The West’s intervention in Kosovo was a reaction to the Serbs’ final solution to the problems of the recalcitrant province. The Serbs attempted to drive out the Albanian majority using soldiers and civilians for mayhem and murder. It was not an arbitrary, irrational act, merely a final inhuman escalation of a conflict lost in the medieval clashes between Islam and Christianity, whose increasingly secular descendants wage the same war, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing in seven centuries.
A past of separate schooling, separate histories and separate development, conducted in different languages with different scripts, has fueled enough rancor in Kosovo to make Northern Ireland’s divisions look like a minor fraternal tiff.
After its bombing campaign in Serbia, the Western alliance finally drove the Yugoslav Army out of Kosovo, only to see it leave a bloody trail of “goodbye” atrocities on its withdrawal route. In its wake, the Kosovo Liberation Army revisited the same atrocities on the Serbs left behind and on their Gypsy “collaborators” before the West’s troops arrived to pry the two apart.
Today, 12 months on, little has changed. The Serb forces have been cowed by KFOR’s armor and hamstrung by the new political dawn in Belgrade. The Kosovo “nation in waiting” has a litter of political parties who want independence. The military wing of the PDK (Kosovo Democratic Party) is taking the war and ethnic cleansing to Serbia in those areas near the border where there is an Albanian majority, using the five-km zone separating Western troops from the Serb military to train and fight.
Today Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, is virtually a Serb-free zone. Its 200 or so remaining Serb families are huddled together in a block of flats with Royal Marine Commandos on 24-hour guard, afraid to go shopping or to school without an armed guard. Recently someone fired a rocket grenade into a flat. Luckily, it was empty.
In the countryside it’s not much better. Mixed villages have an occupying force of armed police, but they didn’t prevent two Serb pensioners, a husband and wife, from having their throats cut and being left to bleed to death in the garden.
The Serb villages in a sea of Albanians are isolated cantonments whose inhabitants drive the gauntlet every time they venture forth. They are economically outside the rest of Kosovar society, with no jobs and no prospects and dependent on handouts and pensions from Serbia in many cases.
All of this means Kosovo is living a lie. The much-advertised return of the Serbs who fled the province barely numbers 200. The Western troops are merely freeze-framing a process that when released will inevitably result in the separation of all the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo. The Western forces are doing a thankless task. Brought in to fight a war, they now have to act as armed policemen, bodyguards and entrepreneurs trying to kick-start a Serb parallel economy in a new apartheid.
Some steps can be taken to assist the process. Agreeing to eliminate the ribbon of territory around Kosovo where ethnic Albanian terrorists hide will help a little. Changing the mix of troops and civilians from the West can make a contribution. Battle tanks are less useful than people with knowledge of renewable-energy technologies in an environment where power supplies are erratic and Serb villages are at the head of the line for being switched off.
Yet in the end we may have to recognize that, for the future, Serbs and Albanians are immiscible, and the best way forward is to collude in a new apartheid where within one “state” there are two “nations” who live parallel lives that don’t touch.
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