Peace in Kosovo - and our lessons from the war? (13.6.1999)

Bombardment and the mass expulsion are coming to an end - and this gives hope for peace and relief and hopefully will soon bring normalization for the people of this region.

What did we learn? And which lessons will enter history? At first sight: "Our politics were painful, but deliberate, justified and successful. They worked satisfactorily as an example for the future coexistence of the people and for the preservation of human rights and this will contribute to the stability of the world. Serbia can receive support for the reconstruction from the west, only if it bends itself to the demands of the west without any contradiction."

I offer a somewhat more sceptical view than it is usual at present. War and victory change history. That is trivial. But war and victory also change history in rear direction: In the sphere of influence of the winning party a description of the reality has larger influence, which motivates and describes the own strategy as competent, as controlled in execution, as legally and morally justified. On the other hand this interpretation assigns the opposite moral values to the loosing side.

As a warning I would like to make clear right from the beginning: he who is looking for the one-sided identification of villains and devils will be wasting his time with further reading. I try to describe average human reactions and I am convinced of the fact that the identification of devils does not contribute anyhow to the solution of ethnical conflicts. I consider a negotiation process as pragmatically correct and indispensable, as it is very convincingly described by Roger Fisher (Roger Fisher, Beyond Macchiavelli. Tools for coping with conflict, 1996). By the way: those who reckon law and constitution a task just for tricky lawyers should not read on as well.

First: There is not a doubt for me to the fact that the Serbian leadership is jointly responsible for severe atrocities in Kosovo (nevertheless I also think that the acting of the UCK strongly contributed to it and that the strategy of the UCK might have been directed at the following escalation from the start).

However: A substantial task of the next time will be to work out and evaluate with scrutiny the contributing responsibility of the west regarding the humanitarian disaster in Kosovo. It will have to be sufficiantly clarified

Further we will have to evaluate, which contribution the concrete policy can carry out in the context of the targets of our foreign policy. Our central targets are: Protection of the world peace, stabilization of the international economic and cultural exchange, promotion of human rights.

I would like to deal at first with law, and with motives of the air impacts against Yugoslavia, then with the immidiate outcome of the mission and with the mid-range effects on international relations.

What's the law?

Who is justified, Yugoslavia or NATO? Related to conventional international law the answer is a very clear and simple one: Yugoslavia. The Charter of the United Nations permits a military intervention against a sovereign state exactly in two cases. Once in the case of defence of a State being attacked contrary to international law (art. 51 UNCH), on the other hand with approval of the force application by the UN security council for the tasks of re-creation of international security and the world peace (art. 41 ff UNCH). Evidently both facts were not given in the Yugoslav case. It is to also to point out that the NATO states furtheron committed themselves to a force renouncement outside of the defined cases in art. 1 of the Washington treaty of 1949, in Art.2 Zf.4 UNCH and also in point 11 of the principle catalog of the final act of CSCE of 1975.

Many politicians these days explain the attack on Yugoslavia with a sort of auto-development of law: the international law unfolded - under increasing importance of the human rights - from a law of the states over a law of the peoples to a law of humans. Thus today it would already permit military interventions as in Yugoslavia without the consent of the UN security council. But is that correct? From my point of view definitely: No. This a mere representation of western policies and interests, but it is not the existing international law. Law does not unfold by itself. If law changes, it is being changed in the consent of those who control the law. This applies in particular to international law, which does not attain authority by powerful domestic enforcement, but just by agreement of all relevant participants, which has contract character even more than domestic law and which is more influenced by crucial interests of the envolved states but by philosophy or by natural ("everlasting") law. I hope not to be misunderstood: Law based on philosophical and eternal principles and law protecting man effectively against state seems very sympathetical to me; unfortunately this is not the way the world is (or not the way the great men are).

But is it not strictly intolerable having to accept substantial violations of human rights in the case of the often deplored self blockade of the UN security council? On the one hand: This is not acceptable indeed; but there is nothing to substitute a reliable new legal measure of international conflict resolution and the respective contractual efforts of the great powers. And nobody can declare the great powers irresponsible for the present legal deficit. Missions without a sound basis in international law bear a risk of escalation, which is neither tolerable nor to be calculated. On the other hand: According to statistics the veto of the USA was the most relevant barrier against decisions of the UN Security Council. And in the past the cases of military intervention or of refusal of such intervention significantly coincided with the presence or absence of western crucial interests. Therefore it is worth while to also deal with the manyfold motives and interests in the context of military actions.

