History shows us no state capitulates because of bombings alone. The Blitz of London during World War II and the intermittent bombing of Iraq both prove a country comes together, rather than falls apart, when bombed. NATO has finally realized this.
NATO faces a difficult decision. The allies can choose to either stop bombing Yugoslavia and enter into negotiations with President Slobodan Milosevic or to invade Kosovo with ground forces and establish a protectorate for Kosovo Albanians.
History dictates that the international community seeks to negotiate a political settlement. Yugoslavia arose out of the Versailles Treaty, which ended the First World War and split up the old Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. The victors carved out nations which were at complete odds with the ethnic realities of the region. Since then, violence has been a mainstay of Balkan politics.
With the most recent crisis causing floods of refugees, NATO must keep in mind their stated goal of stopping the conflict as soon as possible.
In the short term, a ground invasion might seem a better idea than a political settlement. Negotiating with Milosevic will be seen as surrendering to a tyrant, something which the West has deemed intolerable in past situations, most notably with Saddam Hussein. A military solution will augment NATO’s image, showing the international community that the world’s greatest military alliance still has what it takes.
But this solution will be temporary. A military force in Kosovo will transform the region into something akin to the border between South and North Korea. The Balkans are infinitely more dangerous than North Korea because of the sheer complexity of the religious, historical and ethnic ties and animosities that bind the region together. NATO troops will be thrown into one of history’s most volatile fault lines with no clear mission or foreseeable time of departure.
The better solution is to consider Milosevic’s recent cease-fire proposal, which includes the deployment of peacekeeping forces and an autonomous Kosovo within Yugoslavia. Through a political solution accompanied by invited ground forces, rather than an invading army, NATO will be able to keep a close eye on Milosevic and prevent the spread of violence into the rest of the Balkans.
The United States must listen to the international community or risk becoming mired in a conflict which they cannot win. The United States must seek peace now, before we make the fatal move of declaring war on a Christian Orthodox nation with friends like Russia.
War has not worked for almost a decade in a defenseless Iraq, despite an unpopular president and no allies. It has even less chance of working in Yugoslavia, which has a popular president, a competent military and powerful allies. Rather than repeating the mistakes of the past, NATO can bring enduring peace in the Balkans through diplomatic dialogue instead of an invasion.