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Experts question wisdom of NATO role in Kosovo

April 01, 1999

Kosovo expertsBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, WAYNESBORO

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




MONT ALTO, Pa. - John Stewart, a political science expert who lectures at Penn State's Mont Alto campus, on Wednesday likened the situation in Kosovo to Pennsylvania trying to take over Franklin County.

The state, with a force of arms, would move into Franklin County, force its residents to flee across the state line into Maryland then move other Pennsylvanians in to replace them, he said.

Stewart, 64, a retired Army colonel who has taught at the Army and Air Force war colleges, and James Donovan, 50, associate professor of history at the Mont Alto campus, were trying to explain in simple terms the fighting in Kosovo that has forced 100,000 ethnic Albanians to flee the province in what used to be Yugoslavia.

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Both questioned whether the NATO bombing of Serbian targets would end the fighting and the ethnic cleansing of the Kosovars.

"I'm not sure it will succeed," Stewart said. "Bombing doesn't solve the problem ... They bombed Hitler, but nothing happened until the land forces went in."

Stewart called the bombing "a seat-of-the-pants operation. NATO doesn't know what its objective is and it can't predict what (Yugoslavian President Slobodan) Milosevic will do. It would take a half million troops to force his surrender."

He said "Americans are looking at this like they look at everything, like it's cut and dry. You go in, solve the problem and get out. But the Serbs see it differently. They think they have time."

He said President Clinton "lucked out" at the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the fighting and ethnic cleansing by Serbs in Bosnia in 1995.

"He wants the same for Kosovo, but it's all part of the same problem. This will go into the 21st century," he said.

Stewart says Milosevic has to win something, or save face, if there is to be any real peace.

"The Balkans remain a powder keg," Donovan said. "Ethnic hatreds run very deep and political boundaries don't always correspond with ethnic boundaries. It got out of control in 1914 and it could get out of control today.

"The question I have is what factors will determine our involvement, " he said. "The bombing is not getting anywhere. Our objectives are not clear. Are we going in as a result of a humanitarian crisis or is our national interest at stake? The U.S. has a stake in a peaceful, prosperous Europe."

Donovan said Western Europe is moving toward unification. Nationalism is not as strong as it used to be and the countries are becoming more integrated.

"Eastern Europe is going toward disintegration along ethnic lines," he said.

Bad blood between Serbia and Kosovo go back to 1389 when the Ottoman Empire defeated the Serbs in Kosovo, Donovan said.

"Kosovo is the heartland of medieval Serbia," he said.

It was in the Balkans in 1914 that the assassination by a Serb of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, started World War I.

For years after World War II, Marshal Josip Tito, the Communist leader of Yugoslavia, forced an uneasy peace between the factions with his iron-hand rule until he died in 1980, Donovan said.

The latest troubles began in 1989, the year the Soviet Union fell apart and Milosevic was elected president of Yugoslavia.

Kosovo started percolating that year when Milosevic took autonomy from the ethnic Albanians. The fighting between the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Serbs escalated last year, Donovan said.

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