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Jewish World Review / June 10 , 1998 /16 Sivan, 5758

William Pfaff

William Pfaff Get Milosevic now!

VIENNA -- The Kosovo problem revolves around the sovereignty problem. In law, Kosovo's conflict with the Serbian government is an internal issue within the Republic of Serbia. Kosovo is a nominally autonomous province of Serbia, which with Macedonia makes up the sovereign Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, of which Slobodan Milosevic is president.

To interfere with Serbia's repression of the ethnic Albanians, who are overwhelmingly the majority population in Kosovo, is to intervene in Serbia's internal affairs. Thus what the international community thus far has done, or proposes to do, to halt Serbia's attacks upon the civilians of Kosovo, is frustratingly indirect and inherently futile.

Mr. Milosevic can ignore toothless diplomatic warnings and reimposed sanctions. NATO threatens to send troops to camp on Kosovo's borders with Albania and Macedonia in what is called a "preventive deployment." Preventive of what? Of the spread of war, even though the immediate problem is not international war but ruthless uprooting and repression of a civilian population inside Kosovo.

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, joined by the United States, is proposing that the UN Security Council authorize "all necessary means"to stop the conflict from spreading to Albania and to Macedonia, which has a large Albanian minority.

This was the language which authorized the Gulf War. However Iraq had invaded Kuwait, an international crime. In the Kosovo case, what is necessary is an intervention inside Kosovo and Serbia to halt a crime against humanity. There is no fully acknowledged international precedent for this.

Why not create the precedent? The international community intervened in Iraq to protect persecuted Kurd and Shi'ite Moslem minorities, although none too successfully. Iraqi sovereignty was thus abridged by the Security Council, although in the aftermath of a war.

The United States has in the past found implausible but tolerated grounds for military violations of the sovereignty of Panama, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Cambodia, and Laos. Where there's a will, there's a way, as Washington knows.

Air intervention against police and the Serbian military forces attacking civilian centers in Kosovo, and against their lines of communication and bases, is presumably feasible in military terms. On the Iraqi precedent it would seem legally feasible.

It would be only one factor contributing to a solution, but it would greatly heighten Mr. Milosevic's difficulties and his relationship with the police and military who are the targets of NATO action. It would provide one incentive to reestablish negotiations on Kosovo's situation.

Internationalizing the problem is also imaginable, and perhaps inevitable, given the radicalization produced by the latest Serbian attacks on the Kosovars. That is what the international community did when Croatia and Slovenia claimed independence. It recognized them as independent states. The Yugoslav army no longer was engaged in suppression of internal dissidence but was committing international aggression. International assistance to the victims was legitimated.

That precedent is not the happiest one, given what followed. But the international community might this time do well what in 1991-1992 was turned into a catastrophe by the divisions and pusillanimity of the western powers.

There would be rough justice in this, too, since there are Communist precedents. In Finland in 1939 and in Poland, midway in the second world war, Stalin recognized "exile governments" made up of Comintern officials, and made it Soviet policy to put them in power. He failed in Finland, but succeeded with the so-called Lublin Committee, which was installed in power in Poland in 1944 by the Russian army.

The international community has it in its power to recognize the clandestine coalition government created in Kosovo, and the verdict of that government's 1991 referendum on Kosovo's independence. The Kosovar leaders have subsequently conducted an extraordinary struggle to free their country by non-violent means.

Mr. Milosevic is on prima facie evidence a war criminal. The atrocities by Serbian forces in the course of the wars between Serbs and the Bosnians and Croatians were committed under his authority, and the struggle in Kosovo is a direct result of his abrogation of Kosovo's former autonomous status in 1988 and 1989.

He and his government blatantly incited ethnic violence there and elsewhere in the old Yugoslavia, in the run-up to that country's disintegration in 1991 and the ensuing war to create a "greater" Serbia.

The prosecutor at the Hague Tribunal on war crimes in Yugoslavia made it known two months ago that she was assembling the case against Mr. Milosevic. He has been spared indictment until now because Washington and the other western capitals found him useful in getting the Dayton agreements installed in Bosnia, and because Russia was unwilling to see him called to account. Russia now would seem to have had its fill of Mr. Milosevic, and to be ready to abandon him.

The time has come to demand his indictment and trial, no doubt in absentia -- but that's all right; it is the principle, and the precedent, which count. It would be one further step in the campaign, which is feasible, and by now overdue, to remove Slobodan Milosevic from the European political scene. saddle.


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5/25/98:Asian nations resisting American control
5/21/98: The Communist mainfesto, at 150, prophesied the shape of today's capitalism
5/19/98: Globalized capitalism is more significant than nuclear weapons
5/13/98: Negotiating in reality, not wishfulness
5/7/98: Things can only get better and better!
5/5/98: Racial, ethnic, national barriers disappearing
5/5/98: Racial, ethnic, national barriers disappearing
4/21/98: A terrifying synthesis of forces spawned Pol Pot's regime
4/19/98: Russian-German-French structure of consultation is good development
4/16/98: Violence in society comes from the top as well as the bottom
4/13/98: Clinton's foreign policy does have a sunny side, too
4/8/98: Public interest must control marketplace
4/5/98: Great crimes don't require great villians
3/29/98: Authority rests on a moral position, and requires consent
3/29/98:Signs of hope in troubled Russia
3/25/98: National Front amassing power
3/23/98: NATO's expansion contradicts other American policies
3/18/98: The New Yorker sought money, but lost it
3/16/98: America's 'strategy of tension' in Italy
3/13/98: Slobodan Milosevic may have started something that can't be stopped

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.