Just read this interesting piece by William Montgomery, former US Ambassador to Serbia. Montgomery was in and out of Belgrade for over a decade, speaks Serbian, and has done his homework. I agree with pretty much everything he says here. Key grafs:
The Kosovo experience should be a case study for the limits -- and risks --of international intervention. The United States and its Western allies tried virtually everything to encourage Milosevic to treat the Kosovar Albanians humanely... [But it] was an effort doomed to failure, as the combination of Milosevic's desire to remain in power, historical enmity among the ethnic groups, growing national awareness on the part of the Albanian population, and the conflicting views of Kosovo itself of the Serbs and the Kosovar Albanians were too much to overcome... Basically, we solved one problem at great cost (Serbian government massive human rights violations in its treatment of its ethnic Albanian minority) but we created others that thus far have defied solution. What to do about Kosovo? How does it fit into modern Europe? How does it interact with Serbia? How to dissuade the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, southern Serbia, and Macedonia from the use of violence? How to proceed in Kosovo in a way that does not re-radicalize Serbia? How to moderate the still raw forces of nationalism in Serbia and among Serbs, which the bombing campaign fuelled?So far, pretty standard stuff -- some handwringing, some obvious hard questions. Now here's where it gets interesting:
The job has been made much, much more difficult because of the international community's unwillingness or inability to come to terms with what future it expects for Kosovo and to act decisively to bring that about. Most speeches and policy statements emphasize the importance of a multi-ethnic society. Certainly we make considerable efforts to portray Kosovo as moving towards that ideal end. But the reality is that the degree of hatred, fear, and suspicion among the various ethnic groups remains at or near the levels seen immediately after the cessation of bombing in 1999. For most of the past five years, the international community has failed to recognize that fact and even in the face of incidents to the contrary, continued to portray Kosovo as making great strides toward multi-ethnicity. Even after the violence of this March, a depressingly large number of the UNMIK personnel (and influential government and non-government people in key capitals) do not understand the depth of the problem. This isn't simply a question of naivet. There has also been an underlying double standard in Kosovo on the part of the international community, based on the very real persecution of the Kosovar Albanians under Milosevic and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians that took place at and around the initial NATO bombing. The overwhelming feeling of the vast majority of international personnel that flooded into Kosovo in June 1999 was rather black and white with the Serbs as the oppressors and the Kosovar Albanians as the oppressed. What the international community has been fundamentally unable to fully comprehend and accept is that the situation is now turned on its head with the oppressors becoming the oppressed and vice-versa. [emphasis added]...I agree with this. I strongly agree with this. As we saw last March, Kosovo is still producing eruptions of violence. Only this time, they're (mostly) directed against the Serbs. Montgomery keys in on three related problems here. One, the tables have turned in Kosovo. The former victims are now the victimizers. This is a plain fact. Unfortunately, it seems to be very hard for people to adjust their thinking; either the Serbs are Bad and the Albanians are Good, or vice versa. Therefore, second problem, nobody in authority is willing to acknowledge the reality on the ground. -- Actually, I do differ a bit from Montgomery on this point. I do think that some of the UNMIK and NATO authorities have publicly acknowledged the problem. (Some, not all.) But even those who acknowledge them aren't willing to take the steps to deal with them . So, third problem, deep-rooted Polyannaism on the part of UNMIK. Everything's just fine here, they'll learn to live together any day now. This leads to some problems, which Montgomery lays out for us:
[S]ome (perhaps most) of the civilian international personnel in Kosovo even today still have major problems with this concept. And it has led to a lack of sympathy to the very real plight of the Serbian minority even today and a corresponding lack of toughness in response to provocations by the Albanian majority. This has limited the efforts of the international community to effect return of Serb refugees in the face of Albanian intransigence... The International Community has also accepted and funded the Kosovo Protection Corps, which is the successor to the KLA, is led by General Ceku, the head of the former KLA, is staffed by former KLA members who rather routinely are found responsible for acts of violence against the Serb or Macedonian communities, and whose head (Ceku) routinely declares that he is the head of the Kosovo Army. While it should seem rather obvious that the Kosovo Serbs could never be comfortable with such an organization and that it would be a major impediment to chances of a true multi-ethnic society, it still exists.Right. Would you want to live down the street from some heavily armed ex-KLA guys? Me, neither.
So what to do about Kosovo now? On the one hand, if the Kosovo Serbs do not come to feel that their religion, culture, language, and way of life are secure, they will never accept rule by an Albanian majority. They will leave, as they left Sarajevo in 1996. There is no question that this exodus will be fuel for the nationalists in Serbia and will also force even moderate politicians in Belgrade to take radical stances in order to survive politically... On the other hand, Kosovar Albanians will accept nothing less than full independence in current borders. A significant percentage are determined to drive all Serbs from Kosovo, reasoning that as long as any remain, the possibility of Belgrade re-imposing itself over them remains.Right again. In 1999, Milosevic drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians out of their homes and into refugee camps. So pretty much everyone over the age of twelve has bleeding memories of oppression, terror, and flight. Also, the idea of independence seems to have just fascinated the Kosovar Albanians. They don't believe in autonomy -- they don't see how it's going to work, and they don't see why they should settle for it. Meanwhile, the Kosovar Serbs have their own, more recent memories of terror. And the fragile coalition government in Belgrade doesn't dare make any major concessions. Montgomery does at least have an idea:
My solution is pretty simple. Give every city and town in Kosovo the same degree of autonomy and responsibility enjoyed by any single town or city in the United States. I grew up in a town of 10,000 people. We had our own school system, police force, local government, hospital system, and taxing authority. There were clear guidelines for which things were the responsibility of the local government, which belonged to our State governments, and which were the purview of the federal government. If this were done - NOW - and with the full authority and power of the international community to make it stick and be effective -- it would be far, far easier to deal with the broader questions of the future of Kosovo later on. But the trick is to persuade, force, cajole the Kosovar Albanians to accept this, as the radicals among them will be bitterly opposed -- wanting all authority to be centralized under majority Albanian control. It will also be critical to get the Serbs to accept this concept, because while they may well embrace it totally in Kosovo, they have proved to be very reluctant to de-centralize in Serbia proper despite recurring promises to do so.Oh, boy, is that ever true. Belgrade is very reluctant to cede any power to the provinces. I'm not sure why, but the gruesome experience of Yugoslavia might have something to do with it. When Belgrade ceded power to Zagreb and Ljubljana in the 1970s, it greased the skids for the breakup of the country a decade or two later. Decentralization and local autonomy are associated with instability and civil war, I guess. But, geez, most of Kosovo is already out of Belgrade's control. So we're really only talking about a small region here. I don't know if Montgomery's idea would work or not, but it doesn't seem obviously wrong and stupid; and, really, somebody's got to think outside the box here. Finally, this:
If this solution or a similar one is not instituted well in advance of any decision on final status, my prediction is that any "final" solution will not be final at all, but we will just move into the next stage of the Kosovo tragedy.I think any discussion of Kosovo is required to end with a scare. Unfortunately.