Kosovo – the West’s predictable fiasco

Baffling Kosovo mass exodus exposes domestic hardships – Al Jazeera
5% of the people have left, 100,000 this year.

Funny how in the 1990s the only problems were Serbs and Belgrade. NATO bombed and forced Kosovo out of Yugoslavia.
Billions of dollars have poured in from the world; EU, NATO etc. helped build the country.

As you will see from other articles here about our work in Kosovo, when TFF was there as mediators (1991-2001), we always said: Discuss first what kind of Kosovo you want, then decide its status vis-a-vis Serbia. Nobody listened: Independence was everything, no one bothered about the day after. There was no expertise on economy,  production, society’s development and how to run a complex society as an independent state; there were traders and people of culture – ad then the West threw out, literally, all Serbs who operated the infrastructure, the energy system and managed the institutions. (The method was repeated in Iraq…)

Today we see the predictable results when you make quick military fixes, let war criminals run a new, deeply corrupt state and all sides run on obsessive nationalism.

It’s feels very tragic to be proven right.

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A future Yugoslav Community for the Yugosphere?

By Johan Galtung

April 10, 2010 – Belgrade

Oh yes, Yugoslavia is ex, will the nostalgics please accept that it was not viable, and that out of the ashes six-seven countries have emerged!

And yet it is on everybody’s mind, on the inner map, not as unitary state or a more or less loose federation, but as an idea, a relation, a configuration; not as political actor but as some kind of togetherness, a Hegelian spirit searching for a place to come to rest.  The countries were born in deep anger, much too quickly, much too violently, traumas being heaped on top of old and new trauma mountains.  Time passes, no wounds are healed, but a new decade has sedimented new events on top of the 1990s horrors.

For a new generation this is already history.  But history has much to tell.  Stories of conviviality come up. Dreams of something more than a sphere, yet less than a community start getting contours and colors. [Read more…]

Peace by peaceful means (Book launch)

By Johan Galtung

December 2009 – Foreword to Serbian edition of Peace By Peaceful Means.

Let me first express my deep gratitude to Professor Radmila Nakarada and her colleagues for this Serbian edition of my book Peace By Peaceful Means.  And let me then try to say something about the message of the book for the conflict over Yugoslavia, a country I still love, well knowing its sustainability was limited.  And that will be done from the four angles of the four parts of the book: peace, conflict, development and civilization.

Peace has direct, structural and cultural conditions, and Yugoslavia had many components. There was a terrible history of direct violence related to the German-Italian attacks and some cooperation with the attackers, particularly in Croatia, BiH and Kosovo. There was never any real conciliation, hoping that time will mend the wounds, that they were “quits”.  Instead they were reopened, and new wounds added.  Direct peace was not achieved. [Read more…]

Mapping the Yugoslav conflicts

By Johan Galtung

Written around 1992, edited in 2006

This blog favors the conflict/peace more than the threat/security perspective.  And standard conflict analysis demands a comprehensive listing of the key actors, of their goals, and of the clashes among those goals.  A point of departure is a list of standard fault-lines often separating individuals and groups, assuming that the conflict is not only among states and republics because only they have arms.

Conflict analysis – it was a bit more complex than assumed by most

And that is a first and major point to be made: the conflict in and over Yugoslavia went far beyond nations only.  Here are ten conflicts, all within Yugoslavia, certainly not only one:

I.    Nature: military destruction vs the eco-balance of nature, particularly through the use of depleted uranium
II.   Gender: macho attitude-behavior, including large scale rape, probably also as a backlash against socialist gender parity
III.  Generation: passing hatred, revanchism through generations, from the past via the present way into the future, at the national, local and family levels, not processed through reconciliation
IV.   Race: by and large irrelevant, except for some UN troops
V.    Class: we have to distinguish between four kinds:

– political: a revolt against Beograd as the Titoist center of decision-making, also among Serbs as a perpetuation of the Tito-Mihajlovich, partizan-chetnik conflict from the Second world war;
– military: a revolt against the Titoist near monopoly on military violence through the largely Serbian controlled JNA, the Yugoslav National Army;
– economic: the under-class revolt against the technocrats; and the revolt of the less well-to-do against the more well-to-do;
– cultural: a revolt against any perceived cultural dominance, linguistically, religiously, ideologically – within and without.

