United Nations must reign in NATO attack

Editorial Note: NATO actions in Kosovo have deeply divided the editorial board. Yesterday we presented arguments in favor of the actions; today we present arguments against them.

The war in Kosovo is the result of flawed decision making by the Clinton administration and false beliefs concerning President Slobodan Milosevic’s resolve. Before the administration and its NATO allies make yet another blunder in the Balkans, namely a ground invasion, a peaceful solution must be given another chance. The United Nations must assert itself over NATO and resume talks with Milosevic.
Milosevic was once a favored client of the West, providing stability and access to markets for Western companies. The Kosovo Liberation Army, until the advent of airstrikes, was deemed, “nothing more than terrorists,” by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Domestic politics and the reliance on the formula of air strikes and sanctions did as much to reverse U.S. policy as Milosevic’s tactics.
For example, the only incentive for Milosevic to sign the October peace treaty was the threat of airstrikes. After nine days of talks, Milosevic agreed to sign under certain conditions. In return for allowing 1,800 unarmed international monitors, NATO fly-overs and a complete Serb troop withdrawal from Kosovo, Milosevic wanted a NATO promise to lift the order that gave authority to launch immediate air strikes. The order was merely suspended and talks disintegrated. Milosevic was quickly transformed into the Saddam Hussein of the Balkans, paving the way for airstrikes.
The international community has not exhausted diplomatic negotiations, no matter what the media says. The United Nations has been swept aside by an American-controlled NATO, which has militarized all negotiations with Yugoslavia. Ground invasion is presented as the only alternative.
The use of ground troops has many disadvantages. First and foremost, Yugoslavia will be much more difficult to quell than Iraq. NATO soldiers will die if the alliance invades. Second, the use of force will not solve the problem in the Balkans. Instead, the whole region will be militarized for years to come, and an occupied Serbia will cause serious problems for NATO forces. Also, the surrounding impoverished nations will be forced to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan, in order to “contain Serbian aggression.” MAP members, not unlike recent NATO initiates Poland and the Czech republic, will have to pay for billions of dollars worth of military equipment.
The only parties benefiting from this situation are arms dealers and Western economies. Both are able to capitalize on the violence in the region to seize markets. The issues at hand have far more to do with capital than with humanitarian concerns. Mass refugees and the demonization of Milosevic provide convenient explanations for war that are gobbled up by the media and most of the public. A military alliance and a host of economic interests drive this conflict, denying the chance for peace.
NATO is not interested in peace — only in saving face and finding economic benefit. The United Nations must assume control of the situation and find a peaceful solution.