Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Back in 1999, after the UN demurred, NATO, under pressure from the United States attacked Serbia on behalf of the Kosovar Albanians. You see, Kosovo is in Serbia, and the Serbs consider it the birthplace of their nation. The Kosovars have lived there for quite a while, but control of the region lay with the Serbs. The Kosovar Albanians decided they wanted more of an identity. "We'll CALL ourselves part of Serbia," they said, "but we will have our own money, our own languages, our own language, and we won't pay national taxes." Surprisingly, Serbia didn't like that. Long story short, we invaded to protect the Albanians, and we (the U.S. and NATO) insisted that an independent Kosovo was not a consideration.

Now, Serbia-Montenegro and Kosovo are in negotiations to determine what the future status of Kosovo should be. Perhaps not surprisingly, things aren't going completely swimmingly. One of the primary issues? Kosovar Albanians want independence. How surprising. Serbia doesn't want to give up control of part of their country. The "Contact group" of nations overseeing the discussions, which include US, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Russia, insist that any agreement must be acceptable to the Albanians in Kosovo.

What if the shoe was on the other foot? What if it was the US who was trying to keep a minority from declaring independence from our country's birthplace, Massachussetts, or Virginia, for example? Say, a Native American tribe who was subjugated or forced from their lands under threat of force or inequitable bargaining position... Have we established a precedent where we would allow that to happen? Or is this an example of international hypocrisy?

The problem started by allowing Kosovo to have too much lattitude in its provincial affairs, creating a quasi-independent state in a region that has had millenia of turmoil.

I don't know what the solution is, but I think some preventative maintenance back in 1999 might have been a good start.


English Professor said...

Don't get me started on world meddling in the former Yugo. You'd think Western memory didn't extend any farther back than 15 years ago.

Cassie said...

You lost me after the title but I thought I'd be social and leave a comment. Here it is. Maybe you should try and talk about stuff that I'm interested in, like archaeology or sociology. It would serve to keep my attention better and since we all know that this is your intent with your blog, it just makes sense.
ta ta

Jeff said...

I enjoyed your post but I think you're drastically over-simplified the situaton in Kosovo. The Kosovar Albanians didn't just decide that they'd "call oursevles part of Serbia." In fact, in the eighties they were completely dienfranchised from the society. They were removed from their jobs en-mass, their schools were closed and they were denied access to basic services.

What happened in Kosovo was the next logical step in the disolution of Yugoslavia after years of brutal fighting in Bosnia.

It's true that the Serbian people see Kosovo as the cradle of their civilization. The event that defines their national mythology happened here in 1389.

Unfortunately demographics change and it is precisely these historical difficulties that make the situation here so complex.

I'm not sure what will happen in the current final status talks. But they demonstrate that there is a story that deserves to be told without that is complicated and difficult.

Steve said...

The situation in the Balkans is far too complex to try to summarize in any one post, I think. Even a situation as limited as Kosovo is going to have hundreds of truths and thousands of opinions, let alone the entire region.
I most certainly agree with you that the situation is quite complex. Thousands of years of animosity can't be undone by international efforts to force people to get along.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post, and I do hope that you come back often.