VI:   Nation: shallow in terms of religion; deeper for language, and in terms of sacred times (dates) and sacred spaces (sites) for the nations.  Also “Yugoslavs” vs. “constituent nations”.

VII:  Country: only Slovenija was uni-national, the other republics were all multi-national with problematic borders

VIII: State/Capital: the socialism/capitalism controversy

IX:   Capital/Civil Society: inter-nation exploitation issues

X:    State/Civil Society: human rights infractions, killed and wounded, peace movements inside/outside Yugoslavia; NGOs.

Almost everyone of these is important.  But “nation” has to be spelt out. [Read more…]

Kosovo: Many options but independence

By Jan Oberg & Aleksandar Mitic

TFF PressInfo 228 – October 27, 2005

Originally published here.

 

The Serbian province of Kosovo, largely populated by the Albanian separatist-minded majority, has failed to meet basic human rights and political standards set as prerequisites by the international community, but it should nevertheless enter in the months to come talks on its future status.

This basic conclusion of the long-awaited report by UN special envoy Kai Eide was approved by the UN secretary general Kofi Annan and fully supported by the EU and the US, but it fails to demystify the paradox.

Only two a half years ago, the international community had charged that talks on status could not start before a set of basic human rights standards was achieved.

Since then, however, as it became clearer that the Kosovo Albanian majority was unwilling to meet the criteria and the UN unable to enforce them, there was a permanent watering down of prerequisites, until the proclaimed policy of “standards before status” was finally buried with Mr. Eide’s report.

Why has it failed? Is it because of the fear of the Kosovo Albanian threat of inciting violence if talks on status did not start soon, or was this policy a bluff from the start?

What kind of signal does it offer for the fairness of the upcoming talks? Will threats of ethnic violence in case “the only option for Kosovo Albanians – independence” – is not achieved again play a role? Or will the international community overcome its fear and offer both Pristina and Belgrade reasons to believe that the solution would negotiated and long-lasting rather than imposed, one-sided and conflict-prone?

Advocates of Kosovo’s independence such as the International Crisis Group, Wesley Clark, Richard Holbrooke and various US members of Congress argue “independence is the only solution.” The U.S. has more urgent problems elsewhere. But full independence cannot be negotiated, it can only be imposed. “Independent Kosova” implies that the Kosovo-Albanians achieve their maximalist goal with military means while Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs and Roma would not even get their minimum — a recipe for future troubles. [Read more…]

Background on Kosovo – and the management of it*

By Jan Oberg

Manuscript about Kosovo for the World Bank 

26 June 2000

 

A word about diagnosing conflict

A conflict is a problem that arises out of two or more actors’ incompatible expectations, needs or values. The sine qua non of effective conflict-mitigation (or -transformation) is comprehensive quality analysis of the root causes (diagnosis) of that problem. Without it, interventions to ‘manage’ or help solve somebody else’s conflict and prevent/stop violence will invariable fail – as will surgery on a patient whose disease is unknown to the doctor. You may add that violence is usually not the root cause of a conflict but, rather, a consequence of maltreated, ignored or otherwise non-resolved conflicts.

There is a tendency in Western culture to locate conflict (and violence, but the two are not idenical) in certain actors only. Thus, conflict is often defined as a good guy being attacked or quarelling with an evil guy about one object such as land, rights, resources, etc. Many therefore believe that conflict-resolution is about punishing the designated bad guy, rewarding his counterpart and then things will be fine.

Making “evil” the root cause is much too imprecise to serve as a diagnosis (as it would be to say that a disease is caused by demons in the body). In addition, it begs the philosophical question: What drives humans to do inhuman – evil – things to each other?

