“I wouldnt mind if they needed to take Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic out,” said Chris Walter, 23, a college student living in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. I felt the same way about Saddam Hussein. I think the longer you keep the problem around, the sooner it is going to come back and bite you.”
From the Washington Post
April 18th, 1999
The horrors of the atrocities committed against Kosovo such as the targeted attacks on civilians, “ethnic cleansing”, and most certainly mass murder have a greater impact globally than what may appear on the surface. On a humanitarian level, all these situations are marked by the same killing mixture of hope and despair frightened women, terrified children, despondent old men and women, and helpless adults looking towards the corner of the street and gazing at the sky hoping for a miracle that does not happen until they are driven out of their homes at gunpoint, and their houses looted and put to torch in front of their eyes and they still thank God for sparing the lives of those who survived to face the next ordeal.
This story is being repeated in the Balkans for the umpteenth time. Almost a month after the most powerful military grouping in history launched air attacks on rump Yugoslavia to compel adherence to a peace accord, a human tragedy of grotesque proportions continues to unfold in Kosovo. Nearly 50 per cent of its Albanian population has been forced to flee the country under the relentless assault of the Yugoslav army and police, amid unbelievably cruel carnage of human lives and burning of villages and towns.
Kenneth Waltzs first-image theory rests on the assumption that the causes of war are to be found in the nature and behavior of man and on the role of specific individuals, as in this case Slobodan Milosevic. If you ask the question “Why is a war taking place in Kosovo?” a large part of the reply must be “Because of Slobodan Milosevic.” In an interview with Newsweeks Lally Weymouth, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer bluntly linked Milosevic with the two names whose shadows still linger over modern Europe. Milosevic, said Fischer, “was ready to act like Stalin and Hitlerto fight a war against the existence of a whole people.” It is Milosevic who has lit the flame of evil; if it is to be put out, he needs to be understood.
The year 1989 saw the emergence of Slobodan Milosevic, an obscure Serb banker, who decided to build his political career by exposing the cause of Greater Serbia. Addressing a huge gathering of Serbs assembled on the site of the battle of Kosovo Polje, where an Ottoman army inflicted a crushing defeat on Serbian forces 600 years earlier, he launched a campaign to restore Serbian greatness that resulted in the break-up of Yugoslavia, amid the worst atrocities and violations of human rights since the end of the Second World War. While the formidable Serb-led Yugoslav army was used against Croats too, the worst excesses and “ethnic cleansing” took place against the Bosnians, and later the Kosovars, both of them Muslims.
What effects the Balkan region is its blood-soaked history, an ethnic jigsaw puzzle and, currently the “Mad Serb Disease.” Like the Bosnian tragedy, Kosovos misfortune results equally from the dominant powers letting expediency rather than ethnicity determine the Balkan borders. Like the Bosnian muslims, Kosovar Albanians were lumped into the artificial Serb-dominated state called Yugoslavia even though ethinicity, religion and geography bound them to Albania.
Thus, Kosovo has been a pawn in the hands of the powers that mindlessly drew and re-drew the Balkan map. Despite being 90 per cent Albanian, Kosovo is seen by the Serbs as the cradle of civilization. Its north and east have sites of religious and historical significance to them. Hence the Serb desire to “ethnically cleanse” at least northern Kosovo so that, in case of eventual succession, they can retain it through this fait accompli.
The complexion of the top hierarchy of Serbia can be gauged from the character of its President, who, in December 1997 got himself inaugurated as the president for the third term although barred by the constitution and having lost the local elections! Milosevic , whose ideology spawned such mass murderers as Radovan Karadzic and General Mladic in Bosnia, had deprived Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989. He maintained his power by his repression of political opponents, his control over the media, and the opportunistic alliances he formed with parties across the political spectrum.
Milosevic enjoys a tightly controlled media that for years have been a mouthpiece for his regime; even well-meaning Serbs have little sense of the horror of Kosovo. To speed up the Kosovo exodus, buses and even trains are being used to dump civilians near the borders reminiscent of Nazi efficiency in transporting Jews to their death. The controlled Serb media is showing this exodus to its people. But they are being told that the Kosovars are fleeing from NATO bombs, and the Serb government is helping out by providing transport. Few Serbs have access to international media, and in their current stage of siege-psychosis, fewer still the inclination to believe the other side of the story. Thus, in the age of instant information, a fascist dictator has created an insulated fortress of madness not in any remote African jungle, or an isolated Indonesian island, but in the heart of Europe, in the cradle of Western civilization. Such is the power of human evil.
On the other hand, the essence of Waltzs third image is that the ultimate cause of warfare lies in the very condition of the international system, which Waltz and others have identified as one of international anarchy. That is, states exist in an environment where each is substantially dependant on its own efforts for its security. For Thomas Hobbes, individuals in a state of nature fear for their own safety and are driven to attack others for fear that others may injure them. As Hobbes describes their predicament, “during the time that men live without a common power,” they are in a condition of war. Finding life in this condition “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short,” men turn to civil society, or the state, for the security on a collective basis that they lack individually
However, Milosevics own self interest and greed for power has made cooperation impossible even though he has been called upon by the international community for a dialogue and has several peace offers made to him. Therefore, I feel that in the case of the Kosovo War, it is the individual who is responsible, rather than the entire international system.
NATOs war in Yugoslavia reveals many aspects of a new era of history. It has created a new geopolitical setting where national sovereignty has become conditional: other nations can intervene in the internal conflicts of a state if its ruling elite allegedly violates certain moral norms. On the political level, sovereignty is preconditioned by a certain set of behavioral attributes. For example, intervention by industrialized nations in Somalia, Bosnia and now in Yugoslavia, shows that if a nation or ruling group indulges in genocide, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity, it can be deprived of its sovereignty and the international community can enter that country without being authorized or invited by the indigenous ruling elite. In the case of Yugoslavia, an alliance of 19 countries, NATO, has created a new precedent by intervening in the matters of another nation without the collective will or authorization of the international community through the UN.
The virtual connivance of European powers in genocide and rape in the continents backyard is a sorry tale of double standards, and credit must be given to President Clinton for using US power and influence to hammer out the Dayton Accords that brought the nightmare in Bosnia-Herzegovina to an end in 1996. But what can be said about the current situation? NATOs Secretary general Javier Solana wants to see Milosevic indicted: “We think that at a political level President Milosevic clearly bears responsibility for whats going on in Kosovo,” State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington last week.
Yugoslavia was once a vibrant, multicultural society with one of the highest living standards and the greatest degrees of openness in the Soviet bloc, a country of extraordinary natural and historical beauty. Today it is a bombed out, fanatic-ridden shell. The real problem that should receive urgent attention is that massive human rights violations be stopped and the refugees extended every assistance to enable them to return to their homes, most of which will have to be rebuilt. Apart from a political solution that respects the rights of the Kosovars, those guilty of massacres and ethnic cleansing must be brought to book through war crimes trials.