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March 18, 2011

I've Seen This Movie Before - It's Called Kosovo
Posted by Michael Cohen

Just watching Obama speak and I can't help but note the eerie similarities to what is being done on Libya - and the NATO war in Kosovo. Obama described a situation in which US and UN objectives in Libya are "well-defined" and focused around "protecting civilians."

Indeed Obama said "we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya." Forgive me for saying, but this doesn't make any sense

How can the use of force by an international coalition protect civilians if we aren't willing to put troops on the ground? In short, our objective are not well-defined; they are actually defined quite narrowly and are dangerously constricted. We are only willing to use force insofar as it keeps our ground troops out of harm's way. That goal, quite rationally, is being prioritized over the protection of civilians in Libya. But of course this creates a troubling mismatch between tactics and strategy.

And this is literally the exact scenario that happened in Kosovo. We threatened the use of airpower unless Milosevic stopped the ethnic cleansing of Kosovars; Milosevic upped the ante and began massacring innocents; we ramped up the air war in Serbia all the while holding steadfast to our commitment not to put troops on the ground.

In the end of course Milosevic backed down; but does anyone feel the same confidence about Gaddafi being cowed by air strikes? Milosevic could surrender Kosovo and maintain power (indeed in the near-term he did). I'm not so sure Gaddafi can back down and survive. And what if things really go to hell and the country collapses into ethnic and tribal conflict? Then what? Still no ground troops?

This barely feels like a strategy; it's more an temporary measure to stop Gaddafi from reconquering Benghazi, which is well and good. But now that we are on the record saying that we will protect civilians where does that commitment end? If the airstrikes don't work will we sit back and watch, remaining steadfast in our commitment to no ground troops, as Gaddafi massacres his people?

It seems that concerns over the politics of intervention - and the obvious fear of getting involved in a quagmire - is restricting our palette of military options, which means that the objectives laid out by Obama today will be extremely hard to realize, if at all.

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Comments

That's a hard decision. But there's nothing wrong saving peoples lives right?

Very appropriate assertion. I am from Kosovo and although very grateful for the intervention I was very disappointed the credible threat of ground troops was not included in the intervention package. Because ground troops weren’t used there NATO, the US and EU had to enter an agreement with Milosevic to pull his troops out of Kosovo. This left Kosovo in political limbo for a good 8 years. As a result a resurgent Serbia and Russia are now standing in the way of political and economic development there and although we have declared independence and are recognized by 71 world nations Serbia is continuously blocking our path to economic and political development regionally and globally. If ground troops had been used Kosovo would have been declared independent immediately after the war which would have created a reality on the ground that Serbia would have had to come to terms with. The Balkans would have been a much safer and peaceful place if that had happened. Because that didn’t happen the status quo continues.

If we (I say we because I am now a proud US citizen and tax payer) don’t go into Libya with a clear mandate and a credible intervention package that includes everything including a ground invasion these will be empty threats. Khadafy needs to be deposed and the Libyan people freed, it just depends if the world can stomach the cost of accomplishing this.

This seems somewhat an oddly self-defeating way to make the argument. You argue that the objective of protecting civilians acutely under threat "will be extremely hard to realize," and do so by saying that you saw this movie before, in Kosovo - where, actually, it *was* realized, on the whole.

You may be right that it might not work this time, of course. But referring to having seen it all before with Kosovo just kind of serves to highlight that it might well work, actually.

Just spewing out the same old tripe. Why don't you look at all the independent reports of civilian casualties during the Kosovo war. 10000 killed of which almost a half were Serbs and non-Albanians but with only 15% of the population. Work it out. And now you have a Kosovo run by organ harvesting narco traffickers where the minorites live like something out of the ghettos of WW2. Get a grip on reality.

Paul, you really must get with the times... or read a book... It seems like your intellect level might suffice with google--ing some Balkan facts. Most of the issues that strangle post-war economic or social growth in the Balkans - particularly Serbia and Kosovo -- are these warped and uninformed ideas of discriminatory-mathematics. It would help if more people were better informed -- including simple people like you.

Very interesting!I love it very much.

well you have to keep in mind, throughout the decades of violence that wracked the balkans... Serbia "proper" (still hiding behind the guise of a yugoslavia albeit under a lunatics control for international political reasons) remained untouched throughout, mainly being an exporter of violence to all their former neighbors, the mistake made by the west was turning to "yugoslav" leader Slobodan Milosovic ridiculously enough as the wests goto man in order to somehow end the madness.

and kosovo, despite the pleas, reality on the ground and and the empty accolades and praise of non violent resistance.. was in a brilliant move by the west, tossed aside.

Unfortunately dictators will be dictators, and with dayton came slobodan milosovic and serbias (still hiding behind the guise of yugoslavia)loving attention given squarely to kosovo...we all know how that turned out.

there are many differences between kosovo and libya, and milosovic and Gaddafi. With Kosovo, the west's making the choice of turning aside kosovo in favor of Milosovic as a peace partner came back to bite them, leaving them with no small measure of responsibility.


@paul
honestly, serb apologist propaganda has not done one single thing for either serbia or serbs in general over the past 2 decades. Not one single thing. Do follow your own advice and get a grip on reality.

@alan. What a joke. Accusations of apologist propaganda from the experts. The numbers don't lie. Read 'em and weep. The lies that worked for you in Yugoslavia didnt go quite as well in Iraq, did they?
@roxy. Facts are facts. End of. Talk of reading books, why dont you read Diana Johnstone's 'Fools Crusade' You might learn something instead of sitting on your behind watching CNN.

Its all about the Protecting civilians.And the Obama said so many things which are very informative.Its such an Awesome blog.Thank you for sharing.

@Roxy Tell me one thing I wrote in my original post that isn't true.

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