Kosovo peace elusive, but possible
By PATRICK G. COY
At this stage in the Kosovo
conflict, multiple parties have already embraced violence, and the resulting
dynamic of escalation is fully engaged. Consequently, prescriptions for peace
are increasingly difficult to write due to missed opportunities and the
perception of restricted choices that always accompany violence.
This situation is akin to my hopping on a public bus only to find
the driver speeding wildly down the road, ignoring all the warning signs and
heading straight toward the cliff. When I ask him to brake, the driver says it
wont do any good, because the gas pedal is now taped to the floorboards.
As the bus hurtles right up to the edge of the cliff, I implore the driver to
turn away. He yells back at me that if I dont like how he is driving, I
can try it for awhile.
Perhaps the Kosovo cliff is still far enough off that a different
approach may yet have some effect. Among possible approaches are the
- NATO countries must immediately and drastically increase
immigration levels. To bomb Kosovo relentlessly in order to "help" the Kosovars
without also opening borders only compounds the ethical quagmire in which the
NATO bombing campaign is deeply mired. For example, the United States is using
weaponry hardened by depleted uranium, polluting the environment and exposing
the remaining civilian population to unwarranted dangers for many years to
- NATO allies should drop leaflets that encourage desertions.
Serbia is forcibly conscripting young men to wage its genocidal campaign. But
most people are not eager to commit war crimes. The Kosovo Liberation Army is
also conscripting ethnic Albanians who are trying to flee the advances of the
Serbian army. The leaflets should promise political asylum and educational
training to objectors and deserters from either armed force, and receiving
centers must be set up along border areas.
- NATO must immediately turn to massive food, clothing and
medicine airdrops wherever the Kosovo civilian population is now clustered. The
Clinton administration has ruled this out because the low elevations required
for accurate drops exposes pilots and crews to enemy fire. But I thought our
volunteer armed forces already agreed to risk their lives and to follow orders
unless their consciences said otherwise. If nothing else, at least ask for
volunteers for these missions and then get out of the way of the volunteer
- Call an emergency session of the U.N. General Assembly (not the
Security Council) to fashion a broad-based U.N. response. This should be part
of a larger move away from NATO and toward the United Nations and the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as the primary
international organizations playing a third-party role.
- Russia should be granted a far more substantive diplomatic
role, since it is Serbias traditional ally in the region.
- Use international mediators who are perceived to be neutral by
all principal parties. George Mitchells success in Ireland and Nelson
Mandelas breakthrough in arranging Libyas handover of the agents
accused of the Lockerbie bombing exemplify how important this factor can be.
The more intractable and violent a conflict is, the more relevant this
principle of conflict resolution becomes.
- Create and/or seize every opportunity to get back to the
negotiating table, but once there, dont repeat the multitude of mistakes
committed at the Rambouillet talks. This time, build both trust and ownership
early on by giving the principal parties more input into the location, the
timing, the agenda, the makeup of third parties and the structure of the talks.
Dont marginalize Kosovar civil society and nonviolent groups by
overemphasizing the role of the Kosovo Liberation Army in the negotiations.
Dont arrive with a preordained plan drawn up by outsiders to be imposed
under the threat of bombing (in the case of Serbia) or withdrawal of support
(in the case of the Kosovo Liberation Army). Dont use NATO troops or
monitors to implement any agreement, but rely on a U.N. force drawn from
multiple countries beyond the West.
Every conflict is nested inside other, larger conflicts and
impacts their escalation or resolution. We must, therefore, always think about
long-range efforts even while we work for resolution of the current situation.
In that regard, the following steps are critical.
- The United States ought to pay its U.N. dues on time, promptly
take care of its unconscionable backlog of past dues, and the United States and
NATO must stop usurping the U.N.s legitimate role in protecting
- The United States should aggressively support the rapid
establishment of the International Criminal Court, a move the Clinton team
opposed at a U.N. conference this summer in Rome.
- A Global Code of Conflict on Arms Transfers should be developed
to reduce the irresponsible and shortsighted sale of weaponry worldwide.
- Consistent and thoroughgoing U.S. adherence to international
law and the conventions of war are critical if others are to be expected to do
Implementation of these measures and adherence to the principles
undergirding them are only a partial answer to the current escalation of the
conflicts in Serbia and Kosovo. Other missing ingredients will have to come
from the principal parties themselves. The relentless bombing by NATO decreases
the likelihood of that happening anytime soon.
Patrick Coy is a professor in the Center for Applied Conflict
Management and the Department of Political Science at Kent State
National Catholic Reporter, April 23,