Folly in the Balkans

photo: bistro tuttigusti

Despite change of 'news' policy for this issue, this
column's photos remain the same.

French Stand Behind Government

Paris:- Sunday, 11. April 1999:- The war over Korsovo is big news here because Korsovo is in Europe and it is not very far away from most of us. For some, it is far too close.

I am neither a big fan of war or war news. I am not following the blow- by-blow news from the Balkans. But you will probably think it odd if I do not mention it at all.

When I do pay attention, I look for two things. What is the degree of folly involved? How many of the mistakes of the last war are being repeated?

It seems to me that the 'folly' of this particular war is the one of appeasement. For this is the solution being proposed by all those who are opposing this particular war.

Marching and carrying banners claiming that President Clinton has committed the United States tophoto: bistro aux anysemers du roy wage a war against Serbia is a legitimate activity in countries where freedom of speech is permitted; even if these claims are not true.

NATO and some 19 of its members are waging war against Serbia, because Serbia has flatly refused certain fundamental civil rights to some of its citizens.

There is a history of this in the former area of Yugoslavia and Serbia has been forced to cease similar activities in the areas of Slovenia, Croatia and most recently, in Bosnia-Herzogovina. It seems as if the 'folly-factor' is one that is almost exclusive to Serbia.

While nobody has tried full appeasement of Serbia yet; it does not seem as if anybody wants to take a chance on it. The reason for this is, Serbian intentions seem to be clear. 'Ethnic-cleansing' is not seen as a civil-rights exercise.

Negotiations about the fate of Korsovo took place over a long period of time and in the end, Serbia refused to sign any agreements. In effect, Serbia said to the community of nations, it was not going to do what the majority of them thought would be the right thing.

There is a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which I assume, the Serbian government has signed. Not adhering to it, annoys the United Nations - but because of its makeup, it is nearly powerless to act in the face of defiance.

Things have changed a lot in Europe since the virtual end of the east-west conflict ten years ago. NATO is the dominant military force and has gained many new adherents. One of the issues that unites the alliance, is keeping the peace. And this has been expanded to include forcing governments - if necessary - to treat their own citizens according to commonly agreed-upon standards.

The French Position Concerning Korsovo

President Jacques Chirac has been speaking to the residents of France via television, and so has the current Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin.

They have both been saying that France is a NATO partner and fully agrees with the action NATO is taking in the Balkans; as well as assisting with its operation, in cooperation with the other 18-odd countries taking part.

Historically, France is a 'friend' of Serbia. However, appeasing the Serbian government at this time is not a responsible option for France or any other country.

Within France, this official position doesn't hinder residents with pro-Serbian sympathies from publicly demonstrating and protesting about France's position and the NATO action. There are street marches and pro-Serbians are shown and heard on TV-news broadcasts.

The Management of the Conflict

This appears to be a result of past experience with the recentphoto: bistro la pergola history of the Balkans. It seems as if the conflict has been carefully scripted and the events are happening on time, according to a well thought-out scenario.

On Thursday evening, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin took up all of the evening's France 2-TV-news to clearly state exactly what the Serbian government has to do in order to end the conflict. I assume most other European government heads have made similar or identical statements.

One result of this focused policy - plus the coverage of the Korsovan refugee situation on TV - has been to move public opinion from being against any ground-troop intervention, to being approximately 60 percent in favor of one, if necessary.

These poll results are probably without precedent in France.

History's lesson says getting involved in a ground war in the Balkans is likely to be a no-win proposition. However, history never had an alliance of 19 heavily-armed countries, lining up against one relatively small one with limited resources.

Is it bluff? Probably. Nobody wants to have to put troops on the ground in Serbia and turn the whole place into a total wreck. In our high-tech world we also have high-tech PR; getting the French poll results prove it. The Serbian government has to pay attention to the far-fetched notion that the French would actually approve of a ground intervention.

But the question remains: what does the Serbian government think it can achieve?

In these days of 'regions,' can it possibly think Serbian minorities can wield political and commercial control over peoples who do not wish this domination?

In any kind of deal like this, there has to be an 'exit' plan. NATO's is clear: the Serbian government has not only got to read the writing on the wall, it has got to abide by it.

But in the face of thisphoto: bistro le saint claire determination, what can Serbia have for its own 'exit' plan? What can Serbia stand to win? Perhaps more realistically, what can Serbia afford to win?

The 'Exit' Plan

Win or lose - regardless of Serbia or Europe - the cost of getting or failing to get Serbia to do one thing or another is going to be colossal. Once there is some sort of resolution to the problem, the cost of rebuilding the Balkans is going to be even more colossal. Rebuilding the lives of all affected, is going to be beyond cost.

In the end, there are not going to be any winners. 'The village will be destroyed in order to save it.' This is folly's result every time.

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