Was This a Disposable War?

By Will Baker

 

What is up with Kosovo? It has been some time since the story appeared on the front page of my newspaper. It seems to me that the situation in the former Yugoslavia may have been over taken by events elsewhere. Of course, Kosovo is still newsworthy, but one has to dig a little deeper to stay informed.

And It has been some time since I have written on this subject. My last essay was written at a time when both sides were engaged in a high stakes game of "chicken," and it appears that Milosevic blinked first. The stakes were very high for NATO, who’s reputation was on the line, for the despot Milosevic, who is obviously a control freak that desires to remain in power, and for all the countries involved who would have had to field the necessary cannon fodder in the event that a ground invasion had occurred.

There is no doubt in my mind that the world community must have breathed a huge, collective sigh of relief when Milosevic relented (I know I did). I am certain that a bloody, protracted ground campaign would have proved to be a very challenging situation in which to maintain a sense of unity of purpose among the leaders of the West. But thankfully, that bullet was dodged.

But where do we go from here? There are almost a million displaced individuals wandering the countryside in that region and the infrastructure required to provide basic services is in ruins. And the clock is ticking. Before too long winter will arrive. For the sake of the refugees let us hope that it is a mild one. And it appears that Milosevic’s hold on power may be weakening. Political opposition in Serbia seems to be coalescing. Every day we hear new reports of demonstrations against the current Serbian regime. It seems to me that, as far as Milosevic is concerned, the squeeze is on.

My main concern is for the average citizen of the former Yugoslavia. I am a common man. Therefore, it is to those folks that I direct my empathy. And I am very concerned. If the allegations regarding the misuse of two billion dollars in Bosnian relief aid are true, then I have doubts regarding how effective the campaign to rebuild Kosovo might be. And the folks of Serbia are on their own with respect to making the repairs needed to restore their shattered infrastructure. That is part of the plan: make life really uncomfortable for the average Serbian so that they will oust their President. It might work…but at what cost?

And I wonder about the occupied province of Kosovo. It is my understanding that many of the Serbian residents, who were in the minority there anyway, have left out of a fear of retaliation for the atrocities that the mounting evidence suggests were committed there, by Serbians, in a fairly widespread manner. The ethnic Albanians are motivated to exact revenge, and based on further reports it appears that they have been doing so. A case in point is the report of a recent slaughter of a dozen Serbian farmers who were working in their fields. And the peacekeepers are in the middle of all this doing their best to maintain order. It seems to me that this is no small task. The animosity between these groups has been centuries in the making.

So we have all these questions, and no real answers. I for one will be following the situation as closely as I can manage. And I am sure that the story will continue to slip further into the newspaper than it already has. News regarding Kosovo was on the front page a few weeks ago. Today it was on page three. I hope that it doesn’t some time soon escape our consciousness altogether. We like convenience: throw away cameras, lighters and baby diapers. I wonder if this was a disposable war?

 

(Essay Collection)