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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .

Kosovo: Myths, Conflict and War
Kyril Drezov, Bulent Gokay & Denisa Kostovicova eds.

(Keele: Keele European Research Centre, 1999)
109pp. Pb.: ISBN 1-899-488-219

Kosovo: myths, conflict and war is the first collection of essays to appear in English, which examines the Kosovo crisis. This collection is based on five seminars that took place in Keele and Cambridge from late 1998 to spring of 1999. Leading experts in this field together with academics from Keele University provide an in-depth analysis on the escalation of Kosovo conflict to war and the implications of the NATO bombing campaign that began in March 1999.

The book is divided into two sections. The first section provides essential historical background information on Kosovo. There are six papers presented in this section and they discuss the following topics; the origins of the conflict, the Albanian schooling in Kosovo during the 1990's, the origin and rapid success of the KLA as a guerrilla organisation and the similarities between Bosnia after the 1988 elections and the situation in Kosovo after 1989 to the present. I found these essays very useful in understanding the background to the conflict, and I think the papers are presented in a way that makes them easy to read and engage with, especially for a reader with no background knowledge on the history of Kosovo and the Balkans region. The essays are written very clearly and are easily accessible to people who want to learn about Kosovo and why the conflict developed into full-scale war.

The second part of the book I feel provides the liveliest and most interesting debates. These papers concentrate on the implications and consequences of the decision by NATO to begin a bombing campaign. Diverse opinions on the bombing campaign are presented in this section. Some argue NATO was wrong to bomb Kosovo while others believe intervention was the only solution to the problem. Those who criticise the decision by NATO to begin military intervention argue that it was this intervention itself which caused the ethnic cleansing on the scale we all witnessed and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Albanians. Far from preventing a humanitarian catastrophe, the NATO intervention created an even greater humanitarian crisis. These critics suggest avenues other than the military one should have been given more of a chance. Drezov and Gokay believe Kosovars have already "paid a heavy price for calling on NATO to bomb Yugoslavia: in one week they lost their 'parallel state' with all its institutions - presidency, administration, parties, education system?"(p.44). If one of the NATO goals was to weaken Milosevic, the worst possible means for achieving it was to unite the Serb people behind him in outrage by the bombings. Other critics argue the NATO strategy posed a threat not only for the stability and future of Kosovo but also the stability of the entire Balkan region and beyond, with the greatest threat being to the Republic of Macedonia. The massive influx of refugees to Macedonia due to NATO action could cause ethnic tensions in the region to run very high again. A final point to be noted has been the tension created in Russia by NATO's action. As no sanctions for NATO's actions were sought from the UN, because none would have been forthcoming, Russia does feel humiliated by NATO's lack of regard for its point of view. "NATO's marginalisation of the UN is an act of defiance?"(p58)

The papers presented which supported intervention clearly take the view that all other avenues had been tried unsuccessfully and the political climate in Kosovo at the beginning of this year showed that the chances of a negotiated settlement being reached were non-existent. No credible alternative was available. As Christopher Brewin pointed out, diplomacy had failed and Russia was prepared to use their veto in the UN. Embargoes on Serbia would have been an acceptance of continued Serb military attacks on the unarmed Albanian population. Matthew Wyman cites that evidence gathered after the bombing shows the extent to which "removals of populations were a deliberate, timetabled policy" (p69). He asked who was responsible for the killings of innocent civilians, the rape camps, the burning and looting of Albanian homes and the expulsion of most of the Albanian population? - the Serbs had be held responsible for their actions. The bombing of Yugoslavia some believe will hopefully force the Serb nation to address some traumatic but crucial questions, such as, the importance of land over people, the superiority of Serbs to Muslim Albanians and how Serbs want to relate to the outside world. The argument that the West was hypocritical in intervening in Yugoslavia but not in other conflicts such as East Timor was also challenged by a number of authors. Surely because you don't intervene in one conflict does not mean that you never intervene. "Because you do nothing in one situation, must you do nothing always?." (p70) The bombing of Yugoslavia has meant the international community has focused on the region and therefore some of the economic and security problems will hopefully be addressed.

Whatever the outcome of NATO intervention, Serbia will pay a high price for the violence and expulsion of Kosovar Albanians. The full implications are not clear yet, but according to Wyman was is clear is that "international relations as well as the domestic politics of several states will be profoundly altered as consequence" (p71)

Marie-Therese Fay

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