Skip to comments.Lessons of Kosovo on the high costs of intervention
Posted on 10/14/2005 12:02:06 AM PDT by Jane_N
Kosovo is often held up as a test case for the concept of humanitarian intervention. But as Iraq spirals into chaos, diplomats and leaders everywhere are again asking themselves if it is ever appropriate for alliances of nations or the international community as a whole to intervene when a sovereign country appears unable or unwilling to defend its citizens from genocide, war crimes, or ethnic cleansing.
At the centre of this debate is the so-called doctrine of the responsibility to protect. As the United Nations-appointed ombudsperson in Kosovo for the past five years, I have had the unique opportunity to observe the after-effects of that doctrine following Natos intervention in the former Yugoslavia in 1999. Kosovo has subsequently become an international experiment in society building, led by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.
Experiment is the right word here. Indeed, Kosovo has become a Petri dish for international intervention. Having lived and worked long enough in Kosovo to see the outcome so far, I contend that such experiments require more research.
Clearly, the need for international intervention in crises is often time-specific and a fairly swift response is frequently required. However, apart from military factors, where such intervention is being considered, it is of vital importance to focus international policy discussion on the rapid deployment of a linked civilian and security presence. This is especially true where suffering is caused by communal conflict, as was the case in Kosovo.
An immediate deployment of an adequate civilian and security presence during the months immediately after the end of the 1999 Nato bombing campaign might well have provided suitable protective mechanisms against the backlash that allowed victims to become victimisers. Nato peacekeeping troops were not directed to stop the abductions, disappearances, retaliation killings, and massive property destruction by groups of ethnic Albanians, which led to a vast reverse ethnic cleansing of the non-Albanian (mainly Serb) population.
As a result of this neglect, a noxious social and political residue pervades todays Kosovo. Instead of cooling communal conflict, interethnic hatred remains as heated as ever.
In addition to the lack of an adequate civilian and security presence to reassure every community of its safety, the overall lack of legal mechanisms to deliver swift justice for crimes committed during and after the intervention created additional tension. So pervasive is this tension, in fact, that any chance of even beginning the much-needed reconciliation process must now be pushed far into the future.
Similarly, in Kosovo the international community has devoted little time to helping former combatants contemplate their collective responsibility for atrocities, no matter how direct or indirect their personal involvement. Without such an effort, attempting to improve the situation is like building a house on a sand dune.
This lack of foresight about and planning for the aftermath of armed intervention is not only dangerous to the people who have ostensibly been saved; it is counterproductive. Unless a humanitarian intervention is structured in such a way that it guarantees basic security, the underlying antagonisms that inspired the intervention in the first place will merely be reinforced, not diminished.
So, six years after Natos intervention, Kosovo seems as far from stability and social peace as ever. Despite the frequent assurances of UN authorities that Kosovo is on a path toward reconciliation and true home rule, Nato officials indicate that there are plans to maintain a long-term military presence in the province in order to guarantee that the political process will be concluded successfully.
This brings me to another key point: a workable exit strategy is just as important to the success of any future humanitarian intervention as the entry strategy. If an international intervention is to have any credible chance of success, clear criteria for what constitutes success are needed from the start. Only such clarity can allow for a proper end to international actors engagement. In Kosovo, such clarity is and has been absent; as a result, Nato and the UN have no clear idea about when and how both should leave.
Someone once rightly said that it is easy to bomb, but much harder to build; it is relatively easy to defeat a regime militarily, but it is far more difficult to create a solid, sustainable, civil society in its place. The UN General Assembly should keep this in mind as it starts to codify the doctrine of the responsibility to protect.
Marek Antoni Nowicki
Marek Antoni Nowicki, a former member of the European Commission on Human Rights and the co-founder and president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Warsaw.
Clinton's own quagmire?
9 million or more Iraqi's will vote in peaceful elections Saturday...yet this nitwit calls the country chaotic.
The Left is clueless.
C L U E L E S S
Try getting half of Somalia to vote in an election on Saturday and you'd see chaos.
I just don't understand these people. The author provides an anlysis based upon his first hand account of what is going on in the area, but then has to make an unsubstantiated claim about IRaq. Is it that hard to speak truth without needing to bad mouth Bush?
Any idea how many troops we have in Kosovo?
"yet this nitwit calls the country chaotic."
Nitwicki is probably basing his statement on what he reads in newspapers and sees on TV. I have a feeling that if he went to Iraq he would be greatly impressed by how much better the US is managing the transition there than NATO is handling things in Kosovo. He would never admit it, but he couldn't help but notice.
About 2500 plus contractors. Unit rotations are every six months. The US participation in Bosnia has now been folded into the NATO Bosnia mission and the US part is now one (1) infantry company.
Thanks for the info.
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