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April 22, 2004
Quagmire Alert (Again)

Do you want to talk quagmire? Then you must mean the Balkans, the real six-century quagmire, into which we injected ourselves nine years ago and have yet to bring the situation to a conclusion. In yet another indication that American and other international forces will be tied down for much longer than the government indicated when they were first deployed, the BBC reports today that the foreign minister of Serbia emphatically ruled out the possibility of independence for Kosovo, even though the ethnic Albanian majority eventually expect to rule their own nation:

The new foreign minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Vuk Draskovic, has said an independent Kosovo is "impossible". Any attempt to form such a state would go against the wishes and rights of Serbs living there and would be very dangerous, he told the BBC. Kosovo's majority ethnic Albanian population want independence, but the Serbs are against it. ...

"It would be very dangerous for both Serbs and Albanians, because generations of Serbs would dream after that day how to liberate Kosovo, and Serbs will become European Jews, dreaming about the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

"If we want multicultural, multi-ethnic Kosovo, that is impossible in the case of the proclaiming of the independence of Kosovo," he added.

A month ago Albanians went on a rampage, fueled by rumors of an attack on three children that turned out to be false, and burned down irreplaceable Serb churches that had stood for centuries, killing 19 people, while the UN "peacekeepers" did little to stop any of it. The worst Kosovan violence in 5 years gave notice that the status quo would not be sufficient for keeping the majority ethnic population under control for much longer. Now the Serbian government, formed by Milosevic's opposition, rejects independence and apparently wants to return to minority rule in the province. In the meantime, no one has presented any other solutions for an end to the Kosovo standoff.

People who continually apply Vietnam analogies and words like 'quagmire' to Iraq seem strangely quiet on Kosovo, Bosnia, and the entire effort in the Balkans, probably because the UN runs the Balkans program. However, it perfectly demonstrates the UN's incompetence to handle these situations. Here we all are, five years after the UN-mandated intervention, and no solution is even on the table to resolve the crisis. We're not doing anything but treading water while the ethnic tensions continue to rise due to the stagnation of the process. No one has even postulated the philosophy of a solution, or at least none that has been adopted, other than to stick a bunch of lightly armed troops into an area to hang out and look tough.

Contrast this with Iraq, where the CPA has always intended on forming an interim government to create democratic processes to protect the rights of all ethnicities, and then to hand sovereignty to it while continuing to provide security to the country. If we hand off sovereignty on June 30 as promised, we will have managed to do so (after removing one of the bloodiest tyrants in recent memory) in just 15 months. It won't be perfect, and we'll still have to maintain a significant military presence there for quite a while, but at least we're working towards a coherent solution and consistent policy.

So when people warn about the quagmire we face, tell them that you agree; we should demand a solution to the Balkans or else the UN should transfer its mandate to a Coalition that actually functions properly.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 22, 2004 5:43 AM

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