The Kosovo conflict: Motives for intervention

Already with individuals it is only in the exceptional case, that actions are based on an single internal reason or motive. The rule is a majority of motives. Such motive bundles are particularly typical for organized action of groups, of states or even alliances. Additionally the motives we are dealing with can be determining or subordinated, authentical or simply declared, open or masked, stable or developing, conscious or - e.g. for individual participants - unconscious. In each case the linkages of motives and actions are neither provable nor refutable, because they are consequences of internal proceedings. Our position in judging motives present in ethnical conflicts thus is a lot more difficult than the task of Plato's caveman (or cave-scientist), who tried to figure out the mechanics of nature from the shadows of objects being carried along outside his cave. What we see in ethnical conflicts are just the shadows of wrapped things where no shadow has any relation in form, size and soundness to what was wrapped in. But nevertheless these things can be crucial for the development and outcome of conflicts.

It follows a list of possible motives of the west, as they could be watched or at least be assumed by the opposite side. My enumeration might not be complete; and please allow me some remarks from the point of view of a citizen (that's what I am), not of a statesman.

A short evaluation: Targets, which are assumed as egoistic targets, work conflict-strengthening and altruistic targets are conflict-reducing, if interpreted as decisive. Humanitarian motives as I have specified at the top of the list - assistance for the pressed Kosovars - dominate the public discussion. However I think it is conclusive that those furthermore enumerated self-interested positions did determine the behaviour of the west to at least the same extent.

But: Isn't it possible to communicate humanitarian or ethnical assistance as crucial reasons for action, without the immanent danger of being misunderstood as covered policies of interests? Well, that is definitely possible - however with consequences for the future national and international policy: The western countries would have to concretize those still very imprecise and individually case-referred intervention reasons and would have to determine a general future guide line, thus commit themselves in a truly binding way. Note that this is the "categorical imperative" of Immanuel Kant, who required this strategy even for the single human being.

Legislative action is required nationally as intergovernmentally: the cases for military intervention would have to be determined both according to international law and to domestic law (to the national law see below: Items for a German Federal Armed Forces function law). We have to avoid ad-hoc-decisions with a small degree of predictability and little examinableness and with the high danger of being interpreted as illegal or arbitrary. Instead it is absolutely necessary to create an abstract definition of the action targets and action prerequisites. This is the fundamental task and function of any constitutional law and of law defined in a constitutional process. This also is a basic condition for a world statute for the guarantee of humanitarian, democratic and ethnical rights. This may make governing an a little bit harder job and reduce uncontrolled decisions, but it is indispensable to an inward and outward trustable and conflict-reducing way of politics - to the benefit of the people.

The Kosovo conflict: what actually did we achieve?

The avowed central political targets of bombardment were: Help for the Albanian population of Kosovo, agreement to Rambouillet, and destabilization of Milosevic. These targets were not achieved within the calculated mission period. Instead these aims were turned into the dramatic opposite; the conflict came to an end only after substantial further escalation and under very high additional damages.

A new target provoked by the unplanned process and by the outbreak of violence is the safe return of the hundreds of thousands of Kosovar refugees. Here the status before beginning of bombardment will however only be achieved under substantial additional efforts and after long time, possibly with negative results for the Serbian population of Kosovo.

The damage caused by bombardment in the whole of Yugoslavia would thus not yet be compensated. The human victims of the air raids are final and not revisable. And the sum of the primary humanitarian targets - an ethnical mixed Kosovo functionning without military check and guarantee - is with high probability now impossible in the long term.

So according to my (and not only my) judgement the Yugoslav mission was a terrible flop or at least showed any sign of severe misplanning, poor control and lack of professional execution.

Yugoslavia politics and the world safety order

On a long-term basis the present policy of the west will with certain probability lead to a destabilization of the world safety order. On the one hand other centers of power of the world must feel challenged by the ambitiously extended radius of action of NATO and will enforce themselves, e.g China. On the other hand states or alliances can take up the example, can determine a suppression of humans of their own ethnical group in neighbouring states and then intervene for the purpose of regulation. The boundaries of most states of the world are drawn without consideration in repect of cultural or ethnical identities; discrimination is to be stated easily and the refusal of different ethnical identities is deeply rooted in humans. Therefore there will be lots of cases with possible reference to the Kosovo precedent. The Indian-Pakistan conflict around the allocation of Kashmir is based primarily ethnical and already shows all components for escalation, even with an obvious atomic risk. The policies may also lead - or have already led - to a complete and final global pattern of Monroe doctrines: any of the great powers is allowed to independently look for law and order in its own backyard: e.g. USA in Haiti and parts of Europe, Russia in Czeczenia and other former Soviet states and China in Tibet etc. A very nasty end of history (why the heck does that remind me of George Orwell that much?).

