Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1999: Kosovo (During)

From May of 1999 comes further ranting on the topic of the Kosovo War. As a "liberal" intervention, it was subject to a great deal of support from people who normally oppose that sort of thing, and vice versa – kind of like right now. It also engendered some fairly bitter arguments, certainly on the former side. Certainly as Mark Twain said (whoops, apocryphal), history does not repeat itself – but sometimes it rhymes:

Now, last month I allowed as how I was somewhat suspicious of Uncle Sam's professed motives for his latest intervention. What I know now that I didn't know then is that the Rambouillet accords were a complete farce. The text was kept secret until well after the bombing began, and now we can see why. Rambouillet wasn't about negotiation; it was an ultimatum: sign here or we bomb you. But the document that we were asking Yugoslavia to sign would have been rejected by any sovereign nation on earth. It called for NATO troops to occupy not only Kosovo but all of Yugoslavia. It gave NATO the right to use all Yugoslavian roads, bridges, airports and seaports free of charge, not to mention the entire electromagnetic spectrum. And it stipulated that Kosovo would convert to a "free-market" economy, under the supervision of the NATO commander.

Now I've got nothing against free markets, at least in moderation, but here's the thing: Kosovo has some of the most valuable mineral deposits in all of Europe. Right now, they're mostly state-owned. It looks like the terms of Rambouillet would have eventually turned all this wealth over to Western multinationals. It's no wonder the Yugoslavians wouldn't sign. But they were more than willing to negotiate. Serbia had already agreed to restore Kosovo's autonomy; they just objected to NATO troops. In fact, the night before the bombing began, the Serbian Parliament passed a resolution calling for a UN peacekeeping force to supervise the transition. But Madeline Albright said it was NATO or nothing, and then all hell broke loose.

And that's what we've been fighting for ever since: who gets to decide who occupies Kosovo. And since the bombing doesn't seem to be helping much, Clinton will eventually have to settle in May for what he could have got in March.

I don't happen to believe that the Serbs are fuzzy widdle bunnies who just need our love and understanding. And I don't think they were going to use all that mineral wealth to help the people of Kosovo any more that we would have. But our bombing has demonstrably made things worse, and for a number of reasons: First, because the peacekeeping monitors had to leave in order for the bombing to begin. Second, because even those Yugoslavians opposed to Milosevic were incensed, so it's no surprise that his loyalists went on a rampage. Third, because once we'd started the war, it was in his interest to flood us with refugees. And fourth, because once it was clear that we would eventually impose a settlement by force, it created considerable incentive for him to make sure he would be in the strongest possible bargaining position once the fighting ended. After March 24, Milosevic had considerably more motivation to try and wipe out the KLA and to clear out as many Albanians as possible in anticipation of a future partition, and considerably less reason for restraint.

We were warned that this would happen, and yet we continued to play with brinksmanship. As many people have pointed out, war only makes things worse – which is why our failure to pursue diplomatic options in good faith is so maddening. If you'd like to register your disapproval of this counterproductive and bloody bombing campaign, join the protesters outside the Federal Building every Thursday afternoon.

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