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After watching the ICC in action, I say, "Please no, make them stay away." They are highly politicized on any number of fronts.

They were highly in favor of the Kosovo intervention. Someone will have to explain to me how 1,500 deaths spread evenly between Serbs and Albanians over the prior two to three years constitutes a necessary intervention. I'm not seeing it at all. The negotiations at Ramboullet support my point-of-view.

The ICC is heavily tilted toward powerful global actors. To a degree, obviously, so is the UN. In Bosnia and Kosovo, we saw the UN taking on charges that were largely outside its scope, and often the charges were contradicted by its own employees and others in institutions it set up (such as the ICTY, UNHRW). UN Generals such as Morillon at the ICTY, prosecutors such as Del Ponte at the ICTY, investigators such as Helen Ranta, all showed that political games are played. I can point to a spirit of collaboration among certain powerful actors and the ICC right now that makes the ICC seem a political pawn.

I'm actually in favor of humanitarian intervention. I'm not so certain I want there to be pan-global organizations involved. So far, the abuse of such interventions in highly contested territory (Balkans, Georgia) has proven evident, while elsewhere (Africa) we have non-interventions.

Then we have to address the problems of preferring interventions over diplomacy, as in the case of Samantha Power. I read an essay of hers in the USA's TIME magazine a few months back, in which she projects some light on her vision of foreign policy problems in the future. She argues that Kosovo matters to our future because it underscores some alarming features of the current international system.

First, going back a little bit on Power, I found that in her book on genocides, A PROBLEM FROM HELL, Power did a fantastic job of diagnosing the factors behind the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, but she did not venture heavily into the diplomatic nitty-gritty prior to the wars. In fact, the one section of the book that I took heavy note of was her discussion of the 1992 Cyrus Vance-Lord Carrington-Lord Owen Peace Plan which was meant to bring Serbs, Croats and Muslims together. All three leaders of each ethnic group had agreed to the plan, though James Baker came in at the last minute and scuttled it. In retrospect, Power damned that plan for essentially giving the Serbs time to organize their paramilitaries. She went a little beyond that and basically considered the plan a sop for the Serbs since it broke the territorial integrity of Bosnia and gave the Serbs their own Bosnian Republic. Left unsaid in her book, however, was that the Dayton Plan essentially reproduced almost the same exact result, as we are seeing in Bosnia even today. In the Vance-Owen Plan, the Serbs were to receive 51% of the territory. In the Dayton Plan, they received 49% (the Serbs held over 70% of Bosnian territory in their control during the war). Presumably, then, Power would not see a great difference between the two plans. So, [and now I'm projecting how Power may be influencing Obama's policy], I'm imagining that if Power had been advising the US President at the time, and that if she like Baker had scuttled the Vance-Owen Peace agreement, then she would have advised committing ground troops to Bosnia in defense of the Muslims. After all, by breaking the peace agreement in 1992, the West accomplished nothing. 100,000 were slaughtered in the interim until Dayton, around 50,000 of them Muslims. Given Power's plaintive calls for the prevention of genocide, it stands to reason that we would have engaged in a major war in the region with ground troops. If I'm incorrect about this, someone will have to explain to me how the USA and Europe could square their responsibility for scuttling the peace plan with the killing that ensued. The diplomatic charades of 1991-1992 appear, in hindsight, as a huge case of malpractice. The only decision then is, accept the peace plan, or go to ground war as a means of humanitarian intervention. You can't leave the Muslims to the slaughter. Which is of course what happened. If I'm right about Power's preference for intervention over diplomacy, then the positive results of such a ground intervention must be reasonably predictable (avoiding of course Rumsfeldian myopia).

In the TIME piece Power writes:

"Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian leaders have belatedly tried to extend an olive branch to the province's aggrieved 120,000 Serbs. In addition to allowing Serbs in northern Kosovo to have their own police, schools and hospitals, Kosovo's new Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, did the unthinkable: he delivered part of his inauguration speech in the hated Serbian language. Even in Serbia, whose citizens feel genuine humiliation over losing Kosovo (which Serb nationalists call their "Jerusalem"), the protests should abate."