This approach is indicative of ‘conflict illiteracy’ – a recipe for failure: Conflicts are not only rooted in individuals (although, of course acted out by and through them) but also in structures in time and space, in circumstances and trends – in the “Karma.” This approach also overlooks that there are never only two parties and that most actors behave as more or less grey, rather than black and white.

 

The case of Kosovo

So, what’s is the conflict – the problems that lead to the violence – in Kosovo all about?

Having worked there over the 9 years, I would say: it is not predominantly about human rights violations or ethnic cleansing, they are symptoms of deeper lying problems, but – most unfortunately – the only aspects the so-called international community has focussed on hitherto.

As in so many other conflicts there is a history going decades, if not centuries, back in time. There is constitutional matters, general political and specific Yugo-structural features. There is a series of regional dimensions involving neighbouring countries.

And there is economic mal-development. If the GNP of Kosovo is set at 100, Slovenia (1984) had 766, Serbia without Voivodina  and Kosovo 375, Macedonia 249 – and the income gap between the richer and poorer republics and peoples in Tito’s Yugoslavia began to increase rapidly in the 1980s. Structurally more advantaged republics such as Croatia and Slovenia paid considerable parts of their profits to the federal redistribution mechanism, but much of it ended up in corrupted pockets, showplace extravagant public buildings and in land purchases in Macedonia – little left for productive investments in Kosovo.

Depending on the definition, at least 55 per cent of those seeking work were unemployed; illiteracy passed 20 per cent and perhaps as many as 400,000 kids were out of the regular schools; over 40 per cent of the people had no access to tap water, only 28 per cent lived in areas with a sewage system.

Kosovo had the highest birth rate and the highest infant mortality rate in Europe; more than 50 per cent of the citizens were below 20, the average age being 24 years of age. Albanians made up 67 per cent of the population in the province in 1961 (they also lived elsewhere in former Yugoslavia, some sources say 100.000 in Belgrade alone), they appear to have risen to about 90 per cent in the 1990s.  [Read more…]

Some ethical aspects on NATO’s intervention in Kosovo – Part A

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 73 – July 14, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Now is the time to begin to reflect on what actually happened this spring in Kosovo and, thus, to the world. I believe that historians will agree that from March 24, 1999 international politics and relations as well as the global system has changed in a deep sense,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“Many consider NATO’s intervention a moral success, a just war, a victory for democratic values.

But I believe we need to look at it from a variety of angles to a) understand it more deeply and b) to work out ideas, concepts and policies so that anything similar will never happen again elsewhere. It is indeed peculiar that this war – conducted from a moral high ground and with the aim to promote the finest ideals of Western culture – has hardly been evaluated in just such terms. I am not a philosopher of ethics, but here are some points you may use in your own thinking about contemporary history and – if it exists – ‘moral foreign policy.’

• A high-ideals, low-risk war
The West has man and noble ideals. But when it comes to risking Western lives for them, they crumble. Both Albanians and Serbs have proved themselves willing to pay a price for what they believe in.

• David and Goliath
World history’s most powerful alliance attacks a small state, devastates it with 1100 planes during 79 days. NATO could do anything in Yugoslavia, but Yugoslavia had no capacity to hurt any NATO country. Whatever propensity to feel sympathy for David there may be in Christian values, it didn’t surface. Explanation? Ten years of demonization. In addition, cruise missiles are low-cost and promise destruction on the enemy’s territory without human or material costs on our side. Behind NATO’s boasting of success and determination hides a high-tech-based cowardice second to none. [Read more…]

NATO’s war and the ethnic cleansing – Is there a way out?

By Johan Galtung

TFF PressInfo 70 – June 10, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Where do I stand: very simply, I am against the NATO bombing, I am against ethnic cleansing, whether by Serbs or anybody else – for instance by the immigrants to North America who in the period 1600-1900 cleansed away about 10,000,000 American Indians. I find nothing original in my position. The only original position would be to be in favor of both, a view probably only entertained by arms dealers.

