Can NATO build states?
Clues to Kosovo's immediate future can be seen in Bosnia-Herzegovina
NATO's objective in Kosovo is not only the assurance of security and safety for the traumatized population but also the construction of a multiparty democracy.Skip to next paragraph
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In effect, whether NATO leaders admit it or not, the alliance is engaged in the process of state-building. But can NATO succeed, given its mandate and experience?
For clues about Kosovo's immediate future under the international umbrella, it's useful to examine NATO's mission in post-Dayton Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Despite some similarities, such as Belgrade's military aggression and popular demands for independence, there are significant differences between the two places.
Bosnia was deliberately ethnically divided and partitioned into three national entities during the 3-1/2-year war. All three ethnic ethnic groups - Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats felt they had a right as a majority in their own portion of Bosnia. Before, during, and after the war, each group became susceptible to nationalist manipulation promoting ethnic separation and "purification" on the pretext of defending their supposedly endangered national interests.
In Kosovo, by contrast, the ethnic Albanian population constitutes the overwhelming majority, while Serbs are a minority. Furthermore, the Belgrade regime has engaged in wholesale expulsion and mass murder rather than resettlement. It has fostered ethnic division at the city level rather than at any territorial level. Hence, Kosovo has not been partitioned into ethnic cantons. With the return of ethnic Albanians, the prewar demographic structure will be largely restored.
The NATO operation in Bosnia failed to ensure the return of the majority of refugees to their pre-war homes.
Only a few thousand out of 2 million expellees have actually ventured across the inter-entity lines drawn up under the Dayton accords. Indeed, Dayton rewarded ethnic division by allowing for the existence of an autonomous Serb republic within Bosnia.
In Kosovo, NATO has been determined to return all refugees to their homes and to prevent any kind of ethnic partition of the territory. This will clearly reassure ethnic Albanians that the international community is committed to an independent territory and opposes ethnic division.
In Bosnia the majority of Serbian war criminals were allowed to roam free and to profit from their crimes. But, now, international bodies must vigorously pursue such criminals whether inside or outside Kosovo.
Political conditions in Kosovo are in many respects simpler.
In Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic, the perpetrators of genocide remained in control after Dayton was signed, even though a handful of Serb leaders were indicted as war criminals.
By contrast, the Serb armed forces have fled Kosovo and have no base of political power. Even the remaining Serb civilians in Kosovo are unlikely to support President Slobodan Milosevic. The Belgrade clique led them into war and then abandoned them just as it did with Croatia's Krajina Serbs.
Whereas the major nationalist parties sought the partition of Bosnia, in Kosovo a multiplicity of ethnic Albanian political parties already exists and none of them favor ethnic expulsion or partition.