Options for Kosovo (II) A Case for Partition

April 19, 1999

Comment: #263

Discussion Thread:  #260 and Balkan primers #s 253, 254, 258, 262


[1] Richard N. Haass, 'Modest Objectives, Ambitious Means,' Washington Post (Op-Ed) April 19, 1999, Page A19.

In Reference #1, Richard Haass, Director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, argues, correctly in my opinion [see Comment #252] that NATO is losing the war against Serbia, because the slow attrition strategy of the bombing campaign is not keeping pace with the changing conditions on the ground in Kosovo. He concludes this is due to a mismatch between means (strategy) and ends a modest strategy (low risk air campaign with no ground forces) and ambition ends (end to Serb violence, return of Kosovar refugees to Kosovo, reestablishment of political autonomy for Kosovo; the insertion of protective forces, and withdrawal of all Serbian forces from Kosovo).

He argues that there are two camps of critical opinion the isolationists who would leave, because they do not believe significant U.S. interests are at stake (which he critiques on moral grounds) and the interventionists who believe in realizing all objectives (which he critiques on the grounds that interests do not justify the required expenditure in treasure and blood).

His recommendation is to bridge these camps with a partition strategy that recognizes some Serb interests (control of holy sites, particularly) and sets up a protected Kosovar enclave. While he recognizes that this strategy may appear to reward Milosevic in the short term, he sells it on the hope that this reward would be temporary, because the U.S. would use other foreign policy tools (sanctions , covert action, etc.) to work for the larger goal of Milosevic's ouster, something he says " might lead not only to a democratic Yugoslavia but to the recovery of all of Kosovo by the Kosovars."

In my opinion, there are at least two drawbacks Haass's proposal. First, it is similar to our failed policy to depose Saddam Hussein by punishing innocent people in the country he leads. To date, this strategy has not worked. Moreover, it has hurt the most vulnerable people in Iraq (hundreds of thousands of old people, women and children have died from disease and malnourishment). It has created an environment of misery which is sowing seeds rage, hatred, and perpetual confrontation. Second, this proposal could introduce a new source of instability in perhaps the most violent, fractious region of the world. Setting up an economically-nonviable enclave in Kosovo on the hope that it will be temporary could create inadvertently a semi-permanent permanent Gaza-like hotbed of hopelessness and rage that would be forgotten by the NATO countries, while its instability constantly threatens to spill over into neighboring Albania and Macedonia.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]