Kosovars Gained Autonomy with Fewer Losses than Expected (RE: Latest on Kosovo death toll

Seth Ackerman SAckerman at FAIR.org
Thu Nov 11 15:39:36 PST 1999

Nathan wrote:

> My express support for the war was that intervention would prevent further
> mass murder. So if apparently the Kosovar deaths were not as bad as
> feared
> and the Kosovars gained the autonomy that was the goal of intervention,
> why
> is this position a "slinking evasion."
> There were critics of the war who argued that the bombing would itself
> lead
> to genocide and therefore supporting intervention was counterproductive.
> I
> hoped those opponents of the war were wrong and am glad they were wrong.
> The deaths involved are bad enough, but the Kosovars are no longer
> refugees
> and they now have some degree of autonomy in their home.
> You can (and no doubt will) argue that the same result could have been
> gained by negotiation; I don't buy the evidence presented for that point.
> Or you can argue that Serbia deserved under international law to continue
> its dictatorial control over Kosovo. I disagree with that politically.
> Or
> you can just argue (as you did) that empirically, there would have been
> fewer Kosovar deaths without intervention. That's an unproveable point
> one
> way or the other.
> But what you can't argue is that low death rates among Kosovars undermines
> the argument originally made for intervention. Since the goal was to
> prevent the deaths of Kosovars, the absence of genocide does not undermine
> claims for the success of a policy whose goal was (at least partially) to
> prevent genocide.
> -- Nathan

I'm glad that empirical evidence has been introduced into this discussion. So what is the evidence? It's clear that Kosovo suffered terrible, apartheid-like repression in the years 1989-1997. Not much widespread violence. Few people murdered. But terrible repression that outsiders had a responsibility to help stop.

In 1998, the situation escalated. A guerrilla war and a counterinsurgency. Villages brutally cleared, some internal refugees, and 2000 dead over the course of the year.

Then NATO intervened. 1.8 million people were forced out of the province. Probably 2,500 civilians murdered over the course of 10 weeks.

It is unquestionable that what took place after the bombing started was MUCH WORSE than what took place before the bombing started. In order to support the bombing, you have to believe that all this would have happened anyway. That is simply untenable.

The consequences of bombing had been widely predicted before the bombing started. The day before it started, a NY Times reporter asked Holbrooke what he would do if the bombing provoked escalated violence against the Kosovars. Holbrooke said "That is our greatest fear by far - by far." But NATO went ahead anyway.

So NATO has to be held responsible for the predictable consequences of its actions.

Nathan thinks that in the end things turned out relatively well for the Kosovars, so the ends justify the means. But ask Veton Surroi, the relatively moderate, but pro-bombing, Kosovo Albanian leader who is now receiving daily death threats from the KLA and may have to leave the province because he wrote an article recently saying killing Serbs is bad.

The bombing did nothing but empower the most vile and thuggish elements of the Kosovo leadership and embitter everyone - Serbs, Albanians, KLA, LDP - against everyone else. That is the usual outcome of military violence. The rate of killing in Kosovo is now at 1998 levels, as the NY Times reported today. This is not the happy version of "autonomy" hoped for in 1998. It's a military dictatorship led by NATO which has virtually linked up with the gangster-section of the KLA. Virtually all the Serbs have been forced out. The infrastructure of Kosovo is ruined. (Not even to mention what's happened in Serbia proper!) Things would never have been this bad without the bombing.

There's no point going over the diplomatic options once again. It's enough to say that, in my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming that a satisfactory solution was possible in February/March -- probably involving NATO troops with a UN commander. I should add that this opinion is undoubtedly shared by the Foreign Ministries of all the European countries that were dragged kicking and screaming into this disastrous war. They have not succumbed to the insipid propaganda that Albright "went the last mile for peace." The wretched outcome of the bombing has convinced most of them that they have to stop taking orders from America and start doing things their own way.


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