Holding the line in Kosovo

Challenges: Enemy is neither Serbs nor Albanians, nor anarchy, but forces destroying the peace.

March 17, 2000

NATO is right to commit more troops to the KFOR peace-keeping force it leads in Kosovo. The United Nations is right to seek more police to strengthen the civil administration it provides.

To give in to the violence that is flaring in certain localities, to concede ethnic cleansing as inevitable, to write off the temporary regime of Kosovo as an ill-conceived mistake, would be to invite more Balkan wars.

It is best to interpret the ethnic-Albanian raids on southern Serbia and the Serbian agent provocateurs in Kosovo as probes by forces trying to see what they can get away with:

More bloody redefinitions of borders. A seizure by Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia of the Serb-ethnic but Western-oriented republic of Montenegro. Dismemberment of fragile Macedonia by thugs seeking a greater Albania. Any of these scenarios would mean more war, more crisis for Europe and larger interventions.

Anyone who read Sun reporter Bill Glauber's interview last Sunday with Tom Pellegrini, a retired Baltimore homicide detective who now does that work in a U.N. beret in Pristina, will understand the frustrations facing the world community.

Civil order, public safety, rule by law and trust in institutions are not the prevailing values in Kosovo today. People are trying to survive as best they can.

But the challenges to KFOR are not mere outbreaks of irrepressible anarchy. The renewed violence comes from people acting on orders.

U.S. forces seized weapons from hastily renamed militia bearing a striking resemblance to the former Kosovo Liberation Army. These groups were raiding the formerly peaceful Presevo Valley in Serbia proper.

The Milosevic regime is credibly accused of fomenting violence against Albanians and provoking reprisals on Serbs in the formerly peaceful town of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo.

It is no paradox that U.S. components of KFOR may shoot at Albanians who appeared to be U.S. allies a year ago. The United States is neither for nor against Serbs or Albanians. NATO, rather, is against persecution and war-making that destroy the peace of Europe. It is for the rule of law and the peaceful coexistence of peoples.

The price of staying the course is moderately high. The price of pulling out would be much higher.

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