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Kosovo: War and Revenge

Average Rating 2.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2001

    The Jejune West

    Tim Judah is no scholar. This is not a work of great erudition. But, as an eyewitness account, it ranks close to Rebecca West's classic. It is a heart rending and compelling foray into the real 'Apocalypse Now' that the Balkan has become once more. Whenever the Big Powers set out to pacify this region they succeeded only in perpetuating the carnage. The result? Never before has the Balkan been more of a powder keg, ready to detonate thunderously. Never before has it been so fractured among political entities, some viable - many not. Never before has it been dominated by a single superpower, not counter-balanced by its allies nor shackled by its foes. This is a disastrous state of things, about to get worse. Driven by America - this amalgam of violent frontiersmen, semi-literate go getters and malignant optimists ('with some goodwill there is always a solution and a happy ending') - the West has committed the sins of ignorant intervention and colonial perpetuation. Peace among nations is the result of attrition and exhaustion, of mutual terror and actual bloodletting - not of amicable agreement and visionary stratagems. It took two world wars to make peace between France and Germany. By forcing an unwanted peace upon an unwilling populace in the early stages of every skirmish - the West has ascertained the perpetuation of these conflicts. Witness Bosnia and its vociferous nationalist Croats. Witness Macedonia's and Kosovo's Albanians and their chimerical armies of liberation. These are all cinders of hostilities artificially suppressed by Western procurators and Western cluster bombs. The West should have dangled the carrots of NATO and EU memberships in front of the bloodied pugilists - not ram them down their reluctant throats in shows of air superiority. Humanitarian aid should have been provided and grants and credits for development to the deserving. But the succour afforded by the likes of Germany to the likes of Croatia and by the benighted Americans to the most extreme elements in Kosovo - served only to amplify and prolong the suffering and the warfare. The West obstinately refused - and still does - to contemplate the only feasible solution to the spectrum of Balkan questions. Instead of convening a new Berlin Congress and redrawing the borders of the host of entities, quasi-entities and fraction entities that emerged with the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation - the West foolishly and blindly adheres to unsustainable borders which reflect colonial decision making and ceasefire lines. In the absence of a colonizing power, only ethnically-homogeneous states can survive peacefully in the Balkan. The West should strive to effect ethnic homogenization throughout the region by altering borders, encouraging population swaps and transfers and discouraging ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation ('ethnic denial'). Sam Vaknin, author of 'After the Rain - How the West Lost the East'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2000

    Fears, Revenge and Desire

    Kosovo: War and Revenge is a superb narrative that places the Rambouillet talks in the larger context of the on-going fears of Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo. The striking account of the talks is the book's centerpiece in which Judah succeeds in describing to the reader what made the parties at the different tables tick. Judah brings the issues at stake and the personalities involved at Rambouillet home to a general audience. In terms of the need to internationalize Kosovo, to keep its plight on the agenda of the international community and in the minds of citizens in democracies who wonder why the NATO allies bombed Serbia, this is an important book. The Rambouillet chapter relies on the meticulous scholarship of Marc Weller, a member of the team of advisers for the Kosovar Albanians present at the talks. Judah draws out the differences within the Albanian delegation as a whole, including representatives of the KLA, which complicated discussions. He also highlights the errors in judgement that were made on all sides which led to a longer conflict in the spring of 1999 than most anticipated. In the conflict Judah captures the spirit of revenge on the part of the Serbs as well as the retaliation of the Kosovar Albanians once the bombing stopped. Milosevic's miscalculations are important to understand particularly his belief that it was possible to 'export the war to Bosnia'. A critical error was Serbian reliance on potential Russian assistance. In fact, as the book's ninth chapter demonstrates, it was a combination of personalities, Chernomyrdin, Ahtisaari and Talbott, that facilitated the compromise Milosevic would eventually accept. It was imperative to devise a way to engage the Russians constructively in the crafting of the terms to end the bombing campaign. Judah is less concerned with how we analyze the causes of ethnic conflict in Kosovo. In our consideration of various explanations, including James Kurth's analysis of 'historical legacies and 'primordial hatreds': the cultural prism; the dynamics of modernization and 'the invention of tradition': the socioeconomic prism; and political entrepreneurs and 'failed states': the political prism', Judah leaves us to ponder the revenge factor. Aleksa Djilas' thoughts in the book's closing lines are, in this sense, revealing: '...the Serbs are not exactly a 'forgive and forget' nation. If they have remembered the 1389 defeat for 610 years, why not this one?' In light of the challenges the UN Mission faces on the ground in Kosovo, this book contributes in hindsight to our understanding of why it is difficult to keep the Balkans peace. The limits outsiders may encounter in the use of diplomatic leverage and military power there, in Fromkin's words, ' the frontier...where Europe meets the Middle East, and where tomorrow is blocked by yesterday...' are a reminder of our present and collective reality.

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