NATO won its war

peace will be harder

Kosovo: Quick occupation, persuading refugees to return, are essential to reconstruction.

June 11, 1999

NOW comes the most difficult part, putting Kosovo back together. NATO troops, to be joined by others, need to race into the tortured province starting tomorrow to prevent final outrages of revenge from either side or the erasure of evidence of crimes against humanity.

NATO must echo Serbian politicians and clergy calling on Kosovar Serbs not to flee. This means urging them not to believe previous propaganda that their only protection could be the Serbian troops, which are now departing.

In a slower process, now that the bombing is suspended and the United Nations Security Council is providing an interim civil regime, the world community must encourage the Kosovar Albanian refugees to have confidence they can safely return and rebuild their lives. For many, homes, villages and work have been destroyed. If they don't return, Kosovo remains cleansed, and Serbia wins.

Coercion cannot be the response to refugees who refuse in fear. Yet no provision exists for them. If many such refugees remain, after some weeks, Albania, which would have to absorb most, will need assistance.

Good coordination is needed with Russian and other peacekeeping troops who will not be accepting the "command" of NATO but who are agreed that Kosovo will not be partitioned ethnically and that the U.N. will supervise civil affairs.

NATO's members must look to reconstruction of the damage it wreaked in Serbia. The Group of Eight foreign ministers approved a stability pact for the Balkans, addressing that problem, yesterday. Clearing the Danube for river commerce should come first. After that, reconstruction of the damage that Serbian forces did in Kosovo commands higher priority.

There has been talk of linking reconstruction aid to Serbia to a change in its regime or to delivery of President Slobodan Milosevic to stand trial for crimes against humanity. NATO cannot decide who rules Serbia, or it would have marched into Belgrade. The Serbs must decide that.

An ultimatum might delay the needed improvement of their lives, making them rather than Mr. Milosevic suffer. Any such ultimatum should be kept under constant review for its effect.

NATO stayed the course. The time will come to argue whether the course was right, wrong, murderous, illegal or inescapable. The need now -- with unity as great as during the bombing -- is to keep the peace that was agreed to for the benefit of the Kosovar people.

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