Was an Intervention Needed? If you asked somebody about Kosova three years ago, they would hardly even know where it is. They would maybe respond with an attitude that Kosova should be somewhere in Asia or Africa. Today, however, people in all continents have at least some information about the conflict. The year 1999 brought Kosova conflict to the television screens all over the world. Daily images of fleeing refugees or the ones of the NATO air raids could be heartbreaking for everyone who had prejudices about the sides of the conflict, or for a person living far away from the region and knowing nothing about it.To correctly approach the causes and effects of NATO intervention, it is necessary to place the plot some ten years earlier in 1989, when the change in the constitution of Kosova occurred.
Set in 1974 the constitution ensured Kosova an autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Therefore, the change of this constitution in 1989 whereas Kosova was denied its autonomy brought about the first signs of disagreeable institutions based on national identity. Over the next ten coming years, Kosova is about to accumulate in itself the demands and dissatisfaction of both Albanians, who firmly advocated separation from the Serbia’s full administration, and Serbs, who constantly promoted the necessity of remaining under the govern of the Republic of Serbia. The long disputed conflict in this region between ethnic Albanians and Serbs living in Kosova reached a big eruption of violence in 1998. In spring of 1999, the nine most powerful countries of the world started peace negotiations in Rambuillet, France, between both sides of the conflict. Rambuillet gathered together the Albanian delegation made of moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova and the representatives of the KLA (Kosova Liberation Army) that was fighting for the independence, and the Serbian delegation made of Yugoslav selected officials of the government.
It is inevitable fact that neither of the delegations involved in the conflict was satisfied with the peace terms set by the Rambuillet mediators, since they did not comply with all demands made by both delegation. However, the closing stages of the Rambuillet negotiations brought about the acceptance of the given peace terms by the Albanian delegation and refusal of the same peace terms by the Serbian delegation. The refusal furthermore led to the utilization of the bombings, which were purposely used as a pressure on the Serbian side, until they accepted the agreement.
Apart from the two different sides in the conflict, NATO intervention itself caused the separation of the pro and contra promoters and an open political debate. There were two major sides advocating and opposing the military intervention. One was the survival of media in the country of Yugoslavia that is described by Peter Goff in his book Kosovo News and Propaganda as “…one of the worst pseudo-democratic countries in the world to work in as a free-minded journalist” (29).
This statement includes the fact that TV channels always informed from the perspective of the Government of Serbia and thus denied people’s freedom of speech. The Yugoslav media accused NATO for violating the country’s sovereignty and called it a criminal organization. The other major side was the alliance of the NATO countries led by the U.
S. media, a media that justified NATO’s attack by referring to it as a purely “humanitarian intervention.” However, as Bruce Franklin presents the success of the American media to justify its deeds by stating that: “In this magnificent triumph of techno war, America’s images of its wars had seemingly reached perfection.” (449). American media, according to Bruce Franklin is facing a constant advance towards betterment in providing war information. Franklin’s example of the military intervention in the Gulf War against Iraq in August 1990 and the use of technology of warfare in it can be applied also in the latest case of intervention in Kosova, where NATO applied American technology in informing.
There are many articles and books opposing and justifying NATO military intervention, but I have compared two articles from the opposing sides that have a different argument about this matter. The former NATO Secretary General Dr. Javier Solana wrote one of the articles, which appeared on NATO’s online library called Why the Allies Stand Firm in the Defense of Values. The other article, Some Ethical Aspects of NATO’s Intervention In Kosovo is written by Jan Oberg, the director of the TFF (Transitional Foundation for Peace and Future Research) as well as the head of its Conflict-Mitigation team to ex-Yugoslavia and Georgia and the article is posted on the official web site of Yugoslav Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Solana starts his article, published on 16th of April 1999, by presenting how the events in Kosovo changed NATO’s focus and made it “decide whether the notion of common values is only rhetorical flourish or whether it carries real meaning” (1). He names three major reasons why NATO had to go ahead with the strikes, starting with “First and foremost, we acted to stop the humanitarian tragedy”(1).
