Kosovo: Conflict-mismanagement in-the-making

By Jan Oberg

August 10, 2005

By spring 2004 it became obvious that slowly, surely and sadly the efforts of the international community to create peace in Kosovo/a would come to an end rather soon. The reasons are simple: mediation and conflict-resolution in complex conflicts cannot be done the way it was between 1989 and 1999. And you won’t succeed with peace-making the way it was done by the bombings in 1999 and the efforts since then.

Had anyone in the EU and the U.S. had the intellectual will and the political courage to draw conflict-management lessons from the Balkans, we would hardly have experienced the succeeding quagmires called Afghanistan and Iraq where the opportunities for peace and reconciliation are also decaying by the day.

The community’s self-appointed conflict-managers and mediators probably hope that their “condemnations” of the most recent bout of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in March 2004 will do the trick, prevent Albanian extremists from further attacks and keep the Kosovo calamity away from the headlines. If so, there is a high probability that they are in for nasty surprises 2005-2006.

The international community doesn’t seem to have any solid and realistic idea about what to do with Kosovo. There are no solutions anymore that will be fair in the eyes of the parties, the Albanians, the Serbs, the Romas and other, smaller group. Any imaginable future status will create serious problems in the region and possibly for the international community. To put it crudely – if the international conflict-managers are doctors, their patient is dying because of a bad diagnosis and a seriously failed surgery.

Embarrassing as they are, the reasons are quite simple but remain virtually untold:  they would require an ounce of self-criticism in a series of European ministries of foreign affairs, in Washington and Brussels. For the decade 1989-1999 the international community operated on a standardised, one-truth, black-and-white explanation of what this conflict was about. They blamed the Serbs in general and Slobodan Milosevic in particular for the Kosovo conflict. They conveniently ignored the complex framework in space and time of which Kosovo was a part: the dissolution mechanisms of former Yugoslavia, the wider context of the Balkans and the restructuring of the world order as well as the  transition from the Cold War paradigm to something  different.

Like we see in today’s Iraq, there were no limits to the political hubris-cum-ignorance. Both Albanian and Serb citizens were treated as pawns in much larger games and they are realising it now.

Below follows a list of some of the conflict mismanagement and long-term root causes that explain the unfolding dissolution of the peace-making efforts in Kosovo that we are now witnessing. (Numbers do not indicate priority or relative importance.) [Read more…]

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What lessons to learn? Particularly about the UN and its members?

By Jan Oberg
August 2, 2005

The international community’s conflict-management:
Short status by 2005

This blog explains why, by and large, the security approach – as described in the Prologue – has been a failure. The reasons for judging it a failure are many and pointed out through both the blog and book. They have to do with the paradigm/discourse itself but also with concrete, fatefully counterproductive decisions made throughout the crisis, one tying the hands of decision-makers when approaching the next situation.

Some of the – rather simple – methods and principles we suggest in our writings could have been used irrespective of whether the security or the peace approach had been followed. [Read more…]