The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


It’s interesting that the presidential candidates rarely, if ever mention Kosovo. They should, because it represents a harbinger of things to come.

Thinking back to 1999, President Bill Clinton, in conjunction with NATO, bombed Yugoslav security forces in an effort to suppress “ethnic cleansing” of Islamic fighters seeking secession from the former Yugoslavia.

The Kosovo War lasted only a few months and with hindsight accomplished relatively little. To Clinton’s credit, it did put a stop to the wholesale slaughter of Islamic people in Kosovo, but it did little to establish a true resolution to the inherent ethic strife in the region. It’s interesting to note, in passing, that few Democrats in Congress criticized Bill Clinton for waging the war and few today suggest that we should pull out of the region (yes, US troops are still there). I wonder where Hillary and Barack stand on this issue.

At the time (in 1999) I felt that this was a European matter, that the US had no direct national interest in this conflict, and that the EU had both the responsibility and the interest to intervene without US help. But as we do so often, the EU asked for help and we provided it.

Today, we ask for help in Afghanistan and the EU provides troops and equipment grudgingly, if at all. It seems that putting our military in harms way in Kosovo is perfectly acceptable for the EU, but when asked for reciprocity in Afghanistan, well, that’s another matter.

But back to Kosovo. David Warren suggests that our support of the newly declared independent Islamic state of Kosovo is a mistake:

President Bush, who was prompted to recognize the self-declared Kosovar state (together with most European powers), feels obliged to accept the fait accompli he inherited from the preceding administration. He, or his successor, will then try to resist the next stage of demands, for a Greater Albania in which Kosovo attempts to merge with Albania, and the Muslim majorities in adjoining districts of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Greece begin insurrections to join them. By recognizing Kosovo, Bush et al. have validated exactly that: a deadly new round of Balkan troubles, ripe for Islamicization.

We cannot afford to validate the principle of armed insurrection, whether in Kosovo or Chechnya or Palestine or Kashmir or northern Sri Lanka or southern Thailand or the southern Philippines or in any of the many other places where terrorism demands to be rewarded with an independent state. And, within Europe, a couple of thousand EU policemen (about to be installed without United Nations cover, and in defiance of agreements with Serbia) cannot guarantee order in a territory that is already a European refuge for radical Islamist cells, and threatens to become Europe's terrorist safe house.

There is a deeper history here, for the understanding of which we would have to review the rest of the legacy of Ottoman imperialism in the Balkans. But that is, alas, something the Serbs understand a lot better than we do.

Stated bluntly, in the former Yugoslavia there are bad guys and thugs on both sides. There were victims, no doubt, and there was the ugly slaughter of innocents, but recognition of Kosovo sets a precedent that may come back to haunt the EU and the US. The new President will have to deal with all of the unintended consequences. Rather than doing fawning interviews of Hillary and Barack, it might be a good idea to ask them a few probing questions about the Balkans.

Nah … better to focus about super-delegates, plagiarism, and gossip.