There are those who try to make us believe that you have to make a choice between NATO and Milosevic; if you are against one for sure you are in favor of the other. Nonsense. Early on in this horrible decade many of the same people tried to make us believe that you had to make a choice between the Gulf war and Saddam Hussein; again, perfectly possible to be against both.

Then, the second example of this terrible dualism, the terror of the false dichotomy as we academics say: there was no alternative, if you do not accept the NATO bombing it means that you are co-responsible for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Nonsense.

There was an alternative and even a very good one: step of the number of observers in the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) from 1,200 to, say, 6,000, 12,000. Handies and binoculars, living in the villages, bringing in volunteers. But at the same time there was a civil war going on from February 1998, and one US ambassador had done what the US did in connection with the Gulf war: He (Gelbard) told Belgrade that the USA was of the view that KLA were terrorists – certainly also the Belgrade position.

The alternative would have been to close the border by extending the UN mandate on the Macedonian-Kosovo border, step up OSCE, and then call a major conference on South East Europe.

Nothing like this happened; as we know the war was decided early last fall; only a question of preparing the public through the media, and presenting Milosevic with an ultimatum he could not accept. The Rambouillet charade was about this. People started getting suspicious when they discovered that the media did not bring the text; it had to be dug out from obscure sites on the Internet.

I asked some journalists to make an inquiry in one of these 19 democracies, my own, Norway: no parliamentarian had read the text. Democracy is about informed participation.

The Serbs knew: loss of sovereignty and territorial integrity, unlimited NATO access to Serbia. No state signs itself into occupation and dismemberment. The Kosovars also knew: this was not the independence they wanted; it looked more like a protectorate under NATO. So they voted no. [Read more…]

The West is in moral trouble if there is an ethnic cleansing plan – and if there isn’t

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 64 – April 25, 1999

Originally published here.

 

“We are told there the West knew already last autumn that President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse all Albanians from the Kosovo province. However, while it is true that Yugoslav forces have exploited NATO’s bombing campaign to drive out Albanians in a way and to an extent that must be morally condemned, the unproved allegation that there existed a plan tells more about NATO than about President Milosevic – and what it tells is not to the advantage of the former,” says TFF director Jan Oberg. 

“The disgusting expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo can’t be defended. The Yugoslav authorities who carries it out or lets individuals do it, can not defend such human rights violations with reference to NATO’ bombing. Sure, Serbs will see NATO’s destruction of Yugoslavia as work commissioned by Kosovo-Albanians/UCK, but it is anyhow up to Yugoslavia to fight NATO, not to take revenge against those who are innocent civilians.

Having said that, NATO and the West can not be trusted when it seeks to legitimise its Balkan bombing blunder by insisting that it has “evidence” of an ethnic cleansing plan but has still not provided the slightest evidence. Here are some reasons why this is utterly irresponsible and, thus, undermines NATO credibility – and the credibility of a free press that does not ask more critical questions:

First of all, we never heard anybody talk about such a plan before NATO’s bombs started falling. Second, the argument for bombing was related to whether or not Yugoslavia would sign the Rambouillet Dictate. We never heard anybody saying that NATO would bomb Yugoslavia should they carry out an ethnic cleansing plan.

Third, if such a plan was known already during autumn, how could the West invite representatives of a killer regime to Paris? How could the US send ambassador Richard Holbrooke to Belgrade to try to make a last-minute deal with such ‘a serial cleanser’ President?

Fourth – and worst, perhaps of all – if the West knew of such a plan why did it do absolutely NOTHING to plan for the humanitarian emergency it would cause? Why did the West/NATO not actively threaten to prevent it OR initiate bombings much earlier? Isn’t it simply too immoral to know about such a plan and do nothing?

Fifth, if Milosevic, Serbia or Yugoslavia wanted to get rid of all Albanians, why did they choose this particularly awkward moment [Read more…]

Covering up NATO’s Balkan Bombing Blunder

Av Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 61 – April 14, 1999

Originally published here.

