March 11, 2007

The Quagmire Continues

After eight years of dawdling and paper shuffling, the UN finally resolved to do something about Kosovo's status. It elected to keep dawdling and shuffling paper:

A year of contentious talks on the future status of Kosovo ended Saturday in a bitter deadlock over a U.N. plan that would set the disputed Serbian province on the road to independence.

Serbia's nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, warned of "the most dangerous precedent in the history of the U.N." if the Security Council -- which will have the final say -- approves the plan.

Kostunica said the blueprint, which would grant Kosovo supervised statehood and elements of independence including its own army, flag, anthem and constitution, could encourage other independence-minded regions around the world to break away. Serbian President Boris Tadic said he found the idea of parting with the province "unbearable."

Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when NATO airstrikes on Belgrade ended a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists in the southern province. The U.N. plan is an attempt to resolve the final major dispute remaining after Yugoslavia's bloody 1990s breakup.

In 1999, the UN bombed Belgrade because the ethnic Albanians tried to break Kosovo away from Serbia, and the Serbians used force to stop them. Given the Serbs' predilection for ethnic warfare at the time, the UN reacted quickly to prevent another ethnic cleansing and to freeze the status quo. Ever since, the situation has remained in diplomatic amber, and the UN remains stuck in the middle of it.

Eight years has changed nothing. The ethnic Albanians still want their own nation in Kosovo, and the Serbians refuse to part with it. Another eight years will probably produce the same result. Neither side will give an inch on the main issue, which is independence for Kosovo. Both sides remain absolutely committed to the outcome they desire and will not negotiate away their demands.

Imagine if the UN existed in 1860, and blue-helmeted soldiers occupied the Mason-Dixon line after the shots were fired at Fort Sumter, or perhaps after First Manassas. Would either the South or the North conceded on their demands? How long would it have been before either Lincoln allowed the South to secede, or for Jefferson Davis to concede sovereignty back to Washington DC? And that conflict was neither ethnic nor religious in nature, and the history of our nation only went back four score and four years, at that point -- not centuries filled with conflict between the two sides, as in Kosovo and the Balkans in general.

The UN may or may not have stopped a genocide; it's safe to assume they did, given the Serbian leadership at the time. However, they have done nothing to resolve the underlying conflict that started the war, and given the diametrically opposed sides in the conflict, they don't have that capability at all. The UN went in without a plan, and now their only strategy appears to be to bore everyone with an extended deployment of peacekeepers, whose ability to keep the peace has been shown to be somewhat limited in any case.

If that really is their strategy, the UN will have to deploy there for generations or centuries, as the 40-year reign of Joseph Tito didn't solve the underlying crisis, either -- and his troops were much more effective in keeping the peace than the blue helmets in Kosovo today.


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» Kosovo and Iraq; Equal Opportunity vs. Equal Outcome from Bitsblog
Captain Ed this morning brings up Kosovo. He suggests that for the last eight years the United Nations is been doing nothing but shuffling paper and wasting time. He quotes a WaPo article: A year of contentious talks on the future status of Kosovo en... [Read More]