Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A free Kosova forever? Not so much.

This Sunday, the little Serbian province of Kosova declared its independence from Serbia, creating yet another headache for W. & Co., one more they probably won't be able to handle any better than all the others. After some hemming and hawing, the United States recognized the mouse that roared as a sovereign nation and most of the EU did, too, but the heady news of another nation joining the international community hasn't exactly been embraced universally. The countries that don't have separatist problems like Italy, Germany, Britain and France went along, but Spain for instance, which does, decided not to.

Russia reacted badly to the news, as might be expected, and Vlad & Co. are sure to make the lives of any country within range of Gazprom that does go along with Kosova independence a living hell. Angry rumblings from Russian have already begun, with the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhasia claiming they have to right to succeed and now even the Moldovan region of Trans-Dniester saying they've got a claim on independence. Of course, if they did that a very convenient smuggling route would be messed up for the Russians, so don't hold your breath on that one. And China isn't about to cheer the news of a small group of splitists going their own way. Next thing you know, the Taiwanese or the Tibetans will be getting dangerous ideas of their own.

Condi says Kosova is a "special case," though, so no one else should get any funny ideas. I'm sure that line of reasoning will go a long way, judging from the high esteem Condi has throughout the world. W. says, "History will prove this to be the correct move to bring peace to the Balkans." (Now he's interested in what history will say!) Such recognition "presents an opportunity to move beyond conflicts of the past and toward a future of freedom and stability and peace."

Uh huh, so what about Kurdish independence? I mean, that's a special case, too, right? Haven't the Kurds suffered enough? Didn't the Sunnis led by another genocidal maniac, Saddam, kill tens of thousands of them, too? And what about the Shiites in the south of Iraq? Didn't Saddam kill thousands of them as well?

I'm of two minds about this issue. One the one hand, I can understand the feelings of the Kosovar Albanians wanting to be free of the Serbs, I fully supported our very late intervention on their behalf against the genocidal Slobodan Milosevic, but on the other hand the only thing Kosova has going for it as far as becoming a viable nation is UN and EU hand-outs and NATO troop to protect them. Just look at the case of Timor-Lest, another small nation created out of good intentions. When, if ever, are the Kosovars going to be able to stand to their own two feet without massive amounts of help from us?

One thing in our favor in support of the Kosovars is that they are a group of secular-leaning Muslims we're actually protecting, not bombing or locking up. That sort of thing flies right in the face of jihadist rhetoric about the West's supposed war against Islam. On the other hand, we're not doing much for the other significant group of secular Muslims, the Palestinians, so it's pretty much of a wash I guess.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this whole thing, but I think that since the United States has already gone to so much trouble for Kosovars, we have to support them to the hilt when it comes to making sure they're able to make a go of it. If we equivocate now or try to weasel out of our responsibility for encouraging them to take the leap, then we might wind up creating a failed state in the heart of Europe, one that would be populated by a good number of angry, impoverished Muslims who might over time could become prime jihadi recruits. And we can't allow our good friends the Saudis to start building their Wahhabi madrassas in Kosova, like they have in Bosnia, laying the groundwork for al-Qaeda to move right in with ease.

Overall, I guess Kosovar independence is a good thing, as long as Hashim Thaci & Co. remember they have to make nice to the Serbs still living there, especially the ones in Mitrovica, and protect the Serbian churches and historical sites. Because, if they don't do the right thing they'll be giving the Serbs and the Russians the ammunition they need to make the case that they're the injured parties there, not the other way around.

As an indication of the coming "freedom and stability and peace" in the Balkans, AP reports:

"Thousands of Serbs chanting 'Kosovo is Serbia' marched Tuesday to a bridge dividing them from ethnic Albanians while others torched U.N. border checkpoints and cars to protest Kosovo's declaration of independence. . . Smoke billowed from two checkpoints separating Kosovo from Serbia and flames engulfed several U.N. vehicles set ablaze in protest against Kosovo's weekend proclamation of independence and anger over international recognition of the new nation."

In any case, let’s hope the EU is able to keep a lid on the situation after they take over. The fact that the countries of the EU are basically split down the middle over Kosova, doesn't make such an outcome especially fortuitous. It would be nice to think the next administration would continue to fully back Kosova and its aspirations for statehood, but that might be wishful thinking considering all the other problems W. will be leaving it with. With hungry, angry Russian bear breathing down their necks, the Kosovars are setting off down a dangerous path. Let's hope this doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass, too.


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