Good Company

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Friday, February 01, 2008

The Kosovo Dance

Nine years into the Kosovo mess, the "exit strategy" is still unclear, and our compelling national interest (unclear when we got in) may now lie in not making a further hash of our foreign relations because of yearnings among Kosovar Albanians for a free Kosovo. Read Warning light on Kosovo and ponder, "How did we get into this situation?"
We believe an imposed settlement of the Kosovo question and seeking to partition Serbia's sovereign territory without its consent is not in the interest of the United States. The blithe assumption of American policy — that the mere passage of nine years of relative quiet would be enough to lull Serbia and Russia into reversing their positions on a conflict that goes back centuries — has proven to be naive in the extreme.

We believe U.S. policy on Kosovo must be re-examined without delay, and we urge the Bush administration to make it clear that pending the results of such re-examination it would withhold recognition of a Kosovo independence declaration and discourage Kosovo's Albanians from taking that step.

Current U.S. policy relies on the unconvincing claim that Kosovo is "unique" and would set no precedent for other troublespots. Of course every conflict has unique characteristics. However, ethnic and religious minorities in other countries already are signaling their intention to follow a Kosovo example. This includes sizeable Albanian communities in adjoining areas of southern Serbia, Montenegro, and especially the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as the Serbian portion of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Remember the so-called "Powell Doctrine" - often laid out as if it were an set of decision-tree rules instead of a more subtle thought process:
To help with the complex issue of the use of "violent" force, some have turned to a set of principles or a when-to-go-to-war doctrine. "Follow these directions and you can’t go wrong." There is, however, no fixed set of rules for the use of military force. To set one up is dangerous. First, it destroys the ambiguity we might want to exist in our enemy’s mind regarding our intentions. Unless part of our strategy is to destroy that ambiguity, it is usually helpful to keep it intact.

Second, having a fixed set of rules for how you will go to war is like saying you are always going to use the elevator in the event of fire in your apartment building. Surely enough, when the fire comes the elevator will be engulfed in flames or, worse, it will look good when you get in it only to fill with smoke and flames and crash a few minutes later. But do you stay in your apartment and burn to death because your plan calls for using the elevator to escape and the elevator is untenable? No, you run to the stairs, an outside fire escape or a window. In short, your plans to escape should be governed by the circumstances of the fire when it starts.

When a "fire" starts that might require committing armed forces, we need to evaluate the circumstances. Relevant questions include: Is the political objective we seek to achieve important, clearly defined and understood? Have all other nonviolent policy means failed? Will military force achieve the objective? At what cost? Have the gains and risks been analyzed? How might the situation that we seek to alter, once it is altered by force, develop further and what might be the consequences?
I assert the same questions, having been inadeqately addressed prior to getting involved in Kosovo, need to be addressed now:
(1) What is the U.S.'s desired "political objective" of Kosovo's independence?
(2) Have the gains and risks been analyzed?
(3) How might the situation that we seek to alter, altered has it has been by force, develop further and what might be the consequences?

Bolton, Eagleberger and Rodham are posing those questions and don't much like the answers.

Neither do I.

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