Serbo-Croatian version here.

 

“Western leaders are busy re-writing history to justify their Balkan bombing blunder. The change in information, rhetoric and explanations since the bombings started on March 24 is literally mind-boggling. Most likely they fear they have opened a very dark chapter in history and may be losing the plot.

One way to make failure look like success is to construct a powerful media reality and de-construct real reality. That’s the essence of media warfare and that’s what happens now,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“For instance, you must have noticed that the The Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA or UCK, which existed some weeks ago and allegedly participated in Rambouillet now suddenly never existed. The 13-months war in Kosovo/a also conveniently has been expurgated.

The last few days President Clinton, prime minister Blair, NATO General Wesley Clark, foreign secretary Cook, foreign minister Fischer, secretary Albright, defence minister Robertson and other Western leaders have explained to the world why NATO bombs Yugoslavia. They made no mention of KLA or the war. Their speeches are surprisingly uniform. Their main points are:

• We have evidence that Yugoslavia, i.e.President Milosevic had a plan to ethnically cleanse Kosovo/a of all Albanians.

• One proof of this plan is that some 700.000 have been driven over the borders; it would have been many more, if not all 2 million Albanians, had NATO not taken action. [Read more…]

Read the civilian Rambouillet Kosovo agreement !

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 57, March 17, 1999

Originally published here

Serbo-Croatian version

“Read the so-called Kosovo Peace Agreement being discussed these very hours in Paris and you are in for a few surprises,” says TFF director Dr. Jan Oberg. “I do not think that any recognised, sovereign state would accept all the CIVILIAN provisions and the MILITARY implementation on its territory of a plan like this. No state likes to receive “sign or be bombed” ultimatums – particularly not when the said plan implies the de facto end of its status as a sovereign state with territorial integrity.

The standard story with CNN, BBC, and leading papers conveys the impression that the Serbs are just stubborn and stall the peace negotiations, whereas the Albanian side is co-operative, as evidenced by a letter from their delegation leader of March 15. Yugoslavia deserves punishment while Albanians are praised for their “courage to compromise for peace.” That’s virtual reality and virtual truth. Real reality is way more complicated,” says Oberg.

“You must have noticed that no one has raised the simple question: Could there be some reasons why Serbs say no and Albanians indicate that they will say yes? Ask yourself why media and diplomats discuss the game and the blame, not the substance. Did you know,” asks Jan Oberg, “that the document on the table, among other things, decides that: [Read more…]

Civil society in war and peace – New TFF report

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 53 – December 23, 1998

Originally published here.

“This is yet another publication from TFF – ‘Violence, Postwar Reconstruction and Civil Society – Theory and Yugoslavia.’ It’s main focus is civil society in war and peace. It relates this concept to the economic globalisation, to international conflict-management and to the case of Yugoslavia and the Dayton agreement,” says Jan Oberg, TFF director and author of the study.

It reflects the fact that everything TFF does is based on triple-thinking: We have three types of activities – academic analyses, field work and advocacy. We do three things in conflict regions – conflict analysis/early warning, conflict-mitigation and peace and reconciliation education. We offer three perspectives – analyses, criticism and constructive alternatives. We believe that conflicts deserve three steps – diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. And we work with three conflict regions – former Yugoslavia, Georgia in the Caucasus and one more conflict,” says Oberg.

The first chapter deals with civil society and violence-prevention; the second discusses various concepts of ‘civil society’ and relates it to various types of power. [Read more…]

Forums for human rights and peace education in Eastern Slavonia – and elsewhere

By Jan Oberg

October 11, 1998

Originally published here.