While it's certainly true that the Albanians have indeed tried to insert the Serbs into the body politic, something in Power's phrasing caught my eye. First, after the Serbs left Kosovo in 1999, there were a series of reprisals which continued until 2004 when 200,000 Serbs were expelled from Kosovo. In the words of Bernard Kouchner--now the FM of France but who ran the province of Kosovo at the time--the reprisals were understandable and even expected given the brutal crackdown on Albanians by Milosevic. However, this history is still with the Serbs as much as the brutal Serb guerilla crackdown weighs on the Albanians. Indeed, this is one of the central contradictions of Kosovo's independence. The EU and US argue that Kosovo's secession does not set a precedent, and that it is unique because of the crimes committed by Milosevic and thugs. In other words, the Albanians cannot live with Serbs any longer. This same logic (which I agree with by the way) is not then considered when Kosovo is refashioned into a multiethnic state. At that point, as Power does here, western diplomats argue that Albanians can live with Serbs side by side. Their logic contradicts, which raises questions about the possible success of Kosovo as a multiethnic state. Furthermore, the Serbs do not trust the Albanian leaders. The former PM before Hashim Thaci was Agim Ceku, the commander of Operation Storm which ethnically cleansed 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina in Croatia. He is being investigated by the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. The man in charge before him, Ramush Haradinaj, was already indicted by the same tribunal for killing Serbs and moderate Albanians. Thaci himself is not trusted by the Serbs as he was a leader of the KLA, which, until early 1999, was considered a terrorist organization by the US and EU. Power drove the backroads of this region and did the hard work in her research. She knows all this. She knows how each ethnic groups STILL feels about each other. She knows very well how the Serbs feel about the Albanian leadership, and especially Thaci, and yet she still wrote this passage which seems blissfully optimistic. Blissful optimism AND humanitarian intervention? How do they mix?

Power then outlines some problems in foreign policy for the next decade:

[Kosovo] exposes the chill in relations between the U.S. and Russia, which is making it difficult for the U.N. Security Council to meet 21st century collective-security challenges. Putin has used the Kosovo standoff as yet another excuse to flaunt his petro-powered invincibility, sending his  successor, PM Dmitri Medvedev, to Belgrade to sign a gas agreement. If a firm international response is to be mobilized toward Iran, Sudan or other trouble spots in the coming years, the U.S. will have to find a way to persuade Russia to become a partner rather than a rival in improving collective security.

There is indeed a chill in relations. One problem is that the UN cannot right now back the West on the issue of Kosovo precisely because the independence of Kosovo violates the UN charter as well as UN resolution 1244. Recently, an UN official in charge of Kosovo (UNMIK) rebuked the EU steering group leader for assuming supreme authority over the state. Russia is conveniently sticking to UN laws in this case. But the trouble is, the fact that it's convenient is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that they are sticking to UN laws.

Power writes about the second problem:

Finally, the disagreements over Kosovo expose the world's fickleness in determining which secessionist movements deserve international recognition.

I certainly agree with her here, but then she writes...

If Kosovo's supporters were more transparent about the factors that made Kosovo worthy of recognition, they could help shape new guidelines. A claimant has a far stronger claim if, like Kosovo, it is relatively homogeneous and not yet self-governing, if it has been abused by the sovereign government and if its quest for independence does not incite its kin in a neighboring country to make comparable demands. Not all secessionists can clear that bar. Iraq's Kurds, for instance, are clamoring for independence. But the Kurds are already exercising self-government, and their independence could have the destabilizing effect of causing the Kurdish population in Turkey to try to secede.

I don't know where Power sees this lack of transparency regarding Kosovo recognition. Kosovo's backers always raise it up as a unique example. Furthermore, pay close attention when Power mentions "new guidelines." She does make an excellent case in A PROBLEM FROM HELL as to the proper methods for interceding in genocides. But refashioning guidelines is a whole other ballgame altogether. Borders are not inviolable if you're slaughtering people. But if oppression becomes a pretext for self-determination, then suddenly we're going to have hotspots all over the globe. Think of the mayhem such a criteria would cause in a country such as Turkey or Macedonia. All you have to do is rise up and then wait for the crackdown.

Next, Power uses the term "relatively homogeneous." This idea of homogeneity is curious especially since Kosovo is supposed to be multiethnic. By all media accounts, there are 1.8 to 2 million Albanians in Kosovo today. There are 120,000-150,000 Serbs there (200,000 left in 2004, and another 100,000 in 1999). In addition, you have another 2-4% comprised of Sandzak Muslims (Slavic Muslims), Egyptians, Gorani, and Gypsies. So now the numbers are 90% Albanian, which maybe meets her definition of homogeneity. In 1999, however, the numbers were 80% Albanian. In the 1980s, they were closer to 70-75% Albanian. Is that homogeneous enough?

