According to the media, the bombing of Yugoslavia has three goals: 1) to stop the atrocities; 2) to weaken Milosevic and, if possible, to remove him from power, and 3) to prevent a war that could be wider than Kosovo.
All three goals will fail. The bombing will aggravate the problems it is supposed to solve.
Goal #1: Stop the atrocities: I know from personal exposure what Milosevic thinks. It is his goal to expel the Albanians from Kosovo, whom he considers unwelcome and often illegal occupants of his Serbian homeland. He could not do it on a wholesale scale until now because world opinion was against it. Now with the war on, he can accomplish his mission without interference. NATO is in the air, while the ethnic cleansing is carried out on the ground. To accelerate the Kosovar exodus he needs to scare the population with atrocities. Thus, the net effect of the bombing is to increase rather than stop the atrocities.
Goal #2: Weaken Milosevic: Just the opposite is resulting from the bombing. Milosevic uses the war to eliminate any opposition. He now has a legitimate excuse to expel any foreign journalists, which he did promptly. He closed opposition newspapers as soon as the threat of attack was announced. Under the umbrella of war readiness, he broadcasts only material favorable to him. His rule is now absolute and the population, bombarded and brainwashed, naturally supports its leader.
There is a mistaken belief that the bombing will be so severe that it will bring Milosevic to the negotiating table. They rely on the Bosnian precedent in which the bombing did bring him to sign the peace agreement. They assume he will do the same now. Wrong! People do not understand his motives. Milosevic cares only about one thing: remaining in power. He signed in Dayton, after the bombing, because they were not bombing Serbia. The bombing was hurting Karadjic and that worked in Milosevic’s favor. Karadjic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, threatened him politically by becoming more popular than he was. So Milosevic did not oppose the bombing. He gave up he land without a fight, created thousands of refugees from Bosnia, but succeeded in destroying Karadjic, who is now a sought after war criminal.
The Kosovo bombing is a totally different matter. This bombing increases his political power. The Serbian people are uniting behind him. Anyone who thinks that President Clinton’s speech to the Serbian nation will make them switch loyalties as the bombs are falling is either naïve or just plain stupid. Milosevic won’t yield. The more the bombing, the stronger he is politically. It is making him a hero in his people’s eyes. Serbian culture values adversity. Serbs create heroes when they are attacked; it invigorates them. They believe that the world wants to eliminate them. First it was the Turks, than the Germans, now the Americans. This bombing confirms their belief structure and strengthens their resolve. They survived the Turks and the Germans. Now it is up to them to prove to themselves that they will survive NATO. They will die and not yield. The’ve done this in the past, and they will do it now. The fiercer the battle, the more popular Milosevic will be. Granted, this can not last forever. Even Hitler eventually experienced an uprising. Howver, for that level of despair to be achieved among the Serbs, it might require the death of many thousands of innocent people.
Goal # 3: The bombing will contain the war to Kosovo and prevent its spreading. When there is war, there are refugees, and these refugees will seek shelter in a country that has not been yet been involved in the war. This is especially true in the Balkans. The Kosovars will try to move into Macedonia first, where 40% of the population is Albanian, and where they have strong family connections. It will be inhumane to stop them crossing the border because they will be escaping real or anticipated atrocities. Moreover, it will be difficult to stop the movement of population across the border because of the nature of the terrain. I know it from personal experience. I crossed those mountains during the Second World War escaping the holocaust. The Albanians know every nook and cranny on that terrain. They will pass through no matter how many troops are put on the border. The inflow of a million or more Albanians into Macedonia will destabilize that country. It might bring joy to Greece because they would like to see a Slavic Macedonia disappear, but it will not be something about which Bulgaria will be passive. Add to it that Albania itself is a tinder box, with Moslems, Catholics and Greek Orthodox Albanians. An inflow of a million or more Albanian Moslems from Kosovo will threaten this precarious balance. Moreover, the Albanians have strong tribal affiliations, and an inflow from Kosovo will seriously aggravate the situation. One can not help imagine a civil war in Albania. Where will the new refugees go? Traditionally, they have tried to slip across the Adriatic Sea into Italy. One can see that the whole region will be engulfed by a deadly turmoil. This bombing will not contain the war. It will widen it.
How will NATO exit this war, especially if one assumes that Milosevic will not get down on his knees? How many people will have to die for NATO to realize the futility of this war?
Should atrocities end? Absolutely! How? Announce the sovereignty of Kosovo. The Kosovars will never be able to live within Yugoslavia. Especially not after this war. Give them arms to fight for themselves. It will become a civil war within Yugoslavia. Civil wars are never popular. That will topple Milosevic. It will be a useless war for Serbia, and they will have to pull out of Kosovo like the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan, or the Israelis will have to pull out of South Lebanon. The Russians did not withdrawn from Afghanistan because of bombing. The Serbs have developed national pride for hundreds of years fighting real and imaginary enemies.
Stop the bombing now. Spare the loss of more lives — Serbs, Americans, and especially the Kosovars’, whom the war was intended to save.
*Dr. Adizes is a consultant to corporations and governments and has been a consultant to the Prime Ministers of Macedonia and Greece. In 1991 he was invited by Milosevic in 1991 to consult about the breakup of the Yugoslav Federation. He has published seven books translated into twenty-two languages on conflict resolution and management of change.