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Balkans Editorial: Teach Your Children Well


The Balkans peace summit in Sarajevo this weekend is vital, yet tragically mixed up.

It occurs as US fighter jets respond to "increased threats" over Iraq. Bombs continue to kill and maim - just elsewhere.

The explanation we hear for the latest action in the gulf is that US planes are being lured into missile traps by MIG fighters - presumably with either very brave, very stupid or very scared Iraqi pilots on board.

And so when threatened, what is the only logical response? For the US it is to bomb. Just as it has been for the past several decades and particularly the last 18 months:

Sudan. Afghanistan. Iraq. Yugoslavia. A clear pattern has emerged.

For NATO the official explanation (see..Jamie Shea I/V ) for the bombing campaign in Kosovo is that bombing was the only possible means of conflict short of a very costly ground-war in the mountains. Eventually - facing being bombed back into the dark ages - like Iraq before him - Milosevic and his generals withdrew. This is good, but it is certainly not peace.

And this is the most important thing that Clinton, Blair and other leaders need to realise as they meet to discuss peace in the Balkans in the future this weekend.

The war in Kosovo was not a victory - for anyone.

Rather it was too little too late. Poorly executed. Devastating environmentally. Colossally costly in terms of human lives, and in economic terms probably cost thousands of jobs in the West as money is diverted away from productive use to the futility of war.

Further, the bombing campaign very poorly achieved its apparent goal of protecting the Kosovar Albanians. This is abundantly clear when one considers the level of genocide committed as the Allies first blustered and blundered for 18 months, and then finally acted, flying high and safe, picking out objects in the landscape that from 15,000 feet look malicious - like tractors in convoy. Oops.

The problem is that peace is not a two way street. You cannot claim to be a peacemaker and then bomb people into submission.

And nor is peace bounded by geography. Which is why events in Iraq matter at the Bosnia Peace Conference - even if Clinton and Blair think they don't, and even if the media co-operate in the festive atmosphere by failing to raise the obvious.

Peace is not a two way street. It is not possible to seek peace somewhere but not somewhere else at the same time. You cannot be a hawk and a dove simultaneously.

The war in Kosovo occurred the way it did because it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nato, and particularly Clinton and Blair, said they would bomb Milosevic if he didn't stop killing.

However, as Clinton and Blair's advisors most probably well knew, Milosevic was never planning on stopping killing Muslims - he was, and is, a psychopathic racist and he appears to have a large number of like-minded people around him.

For the West, ever since the Dayton Accord. Milosevic has been a huge moral dilemma. Threat - counter threat - negotiations - brief cease- fire - continued genocide - threat and then round again we went for several years. There was only ever one way out. Bombing. And that was always going to bring more genocide, and then escalation until capitulation.

Thankfully that capitulation came. And while this peace is sweet, it is also very fragile. Like an infant, to make it grow it is vital that its nature is understood by its parents - who by virtue of the UN's involvement are now in effect the wider world with the UN as nurturer, and Nato as protector.

In this context the fragile infant needs parents who are aware of their own faults - and committed to learning from their mistakes. You cannot try to teach your child to be peaceful and then go and punch the neighbour in the face to teach him a lesson. To do so when you are surrogate parents and the ethnicity of the neighbour and your foster children is different than your own is particularly stupid.

The war in Kosovo did not sanctify anyone. There is almost no-one with any honour after this conflict - except perhaps the Kosovar victims - who are now expected to return to a battle scarred country and survive for three years on US$5 billion in aid over three years - a tiny fraction of the cost of the war and the equivalent of approximately $100 a month for each Kosovar.

The closest anyone comes to any honour in the struggle for the freedom of Kosovo is KLA - UCK - who continued to fight a rear-guard action and to assist in feeding the starving Kosovar Albanians inside Kosovo during the war.

Now we find the KLA are finding it difficult to control the country and themselves. But is it any wonder? Their country is a killing field to rival Cambodia. Honestly, would you feel any different?

Now is a time for healing and that is what the peace summit this weekend is about.

But before any progress is made the parents of the infant peace meeting in the Balkans need to now figure out, and seek redemption for, what they have done so wrong in the past. They need to admit that European Balkans policy has been a horrific foul-up and stop pretending they have been peacemakers when patently they have not been.

Our leaders can now chose to become peacemakers. But to do so they will need to make a positive commitment. Not just utter the right words in the face of the right questions.

Earlier Scoop Commentary On Kosovo


12:55 pm: Editorial Alastair Thompson NR Column: Observations On Evil And Kosovo - The following column picks up from a theme I discussed earlier this year in "Man's Inhumanity To Man - Where Are The Angels?" which begged a few questions on the nature of political evil.


1:50 am: Staff Reporter Alastair Thompson NR Editorial: Nato Must Act In Kosovo - The Serbian leadership, and especially President Slobodan Milosevic have shown time and again that they have no intention of stopping their ethnic cleansing operations in Kosovo.


11:31 am: Staff Reporter Alastair Thompson Kosovo: A Solution, Finally, or a Final Solution? - A Bosnian who lived through the horror of Sarajevo says military intervention is the only way to stop the genocide in Kosovo.


11:07 am: Editorial Alastair Thompson Man's Inhumanity To Man - Where Are The Angels? -


8:45 am: Editorial Alastair Thompson World Forum: NATO Vacillates as People Die - 8:41 am:Staff Reporter Alastair Thompson World Forum: Why Kosovo Matters to the Markets -

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