The Tragedy of Kosovo
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior EditorOne could well argue that the United States should never have become involved in the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo. The location does not have any military importance for NATO, and the USA had no historical ties to the region. The American military campaign violates the Constitution of the USA, since Congress has not declared war. US policy there has been a disaster, failing to prevent the mass expulsion of the Kosovars.
A bit of history and geography can help us understand this war. Kosovo-Metohija, populated mostly by Albanians, was an autonomous province of Serbia, which in turn was a "republic" of the federation of Yugoslavia. An important battle was fought there in 1389, when the Turks defeated the Serbian Empire. Serbia then became a vassal of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which occupied all of southeastern Europe along with the Middle East. This defeat was never forgotten by the Serbs.
During the 1800s, the Turkish Empire retreated from most of Europe during a series of wars and revolts. The Austrian-Hungarian empire occupied Croatia and Bosnia. Serbia became independent in 1878. In 1914, after the assassination of an Austrian Duke in Bosnia, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, starting World War I when Russia sided with Serbia. The old Serbian Kingdom was reunited as Yugoslavia after World War I.
One of the republics in Yugoslavia was Montenegro ("Crna Gora" in the slavic languages), bordering Albania and Kosovo. Montenegro became independent in 1878 and later became part of Yugoslavia. The two remaining republics in Yugoslavia are Montenegro and Serbia.
During the late 1980s, Serbian nationalism grew stronger, and Kosovo lost its autonomy. The conflict between Serbia and the Kosovars has been brewing for over ten years. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) demands independence, but most Kosovars sought to resist peacefully while trying to maintain their culture. The conflict between the Serbs and Albanians is over a century old. The expulsion of Albanians is nothing new; there were also mass expulsions after World Wars I and II. See the "Albanian expulsions" web site at http://www.kosova.com/expuls/contents.htm but it is not always responsive.
Given that the US and NATO became involved, they should have opposed independence for Kosovo as unrealistic, and also opposed the counter-productive violence by the KLA during the past year. The Serbs will fight to their last drop of blood to keep Kosovo. Instead of a NATO force to keep the peace, the proposal should have been for UN peacekeepers, with Russian participation. The expulsions in Bosnia should have alerted the world to what would happen also in Kosovo -- but there was no action to prevent it.
Once the war started, the NATO decisions compounded the disaster. A colossal blunder was the bombing of Montenegro. NATO should have instead encouraged Montenegro to secede and become an ally in the war against Serbia. Now, after this bombing blunder, Montenegro cannot join the NATO side, and Serbia is likely to destroy Montenegro as a republic and make it part of Serbia. The war may expand into Montenegro, creating more death and refugees. There will be no more Yugoslavia, only Serbia.
Milosevic may use this war as an opportunity to "cleanse" Serbia of all the non-Serbian minorities, such as Hungarians. The Serb army is clearly committing atrocities. Given that NATO started the bombing, it should have made the Serb government pay a high price for their murderous aggression by immediately attacking key government installations and infrastructure.
There is an economic component to the Kosovo war that has not been widely reported. A New York Times article by Chris Hedges on July 8 reported on the mines of Stari Trg at Trepca (near Kosovska Mitrovica), some 30 miles northwest of the Kosovo capital Pristina. The mines are rich with lead, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver, valued at $5 billion. Kosovo also has 17 billion tons of coal. Perhaps not coincidentally, Stari Trg was the scene of attacks by Albanian fighters during the past year.
The KLA is being armed by NATO and will continue to resist the Serbs even after all the Kosovo Albanians are expelled. The Kosovars will fight to regain their homeland. Serbians will wage war on NATO and the Kosovar fighters, but with its vastly superior power, the USA and NATO could eventually defeat Serbia, if the US government is willing to pay a high price in money and lives.
Kosovo is but one of dozens of ethnic conflicts and civil wars now flaring world side. What is needed is an international agreement that (1) denies sovereignty to any government that wages war on its minorities and (2) seeks to help the victims. After the holocaust of World War II, the slogan was declared, "Never Again!" But mass slaughters have happened again and again, as in Cambodia and Rwanda. Power politics has prevented a global strategy to prevent mass killings and expulsions. As is written in Isaiah 59:8, "The way of peace, they know not."
-- Fred Foldvary
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Copyright 1999 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.