So,who really won the war? 
MACLEANS, July 5,1999


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
example, is one in which our side was prepared to kill for its cause,
but not die for it. President Bill Clinton told die 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.

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
sybean 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 unlikey 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 Ramboulliet
accord (which was not a negotiation with Serbia at all, but an ultimatum
that guaranteed the secession of Kosavo 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
Ramboulliet. 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 (817,000 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 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 parry
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 Holocaust 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 Canadas Second World
War Japanese population, President Vaclav Havel 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 Timer, 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 Sophies
choice.

Macleans, July 5,1999


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