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Reviewed by:
  • Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned
  • Joe Brinker (bio)
Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned, by The Independent International Commission on Kosovo(New York: Oxford University Press 2000)

It is important at the outset of this review to emphasize that Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned,is the product of an independent commission of experts. They were brought together on their own accord through the initiative of Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson. Though the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, did endorse the project prior to the writing of the report, the Commission was not appointed by any governmental or nongovernmental organization. This independence, combined with their extensive access to information, is valuable to the credibility of their findings.

Kosovo Reportattempts to address two related subjects. Most directly, it comprehensively examines the international community's response to the Kosovo crisis, taking a critical look at successes, failures and remaining dilemmas. Perhaps more importantly, the authors also look to Kosovo for precedents and lessons learned that can be applied to similar, future conflicts. In both respects, it is difficult to find much fault with their conclusions, though it is doubtful that any of their recommendations can be seen as profound breakthroughs to the problems that continue to plague Kosovo.

Regarding their review of Kosovo-specific issues, the commission members do not shy away from frank and balanced findings. Certainly their two main overarching declarations capture the difficult, ambiguous nature of the situation in Kosovo without being watered-down. Regarding questions surrounding the justification of NATO military intervention after diplomacy with the Milosevic Regime failed, the Commission concludes that NATO's campaign was "illegal but legitimate." 1The Commission argues that it was illegal, because it did not have prior approval from the UN Security Council, yet it was legitimate, because it addressed a humanitarian emergency that all realistic diplomatic channels had failed to address. On the broader question of the ultimate outcome of the intervention, the Commission found, "the NATO war was neither a success nor a failure; it was in fact both." 2It succeeded in forcing the Serbian government to withdraw its forces from Kosovo and to sign a peace agreement that closely approximated the failed Rambouillet accord, both of which ended the oppression of Kosovar Albanians by the state. However, [End Page 791]it failed to prevent systematic oppression and a counter campaign of ethnic cleansing against Serbs by Kosovar Albanians. The intervention also has left Kosovo as an international protectorate with few clear options readily apparent that might lead it out of this status limbo.

The Commission also should at least be given a pat on the head for attempting to find a solution to the maddening question of the future status of Kosovo. To summarize the predicament, the apparent Hobson's choice facing the international community is to indefinitely leave Kosovo as an expensive and inefficient protectorate, to at some point grant the tiny, poor region statehood and put at risk the Serb minority still living there, to return Kosovo to Serbia and Montenegro, which Kosovar Albanians vow never to accept, or to partition a predominantly ethnic Serb section of Kosovo and give it to back to Serbia and Montenegro, which would effectively put an international stamp of approval on ethnic cleansing.

In the face of this dilemma, the Commission suggests that Kosovo be granted "conditional independence." For the Commission, "conditional independence" means gradually granting Kosovo independence but making it conditional on demonstrating that, "its peoples can live in peace with each other and with the neighboring states in the region." 3The Commission also would envision a long-term international security presence as the independence process proceeds, and the plan would rely heavily on improved regional co-operation throughout the Balkans.

To its credit, the Commission acknowledges that this proposed solution also brings with it a host of complications, not the least of which are the facts that "conditional independence" goes beyond what Serbia and several members of the UN Security Council wish to accept and that such a plan would essentially give an international community sanction and precedent to the concept that national minorities have...


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