War no more
The lessons of Kosovo
June 15, 1999
What lessons can we learn from the war over Kosovo? Military strategists
have argued that despite naysayers, NATO's success in Kosovo proves that
air power alone can indeed achieve military victory.
Political strategists have suggested that force of arms can subdue a
willful dictator such as Milosevic to finally give up and withdraw into
his own corner. More realistically, other analysts have proposed that neither
side has won a military victory.
Instead, a compromise was reached in which Russia is playing a critical
role. Kosovo is "about the Russians, stupid!" writes Stratfor
Report. "And about China and about the global balance of power."
In other words, the conflict in Kosovo was and continues to be a struggle
between NATO and an emerging Russian-Chinese alliance for spheres of influence.
What lessons can WE THE PEOPLE draw from Kosovo?
The war in Yugoslavia presents an alarming pattern in the post-Cold
War era. In Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya, and Iraq, great powers have
employed overwhelming violence at inordinate human and material cost to
achieve what they have considered their legitimate interests.
The dehumanizing consequences of these wars have produced much "collateral
damage" in the form of destruction of civilian lives and property,
devastation of physical and social infrastructure, lowering of living standards
for generations to come, millions of refugees, and a formation of deep
and lasting hatreds against perpetrators.
Is this the promise of the 21st century? Is "humanitarian intervention"
another euphemism for an on-going relentless class war between the haves
and the have-nots, the North and the South, the West and the rest? One
would hope not. But the emerging use of overwhelming violence to resolve
ethnic problems leaves us little room for optimism.
Violence always introduces a new cycle of violence. Complex problems
cannot be resolved except through dialogue, negotiation, mutual accommodation,
and political and economic pressures other than the use of force.
In the case of Yugoslavia, for instance, the break-up of the Federation
with the encouragement of Western powers, led to ethnic blood letting in
Bosnia and Kosovo. The breakup of any other multi-ethnic country cannot
but have similar consequences.
Why not turn Kosvo into a multiethnic international zone of peace under
the United Nations Trusteeship Council? Except for a police force, no military
force would be allowed, Serbs and Kosovars would live side by side, and
international investment would turn Kosovar into a Balkan model of peace
and prosperity. The current situation invites daily clashes between NATO,
Russian, Serb, and Kosovar forces.
Ultimately, of course, the international community must learn to banish
war as an institution. In the current ceaseless clamor of moralizing violence,
Daisaku Ikeda, the leader of a Buddhist organization in Japan has presented
a voice of sanity for this goal.
Ikeda has outlined a path to the de-institutionalization of war with
the following objectives:
1. To protect the world's children from the scourge of war; most especially,
to prohibit the military recruitment of children under age eighteen.
2. To extend the competence of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
enabling it to take steps against the use of nuclear and other weapons
of mass destruction.
3. To create a regional forum for Northeast Asia, akin to the EU, ASEAN,
MERCOSUR, etc. as a venue for dialogue and conflict solving within this
4.To inhibit the arms trade, one of the most evil and morally unforgivable
activities in our contemporary world, though mandatory reporting of all
arms transfers and the strengthening of international efforts to limit
5. To create the systemic framework for disarmament, both of small arms
and nuclear weapons.
To undertake such a project for abolishing war as a human institution,
Ikeda also argues that we need to make a transition from the current world
culture of war to a culture of peace. When violence is glorified in our
films, television programs, video game parlors, and political discourse,
its bitter fruits will be reaped not only in Kosovo but also in our neighborhoods,
schools (e.g. Littleton, Colorado), shopping centers, as well as rich and
A quick look at the top ten exporters and importers of conventional
arms can quickly tell us where peace education is most needed. The top
ten arms exporters are U.S., Russia, U.K., France, Germany, China, Netherlands,
Italy, Canada, and Spain. The top ten importers consist of Saudi Arabia,
Taiwan, Turkey, Egypt, South Korea, China, Japan, India, Greece, and Kuwait.
The data speaks louder than words.
Kosovo served as a crucible of tests for high-tech weapons that had
devastating effects. Why not turn the tide now and make it into a flowering
field of high-touch peace and prosperity?
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