The descibed politics do also quite directly harm the process of Europe growing together. Serbia seems already lost for years for the European idea. And in the rest of eastern Europe many citizens see the strategy of NATO as a terrible contrast to the forceless political change, the eastern peoples are so proud of. A certification really worth reading is the essay of Gyoergy Konrad, Hungarian writer and president of the Berlin academy of the arts printed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 30,4,1999 ("Relapse to the the beginning of the century").

This is particularly doubtful from my view: much of what we want to fight by force in the context of a new military doctrine, we did cause ourselves. Many strong men, whom we would rather see weak again, are our own creatures. Many fire sources and conflicts of this world are directly connected to our world economy politics. That means: We too often deal with consequences of our own - usually egoistic, frequently dilettante - politics. And we are doing this by the means of force and to the severe detriment of other humans.

We should not uncritically see the policy of the west as being per definitionem superior to the targets of other states and that our politcs are optimized on humanitarian ends beyond any doubt. Actually in technology- and economy-minded civilizations like ours there are permanently conflicting aims like the economic freedom of action and fundamental humanitarian, social and democratic rights of the individuals. A drastic and actual example: in Zambia rose in the context of a disencumberment program of the International Monetary Fund the number of deaths of children under 5 years by approx. 50% (of 13,5 to 20,3% in the years 1985 to 1995). Globalization, which does not for its part run democratically controlled, limits cultural independence and reduces the economic and concomitantly democratic partaking of the individual by takeover and concentration strategies and processes. What we want to be understood as an invitation to progress, may humans with another social tradition perceive as economic occupation and cultural incapacitating, as concrete interventions into the traditional rights of the native citizens. We also easily oversee: the UN Declaration of Human Rights does also protect specific social rights as in art. 21 exp. 1 the political partaking and in art. 23 exp. 1 the right to work and the liberty from unemployment. These rights may possibly be ensured in non-western society systems in other ways and perhaps even more fairly. And these rights may be obstructed, if the west transfers a society model which was developed under certain conditions uncritically to other peoples.

Power politics: the old and the new way

But isn't the new development of the military doctrine unquestionably required and acknowledged by the real policy? Isn't this a brand-new, deserving and trend-setting achievement? Here I have largest doubts. 2000 years ago some very deliberated and inspired humans sketched a completely new way of humans living together - commonly known as the New Testament. The new way distinguished outspokenly from old-testamentarian self-righteousness, group centeringness and woodcut thinking, from the obsession to search and extinguish devils and tyranny, to fight Sodom and Gomorra.

The new idea was: For the solution of a conflict it would not be necessary or even helpful to have alleged debt be cleaned by actual blood. And the opponent need not bend, need not be educated and humiliated under punishment. Instead: a lasting solution could only be found in discussion and if necessary even under payments in advance of those who feel being hurt. And the most important personal prerequisite for such a success-oriented process would be the ability to see the world with the eyes of the opponent also in order to be able to notice his personal interests and the prevalent action limits (see note above concerning the book of Roger Fisher). Therefore: The policy represented by NATO is not an innovative idea at all, is no necessary-to-think evolution of human living together. Instead it is to be judged as a relapse into the archaic and instinct-led form of human strategies. It is the built-in problem of this strategy that it eagerly looks for a fast success and that it feels encouraged by gestures of humility of a down-forced adversary and that it repudiates to balance its long-term consequences in shape of freezing in and erosion of international relations.

And these strategies are even more dangerous than before 2000 years in a world, in which the distances and gaps between the peoples have dramatically decreased. As to institutions: A conflict resolution model on a partnership basis like that the OSCE corresponds to the new way. The old way is hidden in the alliance-oriented and polarizing strategy of the military pacts, which presupposes and perpetuates enemy pictures. According to my opinion the partnership idea is capable of allocating clearly larger proportions of national resources to the peaceful development of mankind and to the fight against global challenges such as environmental degradation, climatic change and desertification. Besides: these global challenges again may be interpreted as consequences of a selfish way of living of the west and may be relevant causes for those waves of refugees we would feel forced to deter by the means of military force.

