Kosovo War: UN withdraws from Mitrovica

posted at 11:59 am on March 17, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Kosovo Serbs have driven the UN from Mitrovica after defending a courthouse they seized last week. An eruption of hostilities occurred after the UN tried to pry the courthouse from their control, and failed to retake it. Now the newly-independent province faces another civil war, and the UN’s police have lost a great deal of credibility:

UN police were forced to withdraw Monday from the Serbian half of this flashpoint Kosovo town after coming under attack as they stormed a courthouse occupied by Serbs opposed to independence.

More than 20 UN police and at least eight NATO peacekeepers were wounded amid gunfire and a suspected grenade blast after they moved in to regain control of the UN-run tribunal in the northern town of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Kosovo police spokesman Beshim Hoti said an explosion went off when UN police moved to arrest Serbs who had been occupying the building in protest at Kosovo’s declaration of independence a month ago.

“I suppose it was a hand grenade activated in the courthouse yard,” he told AFP from the capital Pristina. Another police spokesman, Veton Elshani, said 25 UN police had been injured.

The UN withdrawal comes as a predictable procession of events following Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence and its recognition by Western nations. The ethnic Serbs native to Kosovo have threatened a civil war over the issue, and had made that clear during the brief, long-delayed negotiations over the issue. The UN and NATO managed to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to reality and instead encouraged the ethnic Albanian provisional government to resolve the situation for themselves.

Now that the ethnic Serbs have tasted victory in Mitrovica, they will have little reason to stop there. They pushed the UN out of their enclave; next, they’ll challenge NATO. The quick and impulsive decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence will almost certainly create another round of violence in the province, and this time the outside Western powers will wind up being one of the primary belligerents, unless the UN and NATO retreat altogether from the Balkans.

In short, we created a mess with the intervention in Kosovo. That intervention assumed a de facto independent status for the province, and we sat for nine years hoping that the ethnic Serbs would just assume it as well. We have discovered that Balkan memories run much longer than Western attention spans, and that we have managed to repeat the same mistake that the Russians made in imposing its will on Yugoslavia for 40+ years. Unless a power decides to sit on the Balkans for 400 years and put enough of its resources to keep all of the ethnic communities disarmed and quiescent, the best policy may be to have them work it out for themselves — even if that means fighting each other for the next few centuries.

Isolate them, embargo them, or offer to negotiate with them. Just don’t send armies into the Balkans. History shows that it only postpones the inevitable.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

A hand grenade “activated“?

Is that p.c. speak for “exploded“?

The EU’s problem, in any case.

Let them build up their own defense forces.

They’ll need them soon enough.

profitsbeard on March 17, 2008 at 12:04 PM

Whatever happened to wars ending when one side wins? The West often prolongs these generational battles in the mid-east and balkans with their wobbly deus ex machina interventions.

JiangxiDad on March 17, 2008 at 12:05 PM

A hand grenade “activated“?

Is that p.c. speak for “exploded“?

that’s funny. Rush has a joke about SUV’s crashing into people, all on their own. I think activated means no one is the bad guy. The bad guy is the grenade. Taking sides requires value judgements, a no no.

JiangxiDad on March 17, 2008 at 12:08 PM

Ya know, this really is George W. Bush’s fault. And it’s really about oil and pipelines running through Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia.

(should this now be Godwin’s Law, Part II?)

dmh0667 on March 17, 2008 at 12:09 PM

Just don’t send armies into the Balkans. History shows that it only postpones the inevitable.

But it’s ok to send armies to the Mideast?

Tom_Shipley on March 17, 2008 at 12:11 PM

Imagine 20 years from now Muslims In Michigan pushing for succession from America, and United Nations troops coming in to protect them from Evil Americans wishing for this not to happen. What a mess we’ve partaken in over there.

bucktowndusty on March 17, 2008 at 12:13 PM

“UN’s police have lost a great deal of credibility”

That was a joke, right?

Dusty on March 17, 2008 at 12:14 PM

U.N. Battle Cry. “RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!”

- The Cat

MirCat on March 17, 2008 at 12:14 PM

Ya know, this really is George W. Bush’s fault. And it’s really about oil and pipelines running through Macedonia, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Unfortunately this is mainstream thinking in Russia. “The US has insisted on creating a Muslim enclave in Europe to ensure permanent problems in that region.” I’m sure Serbs think similarly.

Clearly, this doesn’t even begin to explain why many (although not all) European nations are on board unless you’re willing to as a matter of fact say things like: well, the Europeans are all stupid or something. But NATO is an alliance driven by the US, so this country will always be deemed responsible for any action that involves NATO.

freevillage on March 17, 2008 at 12:18 PM

In short, we created a mess with the intervention in Kosovo.

Actually, the US did the dirty work on behalf of the EU. It was really the EU that intervened in Kosovo and pushed hard for independence.

