Kosovo, formerly a province of Serbia, is currently recognized as an independent state by the U.S and European states. Non-intervention is commonly understood to be a norm of international society. This paper seeks to answer the question of whether intervention should be permissible when governments grossly violate their citizens’ human rights or can not prevent such violations, or whether states should be left to collapse miserably due to civil war or anarchy. The Kosovo war of 1999 had the potential to change international politics with significant ramitifications for the UN, major powers and regional organizations. During the long drawn-out war, Kosovo remained in the tight grip of Milosevic, which spurred the need for humanitarian intervention. The war finally ended in June 1999, with Milosevic accepting most terms of the Rambouillet agreement, including the pullout of Serb forces from Kosovo and deployment of the NATO troops. Arguments have been put forward that favor a legal right of humanitarian intervention based on the interpretations of the UN Charter and the customary international law. Claims of a moral duty of international intervention mostly stem from the basic proposition that all civilians are entitled to some level of protection from harm by virtue of their common humanity.
Background of the Conflict
Kosovo is located in southern Serbia and its mixed population is mostly made up of ethnic Albanians. They enjoyed a great deal of autonomy untill 1989 when the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic changed the autonomous status of the region and brought it under the control of Belgrade. The Kosovar Albanians objected to this move, and an open conflict broke out in 1998 between the Serbian military forces and the Kosovar Albanians forces, resulting in a lot of death. The international community grew genuinely concerned about its humanitarian consequences because the conflict threatened to spill over into the neighboring countries. However, President Milososevic disregarded the efforts of the international community aimed at resolving the looming crisis.
The Legal and Moral Aspect of Intervention
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The legal aspect is commonly viewed as counter-restrictionist. The “counter-restrictionist” case for a legal right of the affected individual and humanitarian intervention as a whole has two claims. Firstly, the UN Charter commits states to protecting rights of individuals, and secondly, there is a right of intervention by the international law. It is argued that human rights are as important as peace and security in the UN Charter. In fact, Article 1(3) identifies protection of human rights as one of their sole purposes of the UN system. Bearing that in mind, there is an exception to the ban of use of force in the international law. Other counter-restrictionists argue that international intervention is allowed by customary international law. Therefore, for a rule to be regarded as an international law, states must engage in such a practice that is claimed to have the status of law. They should also do so because they presume that it is legally permissible, a situation which in legal parlance is referred to as “opinio juris”
The Moral Perspective
It is widely argued that irrespective of what the law says, a moral duty calls for intervention in a conflict to protect civilians from genocide and mass killings. Sovereignty is only possible if a state is able to protect its citizens from harm; and when a state fails in its protection duties, it loses its sovereignty rights.
The viewpoints for or against the argument are many. Firstly, there is the idea of common humanity according to which all individuals have basic human rights, irrespective of their background and region, hence a duty to uphold these rights. It is also argued that due to globalization, human rights violations in one part of the word will definitely have an effect on another part of the world. Advocates of the just war theory say that the duty to offer help to those in need is universal. Finally, the world’s major religions and ethical systems agree that wars, conflicts and killings of civilians are morally wrong, and that people have a duty to prevent such violations and punish the perpetrators.
The Role of the US and NATO in the Kosovo War
NATO justified their intervention by using three arguments, such as: 1) actions by the Serbians in Kosovo created a humanitarian emergency and violated a number of international legal requirements; 2) the Serbs committed crimes against humanity, and probably the crimes included genocide; 3) Milosevic regime’s use of force against the Kosovar Albanians was morally wrong, as it challenged the global norms of common humanity.
NATO intervened in the Kosovo war to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. It pursued several objectives, such as: to reduce Serbia’s military capacity and force Milosevic into accepting the settlement that was offered by Rambouillent; to achieve a peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis by providing an unimpeded access to humanitarian aid and building a political framework for Kosovo; to promote stability and security in the neighboring countries, such as Albania and former Yugoslavia.
The NATO council gave its authorization to launch air strikes that were meant to force Milosevic to pull out troops from Kosovo, cooperate in trying to bring the violence to an end and facilitate a safe and unhindered return of refugees to their homes.
NATO established an aerial surveillance mission that was enforced by the UN and supported by all non-NATO partners.
