Kosovo is preparing to declare independence with American support. Although the Bush administration apparently expects nothing much to happen, the process is likely to be both divisive and destabilizing.
Relations among Europe, Russia, and America could sour. Serbian politics may lurch further to the nationalist right; the Radical Party’s Tomislav Nikolic led the first voting round for president Sunday before last. Another Balkans war is possible, though thankfully unlikely.
Friends of Kosovo’s independence argue that stability isn’t everything. The U.S. has no intrinsic interest in Kosovo’s status and would be best served to stay out of it, but that ship sailed long ago.
Washington spent most of the 1990s working overtime to break up Serb-dominated Yugoslavia while forcing ethnic Serbs to remain in the newly independent states. The new countries Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Slovenia were allowed to form, but Serbs locked in Bosnia and Croatia, in particular, were expected to cheerfully accept their fate.
The U.S. applied the same policy to Kosovo, a constituent part of Serbia. In 1999 Washington led NATO in a military campaign to aid the ethnic Albanian forces, eliminating Serb authority over the territory.
The Bush administration has built on the Clinton administration’s policy. After presiding over unproductive faux “negotiations” predicated on Kosovo’s ultimate independence, the administration now plans to recognize the new nation even if it fails to win United Nations approval.
Of course, Washington insists that all ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo must remain in the new state. As before, secession from Serbs is okay, but secession by Serbs is prohibited. Sound fair?
GRANTED, SORTING THROUGH the conflicting claims involving Kosovo ain’t easy. Once Serbian heartland, it hosts the site of the Battle of the Blackbirds, where the Serbs lost to the Ottomans in 1389 (the loss probably shaped Serbian consciousness more than would have a victory — such is the way of the Balkans).
Over time the population shifted to an ethnic Albanian majority, in part due to Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito’s efforts to dampen Serbian nationalism in the multi-ethnic communist state.
In the 1980s it was Serbians who complained of misconduct by the ethnic-Albanian majority in Kosovo. In 1982, the New York Times reported on “almost weekly incidents of rape, arson, pillage and industrial sabotage, most seemingly designed to drive Kosovo’s remaining indigenous Slavs—Serbs and Montenegrins — out of the province.”
That all changed after Slobodan Milosevic used an appearance in Kosovo in 1987 to ignite Serb nationalism and leapfrog into national leadership. With his rise, Belgrade reasserted Serb control over Kosovo.
When Yugoslavia broke up, the secession of Bosnia and Croatia produced particularly gruesome conflicts, since both of those provinces contained many ethnic Serbs who wished to remain independent if not in Serbia.
Although ethnic Serbs may have been responsible for the bulk of atrocities, Bosniacs and Croats also freely murdered Serbs and each other. The largest single episode of ethnic cleansing prior to the Kosovo war was conducted against ethnic Serbs in Croatia’s Krajina region, where the battle damage remained evident for years. Most of Krajina’s ethnic Serb residents have yet to return.
Serb-Albanian relations in Kosovo also deteriorated as the 1990s proceeded. Serb rule was heavy-handed; Albanians, who made up the vast majority of the population, created alternative government and social institutions; the Kosovo Liberation Army (labeled a “terrorist” group by the U.S.) began attacking Serb officials and Albanian “collaborators”; the Serbian government responded brutally; fighting expanded and casualties increased.
EVEN AS 1999 dawned, the war, though tragic, was minor as ethnic and sectarian conflicts go, costing perhaps two thousand lives over a couple of years. About the same time a quarter of a million people were slaughtered in Sierra Leone. But the Clinton administration, led by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, decided to go to war against Serbia, and American bombers forced a quick surrender.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?