Last Updated:Sunday - 09/12/2010
April 19, 1999
Kosovo's spiral of violence
Canada and the rest of NATO are playing with fire, first, in their decision to fight a war against Serbia and, secondly, to continue escalating that conflict until they decide to declare a victory. When will the escalation stop? This is a question to which no one has an answer.
The issue in Kosovo has never been a simple choice between bombing oil depots and passenger trains, on one hand, and doing nothing, on the other. The fact that NATO's decision to start a war is a violation of international law is not a mere technicality. It is a symptom of the weakness of the United
Nations, a failure to believe in the possibility of peace and hyper-aggressive attitudes on the part of leading NATO nations.
Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic may not be a nice guy. But then U.S. President Bill Clinton has given ample evidence in various contexts of his own moral recklessness. The deeper question is whether Serbia's murdering of Albanian people is justification for an ill-conceived invasion which most assuredly will not bring lasting peace, but which may well have totally unforeseen consequences.
It was in the Balkans that the First World War began. It began when Russia could not countenance a Western European invasion of Serbia. Russia today is much less inclined to fight. But Boris Yeltsin's hold on power is weak and still further NATO escalation of the conflict may give more influence to Russia's not-insignificant ultra-nationalist forces.
Today there is a movement of Christians who want to apologize for the Crusades. The Crusades! These wars, fought nearly 1,000 years ago, remain a source of resentment in parts of the Muslim world. How long the NATO invasion of the former Yugoslavia will continue to spur antipathy to the West is something about which we can only speculate. But it will certainly build higher the wall which separates East from West.
And then there is the human cost today. Despite NATO's denials, it is clear that its first air attacks enabled Milosevic to rapidly escalate the ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo. The result has been widely described as Europe's greatest humanitarian disaster since the Second World War. The bulk of the responsibility for these atrocities remain with Milosevic and Serbia. But NATO must also share some of the blame for helping to cause the very disaster its invasion was supposed to prevent.
There is also the so-called collateral damage - innocent civilians killed, displaced or made to suffer undue hardships for something they had little or no part in creating. To some extent, this is an inevitable part of war. But such inevitability is not a justification for barbaric acts; it is a strong reason for not entering war in the first place.
The way to peace is almost never through war. Peace is created by negotiations, reconciliation and, yes, sometimes by tough actions taken by legitimate international bodies.
But peace rarely wins public applause until after a war has created untold suffering. Peace does not provide high drama on the late night news. It is created slowly and patiently away from TV cameras. It is created by respecting human rights in small actions which rarely make the front pages.
War creates only more war. It kills people today and its echoes last for centuries. The leaders of NATO and Serbia must heed the voices of reason which are calling them to stop the slaughter, respect the law and human rights, and seek a lasting settlement at the peace table.
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