The contact group’s efforts were supported and reinforced by NATO in January. NATO agreed to the use of air strikes as and when required, and also issued warning to both sides of the conflict. This saw the development of the initial negotiations in Rambouillet near Paris and further talks that lead to the signing of the agreement by the Kosovar Albanians. After the withdrawal from the supposed air strikes by NATO, NATO urged the parties involved to take the opportunity and seek peace by complying with their obligations as per the agreement. NATO undertook to bring back refugees and promote a lasting peace in Kosovo. NATO forces helped relieve suffering of many refugees forced to flee Kosovo. NATO troops built refugee camps, emergency feeding stations and moved tons of humanitarian aid to those in need. NATO also assisted the UNHCR with coordination of humanitarian aid flights, as well as provided aircrafts from member countries. NATO conducted an 11-week bombing campaign in the spring of 1999 to make Milosevic comply with their demands and sign the Rambouillet agreement.
The U.S repeatedly called on Milosevic to stop the war in Kosovo. Presidents Bush and Clinton warned him against resorting to crackdowns in Kosovo. The U.S also insisted that the Kosovar Albanians should be returned home, though the Albanians were still hesitant. In August 1995, the US launched a bombing campaign against the Bosnian Serbs’ positions
The Role of the UN in the Pre-War and Post-War Period
The role of the United Nations in the pre-war period was to provide guidelines for humanitarian interventions by NATO and the US based on the UN Charter. The UN Security Council refused to authorize NATO’s air strikes, as the UN Charter did not permit the use of force.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution, which placed Kosovo under the administration of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). By acting as a proxy state executive, it helped build Kosovo’s postwar infrastructure from scratch after the war of 1999,. The resolution stated that Kosovo was to enjoy autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. As far as the constitutional framework was concerned, Kosovo was to have a 120-member assembly, which would elect a president and a prime minister of Kosovo. The UN viewed the war in Kosovo as justified, since the war was based on a simple rule that “when one breaks the rules of the international community, the international community must punish the violator”. In the case of Kosovo, Milosevic and Yugoslav Serbs broke the rules, and the international community punished them.
The UN representatives tried to convince Milosevic to withdraw troops from Kosovo by threatening to launch air strikes.
The Role of Milosevic in the Kosovo War
Milosevic played an important role in the Kosovo war;
In an effort to wipe out the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Milosevic increased his troops’ strength in Kosovo and embarked on a policy of destroying villages by burning them down or massacring civilians. He also rescinded the autonomy that was enjoyed by Kosovo. Milosevic ensured that the Kosovar Albanians were forced to quit their jobs, their schools were shut down, they could not access health facilities and enjoyed no control of their province. He also formed an alliance with Serbian nationalists to create a great Serbia by unifying all territories where Serbs dwelled and expelling the minorities through genocide. He seized power in the city of Belgrade, which was the-then federal capital. He also supported Serb forces in laying waste to most parts of Bosnia, killing innocent people and forcing civilians to flee their homes.
The impact of the Kosovo conflict on Serbia was huge. Since it was a constituent part of Serbia, the conflict greatly affected the civilians who were driven out of their homes. After that Serbia had no democracy left in it. Serbia’s relations with its neighbors also soured, which resulted in recurring hostilities. Serbia lost most of its precious resources and its civilians lived in devastation.
NATO as a Peace-Keeping Force in Kosovo
Policy implications relate to the issue of responsibility and the importance of ensuring that these decisions are made on the basis of intelligence, as well as economical and political requirements of the operations. The use of force and coercion in the name of relieving suffering and democratization of Kosovo was believed to be legal by NATO, but it was against the UN Charter, hence it was illegal. There was, however, a lot of political and military resistance in Kosovo against the Serbian rule. Fortunately, Kosovo acquired independence in 2008, but it was not well received by some countries, such as Serbia, Romania and Russia, who said that it was a breach of international laws. However, the UK, the US, France and other EU member countries have long recognized Kosovo as an independent state.
Kosovo’s Declaration of Independence and its endorsement by powerful nations triggered a lot of questions. For instance, it is yet unclear whether it should be used a precedent to resolve other ethnic disputes, such as those of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Here we first look at the UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which was meant to stabilize Kosovo. Serbia and Russia argued that endorsing the Declaration of Independence without consent of Serbia was a breach of the UN resolution, while the EU claimed that Resolution 1244 does not bar Kosovo from becoming an independent state because it does not define the outcome of the status talks.
The Law of Self-Determination and the Problem of Secession
A minority group that speak their language, effectively participate in politics and practice a meaningful culture is said to be internally self-determined. Secession is disfavored in diplomacy. In the case of the Kosovar Albanians, it can not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that this group of people fits the criteria described above. The conflict in Kosovo is indeed different from other ethnic conflicts, because Kosovo was not under international administration since the international community considered the situation volatile.
