So, who really won the war

Barbara Amiel July 5 1999

So, who really won the war

Barbara Amiel July 5 1999

So, who really won the war

Barbara Amiel

All right class, who won the

Kosovo war of 1999? The correct answer depends on what the objective was. But this war is unique. This war, for exam-

But who won? If the objective was to kill more of our opponents than take losses, NATO definitely won. We have had only four casualties so far, two of whom were soldiers trying to dismantle cluster bombs we had dropped. The Serbs have had about 5,000 military casualties and my guess is they’ve taken about 1,000 civilian deaths. (The Serbs claim 2,000 so I’m halving the number.) If the object was to impose a multi-ethnic Kosovo on Yugoslavia, where neighbours of different ethnic origins co-exist tolerantly, babysitting one another’s brood or borrowing a cup of soybean curd, not even the most optimistic adherent of the Blair/Clinton/Axworthy vision of multiculturalism could say we have achieved that. Or are likely to.

If our real objective was not the stated objective, i.e., to keep a multicultural Kosovo in Yugoslavia, but rather to bring about its secession from Yugoslavia, then we may achieve this in time. But that can only take place if we alter the Group of Eight agreement or ignore its terms, or let them lapse. Because that agreement specifically guarantees the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia with Kosovo part of it.

If our war aim was simply to restore autonomy for Kosovo, it is extremely unlikely we can get that. It is scarcely credible that Kosovo will co-exist merrily inside Yugoslavia, and it will certainly not be able to govern itself without our troops patrolling the streets and fighting the KLA whether or not Slobodan Milosevic stays in power. Furthermore, if this had really been our aim, we might have better achieved it without a war at all. If, instead of the absurd Rambouillet accord (which was not a negotiation with Serbia at all, but an ultimatum that guaranteed the secession of Kosovo in three years), we had offered Milosevic the G-8 plan right at the beginning, he might well have signed it. Certainly, from his point of view this agreement is a victory over Rambouillet. It eliminates the hated plebiscite in three years and guarantees Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia.

Finally, since the war (a) did not prevent the expulsion of more than a million human beings (857,000 externally, about 500,000 internally), (b) did not make the liberal ideals of ethnic harmony any more a part of the Balkan mind than they were before this started, (c) devastated the region at a cost of about $10 billion to Western taxpayers who will now have to rebuild it for up to $40 billion, and (d) managed to alienate

ple, is one in which our side was prepared to kill for its cause, but not die for it. President Bill Clinton told the world we were “in” Kosovo for “humanitarian reasons,” but we were never “in” Kosovo at all, only 15,000 feet above it. That meant hit-and-miss roulette with bombers hitting civilian targets, fleeing Kosovo refugees and so on.

a huge segment of the Greek Orthodox Christian world without endearing us one iota to the Muslim world—what utilitarian or ethical value was

there in it? The only answer would be that this war prevented mass killings. But that doesn’t appear to be true. Contrary to the U.S./NATO party line, there was no contemplation of mass expulsions or mass murders of Kosovars prior to the bombing. There was absolute brutal repression by Milosevic’s forces of the KLA and anyone suspected of supporting them. We will now have to repress them ourselves, though at least without, I hope, torture chambers and civilian reprisals.

But to try to sell the idea that what was happening in Kosovo was like the Jewish Ffolocaust or genocide is nonsense. The Jews did not want autonomy in Germany, let alone independence. Indeed, many German Jews were only too happy to assimilate rather than preserve their ethnic identity. Nor was Milosevic engaged in the sort of forcible population transfers for which Brian Mulroney apologized to Canada’s Second World War Japanese population, President Vaclav Flavel apologized to Czechoslovakia’s expelled Sudeten Germans and for which no one has yet apologized to the 200,000 Serbs displaced from Krajina (in Croatia) four years ago.

The question this war really forces on us is, what should a sovereign state, such as Yugoslavia, do about a violent ethnic independence movement such as the KLA? It’s relevant because such movements are causing bloodshed in East Timor, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kashmir—to name only a few. Canada’s answer to the FLQ was the relatively mild War Measures Act, which many of Canada’s intelligentsia found horrifying. But the FLQ was a tea party compared with the KLA. All the same, I would sooner see the disintegration of a country I loved than the denial of civil liberties, tanks in villages and the brutal repression of all who support violent separatist movements. But I can’t consider people war criminals who don’t share my view.

If NATO had not encouraged the KLA from 1997 on by indicating that if its leaders played their cards right they would get NATO as their air force, and if we had not spooked the whole Serbian people into thinking we were intent on the breakup of Yugoslavia—if we had just stayed out of the Kosovo dispute, it is possible that after some bloodletting, the various groups would have settled on a more or less unhappy equilibrium in the region.

Who won? Well, not the humanitarian ideal. When it comes to policy options for Kosovo, it’s hard to see any essential difference between the outcome of the actions of Clinton, Milosevic and Blair. Each has a vision of how human beings there ought to exist, and those who didn’t fit their notion were either tortured or cluster-bombed. It’s Sophie’s choice.