Insurgency in Kosovo

The Hill — Insurgency many miles from Iraq

Five years into an indefinite mandate, the United Nations’ occupation of Kosovo — backed by the boots of NATO peacekeepers — is rapidly losing support among both Kosovar Albanians and ethnic Serbs.

The U.N. attempt to midwife a democratic nation here in the rump of the former Yugoslavia and NATO̢۪s fractured and inconsistent response to ongoing ethnic violence offer a cautionary tale of nation-building elsewhere on the globe, especially Iraq, say seasoned diplomats, local journalists and aid workers in Pristina, Mitrovicia and Belgrade.

But diplomats and aid workers in this quasi-capital of a quasi-state caution that comparisons between Iraq and Kosovo, while apt in many ways, should not be overwrought, especially because the American contingent of NATO̢۪s 18,000-strong force remains overwhelmingly popular with the local population. Most of the Kosovar Albanians̢۪ ire is directed toward the U.N. administrative body, UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo), which has a $200 million annual budget for civilian and operational costs.

In addition to Albanian criticism of UNMIK, the handful or Orthodox Christian Serbs still living in Kosovo, a region roughly the size of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, accuse some NATO peacekeepers — especially the German and the French — of complicity in what Serbs regard as reprisal ethnic cleansing. Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who visited the region in May, told The Hill, “The French didn’t protect the local Serb population and the monasteries, and the Germans didn’t either. The Greeks did, and the Italians did. Same with Americans and British.

“It wasn’t until Admiral [Gregory] Johnson came and took charge did NATO troops act together.â€

So, the peacekeeping is going badly despite the imprimatur of the UN and NATO, the active participation of the French and Germans, and is being saved by the Brits and Americans. Hmmmm.

Just think how well it’d be going if John Kerry were president!

Hat tip: Bill Quick

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim says:

    Interesting article. In a simular vein, one of the things that have bothered me is the liberal’s reflexive disdain of the recent transfer of power in Iraq. Some of the most common words is that it is only a show and that the US still controls Iraq. Most of the same people consider Bosnia a textbook case of how to nation build successfully but what they don’t realize is the UN High Representative (almost colonial sounding isn’t it?) has the authority to make any laws and nullify and laws he wants…. Who is more soverign?

  2. La Femme Crickita says:

    Not only that, but Bosnia was CLINTON’S debacle, not Bush’s. The other point to address is as you say, the PEOPLE are not sovereign and are being brainwashed into believing their rights are being protected by government, not themselves. Once they get that pounded in they SHOULD kick the UN OUT.

  3. Jeff Begley says:

    Aah… there it is: sovereignty. Quick, give it back to ’em! Without it they can’t oppress, wage war or ethnically cleanse!

    In a devil’s advocate type vein, check out what I think of sovereignty when it comes to countries that don’t have the education to deal with it: