NATOS Balkan war not what it was supposed to be

CanWest News Service
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As the last century was drawing to a close, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization actually went to war for the first time in the alliance's 50-year history. For a period of time, bombs rained on parts of the former Yugoslavia. This week, as a result of NATO's war, the province of Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia.
Did NATO achieve its war aim? Well, no - at least, not NATO's ostensible aim: To stop ethnic cleansing and make the world safer for multicultural democracy. If NATO's aim was to have the Albanian Muslim side win a historic ethnic-religious conflict with Serbian Orthodox Christians, it succeeded.
But why was this in NATO's interest?
A little more than eight years ago (how time flies) CNN broadcast the last Memorial Day celebration of the 20th century. It all sounded fine, until America's least martial and most libidinous president mounted the podium. Bill "Make Love, Not War" Clinton used the opportunity to pitch, not his celebrated liaison with Monica Lewinsky, but his and Tony Blair's war in the Balkans. He declared that the allies of NATO were bombing Yugoslavia to put an end to regimes that persecute people on the basis of "how they worship or who their parents were."
The only problem with this, as with so many of Clinton's remarks uttered during his presidency, was that it wasn't true.
Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo were never being oppressed or cleansed because of how they worshipped or who their parents were. Whenever examples of atrocities against ethnic Albanians occurred, they occurred because they've been fighting the Serbs for the mastery of a region.
Persecuting people because of who their parents are accurately describes Hitler deporting Jews to Auschwitz, Stalin sending "kulaks" to the Gulag, or Mao's Red Guards taking intellectuals to re-education camps. It happens to be inaccurate in relation to Kosovo.
The conflict in that unhappy land was always sparked by the resolve of one group, the Albanians, to be masters in what they view as their own house, colliding with the resolve of another group, the Serbians, to be masters in the same house which they also regard as their own.
Eight years ago, Clinton addressed the morality of multiculturalism. So did many other Western politicians. Multiculturalism was "blowin' in the wind." The trouble was, and continues to be, that the whole world can't be modelled after the American melting pot. But even if it could, forcing such a model on another country by cluster bombs would hardly be an expression of a higher morality.
Bombing a country into a multicultural democracy would be a dubious enterprise even if it could be done. It would be dubious even if the people ostensibly conducting such an enterprise really meant it. But the Yugoslav conflict was worse. Whether NATO's leaders realized it or not, saving Kosovo for multiculturalism was never on the agenda.
The hole in NATO's logic was large enough for the proverbial truck. One may prefer a nation in which religion or ethnicity plays no role in the political organization of society beyond the private identities of individual citizens. Fair enough; I prefer such a nation myself. But to first say that countries shouldn't be organized along ethnic lines, and then demand self-government for one group within a nation on the sole basis of ethnicity, is an exercise in self-contradiction.
Yet, this was what NATO had demanded from the Serbs of Yugoslavia for Kosovo's ethnic Albanians at Rambouillet, in the form of autonomy or independence. It was this that was eventually backed up by NATO's campaign in the Kosovo intervention. And autonomy in its highest form - secession - is what Kosovo declared this week.
Sorry, this wasn't rejecting a society organized along ethnic lines. This was endorsing one ethnic group at the expense of another. It was saying that Albanians may use their ethnic majority in Kosovo to assert their political identity, but Serbs in Yugoslavia may not.
So NATO's war aim wasn't even multiculturalism (questionable as such a goal may be, especially if imposed at the point of cruise missiles) but ethnic separatism, the very opposite of the declared ideal of Clinton and Co. This is what Hitler forced on Czechoslovakia at Munich, using the ethnic nationalism of the Sudeten Germans to dismantle a sovereign state.
At least the Nazis were ethnic nationalists. What they did was logical in their terms. What possible logic compelled multicultural democracies to wage a war for Kosovo's secession?

George Jonas writes for the CanWest News Service

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