Solana presents the possibility that if “NATO decided to just look the other way”(1), that would mean tolerating “the barbaric ethnic cleansing” in the middle of Europe. Giving Bosnia as an example of NATO’s late intervention, he states, “We would not repeat that mistake”(1). Secondly, Solana argues, “all other means – political and economic have been exhausted before reverted to military action”(1). He continues to explain that in peace negotiations in Rambouillet (France), Slobodan Milosevic proved that he was not interested in political solution, and instead “tried to create a new ethnic reality on the ground”(2). The third reason for the intervention was that “if Belgrade’s policy of deliberate displacement of the Kosovo-Albanians were not energetically opposed, even more instability and blood shed would have been the result”(2).
The article ends with a message to the Yugoslav people that NATO is at war with the Yugoslav government not with their people, and expresses the concern for “peace and long-term stability”(3). Oberg wrote his article on July 15, 1999, after the KFOR troupes had entered Kosova. First of all Oberg suggests that Western countries have not shown their concern to resolve the conflict, stating that “when it comes to risking Western lives for them, they crumble.” He contradicts Solana’s declaration that NATO was being in war with Yugoslav government and not its people, by giving statistics that display a bigger damage caused on the civilian than on military targets.
In another point of disagreement with the intervention, Oberg presents the fact that NATO did not intervene in other parts of the world with “much more serious human rights violations”(2). Oberg’s article strongly focuses on the NATO support to KLA by arming them, while not giving any political support to moderate Albanian leader Rugova. He also writes about the US media contradicting itself with regard to KLA:The West supports ‘terrorists’. The US and the West have no qualms by being allied with what the US envoy, Robert Gelbard, in early 1998 called a terrorist organization, namely the KLA or UCK (Oberg 3). Oberg implies that NATO spent a lot of money on the military intervention and now when it comes to “much cheaper early violence-preventive diplomacy, peaceful humanitarian intervention and postwar civilian peacekeeping consistently lack resources”(2). But on the other hand, Solana declared that the Allied diplomacy gave Yugoslav government the final chance for a political solution in Rambouillet peace talks.
Following NATO air strikes, a flood of Kosovar Albanian refugees began to pour into neighboring countries, Albania and Macedonia. According to Solana’s article, NATO expressed its concern for the refugees by supporting UN High Commissioner for Refugees “by providing and transporting food and supplies”(3). He continues, “The Alliance is also providing medical support and is helping to set up refugee centers in the neighboring countries”(3). Oberg gives a different view to NATO’s humanitarian support by stating that “Humanitarian concern is hardly credible” (2).“NATO’s action released a humanitarian catastrophe. The international ‘community’ let Macedonia and Albania carry 98% of the burden, and relieved itself of the frightening perspective of having the refugees flood EU Europe.
The US – generously – suggested that it would take 20.000 and store them on its military base…in Cuba!” (Oberg 2)However, Solana was hoping that President Milosevic would quickly accept the demands of the international community that included “the return of all refugees;”(2) Solana admits the consequences and the risk that could occur by the start of the bombing campaign in Yugoslavia stating:The humanitarian tragedy was not likely to be stopped within a few days. The military risks to our soldiers would be significant. Civilian casualties might occur.
Our important relationship with Russia was likely to suffer. And last but not least, NATO would be charged by some with taking international law into its own hands.(1)At the near end of the article Oberg introduces the idea of “Telling the truth”(4), by a fair argument commenting on both sides of the conflict:It is often said that the West cannot rely on Milosevic/the Serbs/ Belgrade regime. True- but remember! The West supports democracy but openly and tactically supported authoritarian regimes in Zagreb, Sarajevo and Albania (including the KLA leadership)(4).From the presentation of both articles which justify and accuse NATO for its intervention in Kosova, it is obvious the fact that such a political debate will continue to be argued about.
The topic will remain controversial whenever a new conflict emerges and whenever NATO intervention is about to occur. Even though there is a time difference between the articles; Solana’s article was published during the air strikes, while Oberg’s article was published right after the end of the bombing, they both address the problem from the broader perspective. Therefore, the arguments from these two articles will also be valid to be contrasted now, tomorrow, or in the long-term future. Political Issues