Secessions are primarily issues of domestic law; the UN Resolution 1244 internationalized the Kosovo problem and moved Kosovo from not only being under Serbia but also under administration of international community. International administration is not really defined in the international law and it can not be applied to other ethnic conflicts, such as the one in South Ossetia. None of the nations that supported the declaration of Kosovo’s independence argued that sovereignty is a legal right of Kosovo; therefore, it is yet too early to tell whether Kosovo has been used as a precedent for resolutions of ethnic conflicts.
Russia’s Role in the Kosovo War
Russia interpreted the war as a global act and invoked validity claims of humanitarian intervention. It interpreted the intervention in the Kosovo war as an attempt to impose Western rule on the global community. It argued that international law does not authorize a group of states to use force against a nation that violates human rights. Russia also claimed that it is inappropriate to base security on the use military force and retaliation.
Kosovo as a Test Case on Perspectives of Realism, Constructivism and Liberalism
All constructivists agree that social rules are very important in the world politics. Serbia’s decision to apply pressure on Kosovo’s population caused the Kosovo War. It started when ethnic Serb forces began to attack Kosovar Albanians forces and engage in what they called “ethnic cleansing”. The Kosovo war, at the same time, was a competition of will between the republic of Serbia and the international community. The latter issued a lot of warnings and resorted force when the Rambouillet negotiations failed. This conflict cannot be separated from its context. Kosovo is an important part of the Serbian heritage; it was in the fields of Kosovo in 1389 that the Serb people were defeated by the Ottomon Turks. Initially, the war was between the in-group represented by the Serbs and the out-group represented by the Kosovar Albanians. However, there was an invasion by NATO which makes decisions based on consensus.
The intervention was made possible due to an international community consensus. Serbia’s position was based on the ability of President Milosevic to protect the Serb minority who lived in Kosovo. The ethnic conflict between the Serbs and Kosovar Albanians was a conflict of identity, in which they considered each other to be socially threatening. As an organization, NATO cannot merely declare a war by itself. The decision to take military action is to be made by all NATO member countries. However, it would be wrong to say that NATO was an even more powerful tool than its respective members. NATO did not honor the UN Charter banning the use of force and preferred to engage in hostilities. If it had honored the UN Charter, it would have created a modern era precedent, and the world would have perceived that it was allowing the Milosevic and KLA’s regime to commit their crimes and get away with it.
The Realistic Perspective of the Kosovo War
The use of the realistic perspective is shown in the way decisions to act are calculated. Most realistic decisions are made not on moral or ethical grounds, but in a a cool and dispassionate way. NATO decided to use force to achieve its objectives in the Kosovo war of 1999. They were supposed to work out a solution with the guidance of the UN, but they saw the world realistically and decided that force was the only way to effect change, hence the reason why they did not seek the Security Council’s permission. Others call it illegal, but it was a realistic approach not to let international law affect their objectives. NATO intervened in Kosovo because in a realistic perspective, there is a balance of power between great powers. Russia and China tried their best to stop the intervention but bowed to the pressure of a stronger nation, such as the USA, which succeeded in bringing the Serbs into submission by proxy of the weaker nations.
The Liberalist Perspective of the Kosovo War
In contrast to other approaches, liberals perceive man to have a lot of political views. Man has various political allegiances, belongs to a lot of collectivities and can be grouped into a certain level of social reality. In the Kosovo war, it was impossible to view man in a liberal way, since the UN Security Council was literally blocked. Liberals also have a different perspective in terms of legality. For them, law is to be authoritively enforceable, and mostly to the individual, rather than collectively. NATO members lived up to the expectations tied of their communities. Tolerating brutalities of the Serbs would not have been good for the European and NATO partnerships, and it would have sent wrong signals to the enlightened elements in the Balkans. Liberals cannot be content with the approach that was exercised, and it was lack of global legitimization that hurt them the most.
The Kosovo war was an ethnic conflict which required the intervention of the international community. Contrary to the UN resolution banning the use of force, NATO refuted instructions by the UN Security Council and launched air strikes on Kosovo. That way they tried to meet their objective of having Milosevic sign the Rambouillet agreement and return the refugees home.
The war finally came to an end and Kosovo was placed under the UN administration. With the support of such powerful nations as the USA, UK, France and Germany Kosovo became an independent state in 2008. However, this move was strongly criticized by Russia and Serbia, who argued that Serbia did not change its respective boundaries, hence it had no right to declare independence.