“This is a modest proposal for institutionalisation of peace-related teaching in regions of conflict. It’s a Citizens Forum for Human Rights and Peace Education, HR&PE. It mentions Croatia but is equally relevant for, let’s say, Kosovo or Macedonia, or any other trouble spot. You may think that this is relevant only after war, but I strongly believe that forums like this should be created wherever the situation threatens to erupt into violence. If the trigger-happy international “community” had invested in such projects – both in their own ministries of foreign affairs, in international organisations and in trouble spots such as Kosovo – 5 or 10 years ago, people on all sides would begin to realise the utter futility of using weapons to achieve their goals,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“You see, there are no limits to what can be done to help people coexist in postwar communities. The international community has no specialised competence or organisations in this field. Post-war reconciliation is the most important measure to prevent future outbreaks of violence – and we must focus particularly on children and youth,” says TFF director Jan Oberg.

“TFF has been working for more than one year with reconciliation issues in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia. We have analysed problems of co-operation in many schools, served as resource persons at three UN/Council of Europe seminars for principals and teachers, helped about 120 Croat and Serb gymnasium students to see a better future together and we’ve supported local Serb media in their wish to contribute to reconciliation. Just a couple of weeks ago, TFF conducted a seminar with CINES – the Citizens Initiative Network Eastern Slavonia that we helped create in June, an effort to bring mixed groups of teachers, media people and all NGOs together as they are all educators.” [Read more…]

Human rights in Kosovo/a – Not so simple

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 45 – August 27, 1998

Originally published here.

“To understand a conflict – and, thus, help solve it – we need to know something about at least three things: Attitudes, Behaviour and the root Causes of the conflict. That’s the ABC. Most media simply report on behaviour and ignore the two other dimensions. This is why people in general feel that they don’t understand much of it all, in spite of watching and listening carefully to news reports. And when media cover conflict behaviour, many seem to use the KISS principle – Keep It Simple, Stupid. What you have heard about human rights in Kosovo/a is a good example of KISS journalism,” says Jan Oberg, head of TFF’s Conflict-Mitigation team upon returning from yet another mission to Belgrade, Prishtina and Skopje.

“I want to make it clear that I consider the Serb government guilty of extremely serious and systematic human rights violations in the Kosovo province. Over the years, the Serb leadership has pursued an absolutely immoral and self-defeating policy of repression. Having listened to hundreds of personal accounts of human rights violations, I know that. Numerous human rights organisations offer overwhelming documentation.

During our missions, TFF’s team has been stopped repeatedly on the roads, interrogated at police stations for hours, and deprived of written Albanian materials. I have seen the blood on the sidewalk after a young Albanian shot dead close to the Grand Hotel one morning in peacetime Prishtina. And, undoubtedly, when a people is this strong and this united in its desire for freedom, repression of its fundamental rights must be a basic explanation – however not the only one.

This, however, can not explain” – continues Dr. Oberg – “why so many human rights advocates, columnists, experts and diplomats ignore the fact that the rights of all, also the Serbs, are violated in this province. [Read more…]

Security and Identity in former Yugoslavia

By Håkan Wiberg
Presumably written 1995 or 96

Introduction

The concatenation of conflicts in former Yugoslavia are of a complexity that makes them difficult to fathom for the great majority of external observers, in particular mass media and politicians. This complexity derives from the high number of actors in various phases, as well as from the varying characters of actors and from the fact that different dimensions of security have played – and continue to play salient roles.

When external actors have tried to relate to this set of conflict, the heritage of the Cold War has apparently played a great role. Its essence is not to be found in the specific propaganda themes in 1991, rather in a general pattern of perception. It can be summarized in three main axioms:

1. There can be no more than two actors in a conflict.
2. These actors are states.
3. Among these, one is good and one is bad.

In virtually every situation, however, the actors have never been less than three, and even then only after great simplification. Peoples have been just as much actors as states, and – with few exceptions – the actions of these actors are a matter of bad and worse, rather than good and bad, at least if judged by generalizable morality rather than political expediency.

In addition, it must not be forgotten that the former Yugoslavia had an appallingly bad prognosis in its last period of existence by a wide range of indicators. [Read more…]