The war in Yugoslavia is over and Kosovars are now returning to their homes -- at least what is left of them. Many are celebrating this peace deal. But is it truly a peace deal or a face saving plan for the parties involved? To answer this, one only needs to analyze the situation in simple terms: who gained what from the war and who will now gain from peace?
In the Winner's Circle...
NATO countries, some more than others, benefited greatly from the war and stand to reap sizeable benefits from peace as well. Although contrary to what some conspiracy theorists claim, the war was not fought for self-interest or for any ulterior motives. Credit must be given where credit is due. And for the most part, Operation Allied Force appears to have been a case of good intentions, despite the presence of poor strategy and vision.
In terms of material gain though, the war did provide the opportunity for NATO to demonstrate that military challenge to its technology is unwise. The lead nations, the United States in particular, were able to test some of their latest weaponry. In fact, some reports suggest that the air raids over Serbia enabled the military powers to confirm that satellite guided bombs, costing $30,000 a pop, are a lot more effective on a "dollar for bang" basis than the weapons of choice used against Iraq, namely cruise missiles that cost $1.5 million each. Other NATO countries -- though again, some more than others -- also got the opportunity to give a boost to their military industries, as the war cost NATO between $6 billion and $10 billion, mostly in weapons and ammunition.
Russia was able to demonstrate to the world that it is still a force with which to be reckoned. First, it made clear that nothing can be done through the U.N. Security Council without Russian support. To further emphasize that point the Russians also showed that even circumvention of the Security Council still requires that it be part of any equation. As a result, the peace train couldn't move until the Russians hopped aboard.
The peace deal has now allowed the NATO coalition to exit what had become an increasingly controversial situation. With not a single NATO soldier lost in combat, how could Western leaders resist ending the war before it became necessary to use troops to stop Slobodan Milosevic? What better way to end a conflict than when the going is good?
From a long-term perspective, the Western military/industrial complex will benefit not only from the expected increase in sales of the newly demonstrated armaments, but also in the rebuilding of Kosova and Serbia. I can just see the contractors, engineers and material suppliers drooling at the thought of getting a piece of the estimated $30 billion to $80 billion in reconstruction work needed for the Balkans. Sure, the West says that Serbia won't get a penny until Milosevic is overthrown. But wait and see what happens when the images of suffering Kosovars fade from our television sets and subsequently from our shortest of short-term memories, and other countries slowly move in to rebuild and lobbyist descend on Western capitals harping about missed business opportunities.
And the Losers Are...
As we saw daily on our television screens, the Kosovar Muslims paid the ultimate price for NATO's war. Civilians in Serbia also paid a price, but NATO's air attacks will never compare to the systematic murder and expulsion of the Kosovars. And for the Serbs, at least with peace they can now begin to rebuild. Kosovars, on the other hand, will continue to fear Serb power.
The scenes of destroyed villages, burned homes and mass graves flashing across the television screen, makes one wonder how the world could make a people return to a land still under the control -- however marginally -- of their tormentor. Surely, something is not right when an indicted war criminal can continue his hold over his victims with the world's blessing.
By agreeing to uphold Yugoslavia's "sovereignty and territorial integrity" over Kosova, NATO has done the equivalent of tasking an arsonist with oversight of a house he just burnt to the ground. The only consolation in the situation is that firefighters are now on the scene. But the peace agreement still leaves some important issues to chance.
For instance, how does the new plan's limitation, granting Kosova only "substantial autonomy," reconcile with the Rambouillet Agreement? The current plan "takes into consideration" the Rambouillet Agreement. But this consideration is at best vague and begs the question: what happened to Rambouillet's "mechanism" -- widely interpreted to mean a plebiscite -- which was to be implemented after three years, to determine the final status of Kosova?
The plan also provides for Kosova to eventually develop democratic institutions while remaining an autonomous region within Yugoslavia. What happens when, as some analysts predict, these institutions lean toward independence? Will the KLA take up arms again? Will NATO forcefully disarm it? If NATO chose in such a scenario to do nothing to stop the KLA, would this give the right to Milosevic to march back into Kosova? Or worse still, would Russia be drawn into the conflict?
The uncertainty created by the rush to make peace with a war criminal will have its greatest impact on the Kosovars. Without justice there can be no peace. NATO's reluctance to finish off the war they started -- by sending in troops to fight Serbian soldiers as opposed to bombing Serbian civilians -- has created another quagmire for the world to deal with.
If the current state of affairs is not altered then the Kosovars will be the big losers of this peace. The aspirations of the Kosovars must be addressed and the international community must nip a potential cycle of violence in the bud, before it gains its own momentum, by making it clear that Kosovars can determine their own future democratically.