for democracy.

So what is the solution to Kosovoıs woes? To tell you the truth, I donıt know for sure. Too many mistakes have been made throughout the crisis. Too many times, the U.S. and NATO have treated Milosevic like he was an American (or British or French or what have you) citizen, rather than an independent foreign leader. So, now, we are left with no good answers. And that is really my point ­ that we shouldnıt think that the U.S., because it has the strongest economy and the most established and unified democracy and the butt-kickingest military in the world, can run the world according to its own designs.

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