Consequences for the Yugoslavia policy; development of the national and international law

From my point of view the further policy may not contain items capable of humiliating Yugoslavia or illegally limiting the national sovereignty. Demands for sacking of Milosevic seem to me to be counter productive and in particular the thoughtless gossip of the murder of Milosevic to end a tyranny do not serve the target to promote democracy and coexistence in Yugoslavia; besides it fatally reminds of the murder call against Salman Rushdie. The Yugoslavs themselves have to determine, whether and in what way to get rid of of Milosevic. Correct and important is the demand clearing up the raised reproaches because of the crimes in the Kosovo in a sound judicial procedure. And the responsible Serbian administration will have to compensate for damages caused in Kosovo. In addition it is necessary to legally determine the responsibility for civilian victims of the western air raids on Yugoslavia as well. We must completely compensate the material damage of the citizens and peoples of Yugoslavia and grant assistance for self organization. We should not try to escape the direct consequences of our strategies. Beyond the compensation we can link future allowances - in the type of a contract between equal partners - with the further implementation of the aims of our democracy. And Yugoslavia may accept or may not. Under no circumstances we may use the need for reconstruction in order to establish additional economic and concomitantly political influence of the west in Yugoslavia. This would severely violate the right of all peoples to independently determine their political, economical and social structure.

The OSCE must be made fit for intensive participation in the building-up process in Kosovo and Yugoslavia and will have to be allowed sufficient means to resume a confrontation-poor policy based on partnership. The task of the OSCE is to be promoted in each regard. With the solution of future international conflicts first selection must be OSCE, not NATO. The west is obligated to immediately create the abstract prerequisites and the procedures of international conflict resolution regarding national as well as international law. Any policy, which may be understood as the law of the stronger or as a dictation, permanently lacks acceptance, predictability and peace serving quality. Already the process of the law creation - nationally as internationally - must be responsive and transparent to the people. Responsive means: politicians must invite citizens to check and bring in concrete suggestions. All the socially relevant groups - in particular the churches and trade unions - must be intensively involved in this process; especially the churches must work out very clearly, which concrete forms and cases of the military safeguarding of interests are ethicalally justifiable from their point of view. It cannot do with providing military pastors.

And the application of the law must be examinable for the public as well. A coat of secrecy and the corps spirit are notorious for military operations. Even with the parlamentary delegates appointed to decide on military interventions this in the passed years regularly led to profound information gaps.

Therefore at least a regular evaluation of international applications is undispensable. Better still would be an independent and open political counselling as a new tool of foreign policy: If we really want to be innovative and want for the protection of the citizens to significantly reduce the influence of non-declared interests on military decisions, we should introduce a new item of democratic transparency. We create a committee, which for each individual case is selected by lot procedure from a larger pool, for which all socially relevant groups are entitled to personal suggestions. Let us call that committee e.g. " Advising Group of the German Federal Government for international missions of the Federal Armed Forces". In secret conference (secret in particular to lobbies and politicians) that group checks for each out-of-area miltary task planned by the government, whether according to conviction of the involved members the facts and legal prerequisites for a military application are fulfilled; the group formulates a recommendation to the government. The crucial instrument would follow: the recommendation of the Advising Group - and likewise e.g. half-yearly evaluations of the fulfilling of the targets fixed by the Federal Government - would then be published and would thereby become effective for democratic feedback.

We should never leave the firemen unattended! And we must protect the preferential victim of each war: Truth.

A pragmatic addition for the future cooperation with Yugoslavia: We may never forget that at times of the cold war Yugoslavia was the country, that within the communist sphere had addapted itself closest to the western form of living and economy - with considerable independence and substantial courage and a lot of pride. If we today educate Yugoslavia a paria of the European nations, we restore the past time allocation to the Russian sphere of influence and thus at the same time the past time European polarization. Signs of this process are unmistakable.

Tank with covered wagon

A question in the end: do you like my drawing at the top of this homepage? Topic is the in my view grotesque disproportion between the strength-defying, probably-fed and front-storming military equipment and the pleasant, but rattling and a little bit ragged humanitarian assistance, which - and this fate it shares with scientific conflict research - receives only infinitesimal the fraction of the national budgets of the west. Since ten years however humanitarian assistance is at the same time a high-thrust vehicle of the new ambitious foreign policy of the west.

What I wouldn't oppose was a covered wagon with a rifle to defend. If the humanitarian job was a really serious task of the west, we would better exchange the budgets and resources of military and humanitarian assistance. And the true heroes of an adult Germany would be those nurses, who helped humans in knowledge of the dangers for health and life in Africa and some of whom died infected by the ebola virus. No heroes at all would be the heavily armed German soldiers, who shot dead two Somalis in Belet Huen because of suspected theft.


Next time - perhaps a little bit more!