It is a three-mile-wide patch of land called "ground safety zone," and it stands as a metaphor for the limits of globalization.
The ground safety zone on the Serbian side of the border with Kosovo was a legacy of the 1999 war. It was meant to separate Yugoslav and NATO troops, but it has been used by ethnic Albanians to train fighters for a continuing war that recently spread to neighboring Macedonia. NATO has agreed to let troops of a reformed Yugoslavia back into its own territory. But tension remains high between Serbs and ethnic Albanians, and now also between Macedonians and ethnic Albanian rebels.
This is only one of the places in the world where ethnic, racial, and religious passions defeat internationalization. Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose latter-day godfather is former Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, will probably see its non-Muslim part split up between Serbia and Croatia.
Across the world, in Indonesia, the dominant Javanese expelled a million non-Javanese, like the inhabitants of Madura, to outer islands like Borneo.
Now an explosion by the non-Muslim Dayaks of Borneo has killed hundreds of Madurese and made refugees of thousands more.
On the South Pacific island of Fiji, the native Melanesians have been fighting the people whose forebears came from India, brought there as laborers by the British.
And Africa, tragic Africa. The minority Tutsis in Rwanda were the targets of a genocidal campaign by the ruling Hutus in 1994. And there have been tribal wars in Sudan, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Congo.
The world is supposed to be coming together - globalizing. And technologically, in large parts of the world, it is globalizing. But then there are the regions where the world seems to be falling apart.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. I learned in school that 19th century nationalism combined little fiefdoms and principalities into larger units called states. And after nationalism, internationalism was supposed to diminish the influence of the nation-state. Some have even dreamed of becoming world citizens.
On the Internet, some feel like world citizens. But in large parts of the world, tribal and ethnic hatred fragments larger units into smaller units, fighting uncivil wars. And the Balkans become, well, Balkanized.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor