Last month, the Serbian province of Kosovo declared its independence. This week, Canada became the 31st country to recognize it. Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae wondered what took our government so long. Well -- perhaps we hesitated recognizing what we went to war for because we recognized that we should have hesitated going to war for it.
Wait a minute, someone might say. Canada didn't go to war in 1999 as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to help Kosovo secede from Serbia. That would have been like Germany dismantling Czechoslovakia in 1938 to liberate the Sudetenland. We only participated to prevent what we believed was an attempt at ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
Yes, well, so much for the best-laid plans of mice and men. The forces of Western liberalism that went into Kosovo to prevent ethnic cleansing ended up presiding over it.
It was exactly four years ago, during the last week of March, that nearly 1,000 Serbs fled their homes after Albanian Muslims attacked Serb Christians in their churches and villages. News agencies quoted Admiral Gregory Johnson, U.S. Commander of NATO forces for Southern Europe at the time, saying: "This kind of activity almost amounts to ethnic cleansing." Almost? By the spring of 2004, an estimated 200,000 Serbs had been driven from the province.
To prevent the expulsion of Kosovar Albanians by Serbs, NATO engaged in a war that ended up facilitating the expulsion of Serbs by Albanians. Had this been an unforeseeable result, it might be excused--but it was predictable. Had it been the
West's aim to wrest Kosovo from Serbia, NATO's entry into the conflict would have made sense. As it wasn't, it didn't.
Our bias for multicultural models of nationhood made us reluctant to support Croatian, Slovenian and Bosnian ambitions for independence in 1990-91. Though a prompt and unequivocal Western endorsement of self-determination might have averted bloodshed altogether, we didn't want to see the multicultural federation of Yugoslavia, a model we liked, break up into its ethnic/religious components. Then, when war became inevitable, we needlessly prolonged the conflict through a vapid UN arms embargo imposed on all factions in September, 1991 -- which naturally gave an edge to the better-equipped Serbs. The savage war had an extended run, especially on the Croatian front, due to our humanitarian-pacifist folly.
Slow to protest against the illegitimate ambition of multicultural Yugoslavia to forcibly keep in its fold three nations that wanted to separate, we came down like a ton of bricks on ethnic Serbia for its far more legitimate ambition to preserve the country's territorial integrity against the secessionist guerrillas of Kosovo. Washington, which resisted recognizing genuine, if splinter, nations such as Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia until April, 1992, was quick to launch Stealth bombers to ensure the autonomy of ethnic Albanians in a Serb province. As a multiculturalist thug, the late Slobodan Milosevic was a protected species. As a nationalist thug, NATO declared open season on him.
Why did the West go to war in Kosovo? Probably for three reasons. One, to make the world safe for multiculturalism; two, to appease the Muslim world; and three, to avert another humanitarian tragedy in Europe. Though hardly evil motives, in the circumstances all three amounted to a profound misreading of the time and place to which they were being applied.
The Kosovo conflict was the flower children's war, waged by politicians who emerged from a 1960s generation of confused peaceniks, eco-freaks and draft resisters. After a life-long opposition to everything NATO stood for, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder, Javier Solana and their friends hijacked the alliance to act out their mushy liberal fantasies of fitting every region into the Procrustean bed of a multicultural dream. They failed to notice that Albanians had even less interest in multiculturalism than Serbs; that the Muslim world wasn't being appeased; and that for every Albanian saved from being ethnically cleansed in the region, a Serb was being condemned to it.
The law assumes that people intend the natural consequences of their acts. I wonder what we thought the natural consequences of putting NATO's air force at the disposal of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) would be -- other than eventual secession.
Canadians are lucky that Clinton, Blair, Schroeder and Solana weren't in charge of the alliance in 1970 when Pierre Elliott Trudeau brought in the War Measures Act. They might have put NATO's air force at the disposal of the Front de liberation du Quebec.