The next test: has the populace been abused by the sovereign-government? In Kosovo, yes, obviously. But elsewhere the same test applied also yields "yes" as an answer. The Turkish Kurd-Turkish fight has yielded TEN times as many Kurd civilian deaths as the Albanian-Serb fight in Kosovo. And judging from Turkey's forays into Iraq this summer, it caused a lot less outrage than the Serb youths who burned the US Embassy last spring.

I notice then that Power is careful to add yet another criteria: the quest for independence cannot cite ethnic kin in a foreign country. Of course, the large body of Kurds in the Turkey-Kurdish guerilla wars are not Iraqi Kurds. They are Turkish Kurds. Which begs the question: who is being incited? The Iraqi Kurds by the Turkish Kurds, or vice versa? If we simply switch the perspective a little bit, then Power's criteria collapses (unless she honestly thinks we should intervene on behalf of Turkey's Kurds, as there isn't much fear after all that this will incite the Iraqi Kurds since they already control their destiny). Furthermore, there are also Albanians seeking secession in the Presevo Valley of Serbia, in Montenegro, in Macedonia most especially and in the Chameria/Epirus region of Greece. Kosovo's independence has of course incited ethnic Serb kin in Bosnia and also the Serbs of Kosovo itself toward partition. This criteria of Power's is curious, almost as though the criteria were made to fit the logic.

Ultimately, Power really needs to address a little discussed trigger in the Albanian-Serb fighting. The moderate Kosovo Albanians were marginalized fairly early on (i.e. long before Milosevic began the counter-insurgency crackdown in 1998). Indeed, Kosovo leaders like Haradinaj were in the docket in the Hague for murdering moderate Albanians. Rugova's party was a moderate party seeking secession through peaceful means. He had managed to set up a parallel structure of universities, hospitals, government, police. The KLA, on the other hand, were violent, extremist, and had ties with narco-traffickers. The roots of their victory over the moderates started in the 1980s. In 1981 and 1982, David Binder wrote a series of articles in the New York Times about the rise of the extreme nationalist Albanian groups in Kosovo, which were all coming from hardcore elements in Albania. Concomitantly, nationalists in Serbia such as Milosevic seized on the oppression of Serbs in Kosovo at the time, and he succeeded in radicalizing the whole region.

The lesson I draw then is that radicalism is ultimately a catalyst for change. Extreme nationalism can yield results, and it can also destroy your country (ex. Serbia). This is not a good example for the rest of the world. Rugova's party was a good example. I'm not at all satisfied that Power's new guidelines will not encourage the likes of the KLA in other countries. Once you set those criteria down in a charter, or in another supranational organization which sets criteria for humanitarian intervention, you are essentially asking those with irredentist or separatist bent to think of ways to fulfill the new criteria. It should be enough to prevent tragedies such as Bosnia, Darfur, Rwanda, without a guarantee of reward for the armed militant groups on the ground. There should be punishment for murderers, no doubt. War criminals must pay. But if you're also going to provide a reward, do not be surprised if this scenario gets replayed over and over again. So far, I'm not convinced by Power's new guidelines.

Then, the final question is, who funds groups such as the ICC? Do we trust them? Heck, I can't even trust the ICTY, especially when Carla del Ponte makes sensational allegations against it; I can't trust UN Human Rights Watch, especially when Helen Ranta throws cold water on its impartiality. I recall that the OSCE sent William Walker, of all people, to oversee the treatment of Albanians in Kosovo! William freakin' Walker! I note the ties between UN negotiators, think tanks, security organizations like NATO, NGOs and non-profit human rights organizations, and I see concerted efforts to use every means possible to cow countries (even peaceable countries who haven't oppressed minorities with violence) into being amenable or else. In a perfect world, we could limit interventions to genocides or massacres, but given the evident will to use these humanitarian organizations as political pawns, I am highly skeptical.

I keep thinking that the threat of intervention, coupled with diplomacy, should be a great bargaining tool, but then the possibility always exists that these threats will be used as political motivators. After all, what do they say about diplomacy being war by other means? In addition, the idea that a country could not profit from intervention is dubious especially in hot spots such as Georgia. What would that even mean in a region loaded with natural resources?

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 01:58:55 PM EST

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