Columns

The war that makes no sense

Barbara Amiel May 10 1999
Columns

The war that makes no sense

Barbara Amiel May 10 1999

The war that makes no sense

Columns

Barbara Amiel

My stepson shoots zergs. If NATO’s war against Slobodan Milosevic was played by the rules of his video game,

NATO would have won weeks

ago: hundreds of targets zapped, no casualties, one pilot rescued. But NATO can’t win because it went into this war with the aim of saving the Kosovars from ethnic cleansing. Alas, the Kosovars wanted more than to be saved. They wanted ethnic cleansing—their style.

Kosovo has been a contested region for hundreds of years, primarily between the Ottoman Empire and the Serbs. In the days of Marshal Tito, a nasty man but much cleverer than Milosevic, Kosovo had a limited autonomy. Milosevic, a former communist in search of a way to expand Serbia’s power, took away that autonomy in 1989. The West, in response, maintained its flawless record of doing the wrong thing in the Balkans. We encouraged the Kosovar Albanians to fight for autonomy and threatened Milosevic. Our sabre rattling was unlikely to worry him: when Milosevic tried to grab Bosnia, we fumbled as he massacred. We finally came up with the 1995 Dayton agreement, which guaranteed the return of the two million-plus refugees from Bosnia. It hasn’t happened yet.

This time, we produced the 1999 Rambouillet agreement to bring peace and tranquility to Kosovo. It was a deal the Kosovars couldn’t refuse. They got autonomy for three years and then a plebiscite on their future. The problem was that only one signatory to Rambouillet—the Kosovars—would be voting. Milosevic couldn’t sign on to that: no Yugoslav leader could, because, apart from everything else, he couldn’t have protected the rights of the 200,000 Serbs, 10 per cent of the population, left behind in Kosovo. The three-year delay was a face-saving device for NATO to delude and distance itself from the inevitable consequences of Rambouillet—a further partitioning of Yugoslavia along ethnic lines.

Bill Clinton, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and British PM Tony Blair have all denied they support independence for Kosovo. The Western world is now led by these social democrats. They subscribe to “diversity”—the dream of multicultural states in which every group celebrates one another’s food and national dances. Independence for Kosovo would have run headlong into the ideological commitment they have to the multicultural dream. As it happens, I prefer living in a multicultural state. But trying to shoehorn the notion of multiculturalism into an area where it has no application for religious, historical and economic reasons is a recipe for disaster. It’s not very enlightened to organize society along ethnic lines. Still, it’s far preferable to war and, ultimately, genocide.

This point of view is not PC for the good guys running the New World Order. Blair was a member of the Sixties Campaign for Nuclear Disarma-

ment. Clinton was a draft evader. The generation of peaceniks are now the men responsible for using NATO gunboat diplomacy to enforce a multicultural vision. They have created the “humanitarian” war. Can anyone make sense of this? We might have avoided the grim TV footage if the West had been led by better men. We did not tell Milosevic from the beginning that the use of force to maintain the former Republic of Yugoslavia was not tolerable. As he terrorized the Muslims of Bosnia, it was President Bush’s secretary of state, James Baker, who advised looking the other way with the memorable line: “We have no dog in this hunt.”

Having established that we did not have the will to enforce decency on Milosevic, we should have stayed out of Kosovo. We should never have encouraged the Kosovars to believe, by one word or pronouncement, that we were going to help them regain their lost autonomy. Milosevic is brutal but he is not Hitler. He had not shown the slightest intention of massacring or expelling the Kosovars so long as he could dominate Kosovo as a province. He would have dominated it ruthlessly, much the way China has dominated Tibet. There would have been suppression of the Albanian language, of dissent and the termination of a separate ethnic identity for Albanian Kosovars. This would have been vile. But given that the one superpower in the world is now led by a man as muddled as Bill Clinton, we had a moral obligation to leave the Kosovars alone, if only for the sake of NATO’s future—not to mention that of the refugees. Clinton’s understanding of how to wage war is gleaned from antiwar movies, his statesmanship from reading Gallup polls. It seems that people who protest Vietnam are condemned to repeat it. As it is, we have failed the Kosovars on every level. Carl Bildt, the former European Union envoy to Bosnia, cautioned Solana three weeks before the bombing that such action would create a million refugees. NATO ignored him. Having set off a forced exodus, NATO lacked the guts to send in ground troops to stop it.

In a sense, it doesn’t matter now what happens in Kosovo because the suffering we have inflicted on these people cannot be undone. Depending on how long this conflict lasts, the Albanians of Kosovo may be looking at two forced population transfers: the first when the Serbs expelled them brutally from Kosovo and the second when the “victorious” allies deport them back to Kosovo after they are happily ensconced elsewhere in Europe. I’m not predicting that will happen, but I’ll make a bet that at least in some instances it will.