The inevitable denouement of the Kosovo War has come to pass: Kosovo, a majority-Muslim province of Serbia, has declared independence. In the nearly ten years since the NATO war against Serbia, the raison d’etre of that war has faded away. It’s become clear that self-serving claims of Serbian genocide against Albanians were false. Milosovic is out of power. Far from being victims of injustice, Kosovars have shown themselves to be as rough-and-tumble as any Balkan people and have driven out the remaining Serbs in a campaign of harassment and ethnic cleansing.
Pathetically, all of this has been done under the noses of a large contingent of NATO occupation troops. This episode threatens a real confrontation with Russia, whom the US has repeatedly insulted over the last decade on a variety of issues. Russia promised it would initiate “secret plans” if Kosovo declared independence. Our own elections suddenly got more interesting. What would a future president Obama do if Russian and Serb forces retake Kosovo? We know, of course, a President McCain would go to the mat for the high principle of “stability.”
This event should reveal an important fact. America under Presidents Clinton and Bush have adopted a value-and-culture-neutral embrace of democracy as a guiding principle in foreign policy. Retaining a certain older sense of realpolitik, they also both tried to discourage newly minted democratic states from acting rashly or against our own nation’s interests. This push-back represents what you might call an unprincipled exception to the general endorsement of democracy. But, since the very democratic principle is a procedure and not a substantive outcome, critics have no real leg to stand on when democratic nations do crazy things, such as electing Hamas in Palestine, endorsing Sharia in Iraq, or, in the case of Kosovo, making our lives more difficult by declaring independence. In other words, you can’t control democratic client states, and you look foolish when you do so.
The U.S. would lose all credibility if it recognized Kosovo’s sovereignty. At the end of the 1999 War, the KLA and the former Yugoslavian State endorsed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 as the Kumanavo Treaty. It says, explicitly, that the KLA was obliged to disarm (which it has not), and that the member states, “Reaffirm the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the other States of the region . . . ” Kosovo’s declaration of independence represents an open violation of this term of the treaty.
The Kosovo War was one of the most shameful and short-sighted interventions in our nation’s history. The war was conducted on the basis of false intelligence and a complete lack of any U.S. interest in the subject other than the “blank check” principle of stability. It was all cost and no gain. Contrary to utopian promises, it did not create goodwill among Muslims outside of Albania and Kosovo. Instead, it insulted Russia and made them focus, once again, upon their traditional client state of Serbia. Americans harmed the nation of Serbia, a Christian nation that has stood with the Western World in both world wars in support stretching back to the Turkish invasions of 1389. NATO and American forces killed numerous Serbian civilians in an air campaign that had little regard for the principles of just war. Specifically, President Clinton, hamstrung by an inordinate fear of American casualties, ordered high altitude bombings of urban areas that did not allow pilots to distinguish combatants from noncombatants.
Now Americanss may face a major confrontation with Russia because our foreign policy in the Balkans is on auto-pilot. We have only 7,000 troops in Kosovo. We will have little leverage if Russia sends 50,000 troops by train into Belgrade. We’ve put ourselves in an impossible situation, and now we may find our soldiers shedding blood to defend the unlawful and unjust Kosovar Declaration of Independence.