The failed “nation-building” in Kosovo lies solely at the feet of Brussel’s technocrats, not Washington’s.

From reading European press for the last 15 years it’s clear that London/Paris/Berlin always touted Kosovo as a shining example of Europe’s “expertise” in turning failed states into shining examples of democracy, and even more so when the Iraq war began. The main line of argument: For nation-building you don’t need soldiers and tanks, but bureaucrats. Hence the EU sent a “force” of 5.000 officials to the Balkans in the last 10 years in order to bring democracy. But not the officers to actually enforce law and order.

Thus the current situation.

Niko on March 17, 2008 at 12:19 PM

You know this crap is just like the Israeli vs. Palestinian thing. Instead of keeping the sides apart, we should get out of the way and let them have at it. The only way to true peace is when one side has total victory over the other. Victory: it ain’t pretty, but its worked everywhere its been tried.

Iblis on March 17, 2008 at 12:20 PM

But it’s ok to send armies to the Mideast?

Tom_Shipley on March 17, 2008 at 12:11 PM

Well,..yeah, as long as it doesn’t end up in a quagmire like Kosovo, or Somalia.

a capella on March 17, 2008 at 12:23 PM

It wasn’t the intervention that was a mistake, but turning it over to the UN, and winking, then supporting, an independent Kosovo state. They should have just sat on the Serbs and Albanians and told them to deal with it like they did in Bosnia.

I’m not sure how anyone could say we should have just sat by while another round (after Bosnia) of ethnic cleansing and genocide occurred just miles from NATO bases.

Clark1 on March 17, 2008 at 12:23 PM

Thanks, BillyJeff.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on March 17, 2008 at 12:23 PM

The Balkans always was a civil war. Iraq never was.
Though liberals claimed over and over we can’t fix a civil war.
For Clinton its OK to attempt a stop to a European civil war but its not OK for Bush to smack down tyranny, stop WMD and give Democracy a foothold in a region of thugs?
Yeah right, go’n for that.

Speakup on March 17, 2008 at 12:26 PM

Is the rumor true, that the Serbs were armed with nothing but spitballs, and the “hand grenade” was in fact a water balloon?

rbj on March 17, 2008 at 12:27 PM

Get serious. The Serbs, who make up less than 10% of the population, occupy very small enclaves in Kosovo, including much of the territory north of Mitrovica and aren’t about to push anyone, UN or not, out without the help of the Serbian army. Nor do I think the Kosovars will try to push the Serbs out of northern Mitrovica now that the UN has withdrawn since they rely on the goodwill of the international community. If they were smart, the Kosovars would offer to trade the Serb territory north of Mitrovica for Presovo, the Albanian-occupied territory inside Serbia along Kosovo’s eastern border. Not that Serbia would accept, however, but it makes sense geographically. By the way, since it’s now an independent nation… sort of… it should cease being called by its Serb name, KO-so-vo and go by the Albanian version, Ka-SO-va.

NNtrancer on March 17, 2008 at 12:31 PM

The United Nations continues doing what it does best – being inept.

TooTall on March 17, 2008 at 12:34 PM

Isolate them, embargo them, or offer to negotiate with them. Just don’t send armies into the Balkans. History shows that it only postpones the inevitable.

under this logic the rest of the world is doomed to live under oppression while good men, free men… do nothing.

as Tibet stands up against tyranny, good men, free men, who tout their bravery and freedom stand idly by.

the people of South America are slipping under the control of a demented dictator and still free men do nothing.

hell… the UK lives with out personal weapons, 30% of it’s population on welfare, it has state run medical care and it still bows to a queen. call it what you want, but democracy?

the list goes on and on, how can we be content with our freedom while others are oppressed?

the fight between freedom and totalitarianism is long from over, in fact it’s barely begun. most of the world is not free… just think, 7 Billion people and how many are free? and until they are, are we?

I’m starting to think this is not the country I grew up thinking it was…

Kaptain Amerika on March 17, 2008 at 12:35 PM

Just don’t send armies into the Balkans. History shows that it only postpones the inevitable.

But it’s ok to send armies to the Mideast?

Tom_Shipley on March 17, 2008 at 12:11 PM

Yes, history shows that the Balkans are unstable and unmanageable from the outside. On the other hand, history shows that the Middle East is the opposite case – see Saudi Arabia under the British, Syria under the French, etc.

Think_b4_speaking on March 17, 2008 at 12:43 PM

Send Komrade Klinton over as Special Envoy. It’s his mess, let him try and clean it up.

Zorro on March 17, 2008 at 12:44 PM

Any bets as to whether the Europeans instead of sending in their own forces to clean the mess up will call for more American troops? If so, I really hope Bush has the spine to tell them to clean up their own mess.

Duncan Khuver on March 17, 2008 at 12:45 PM

The stories of men and boys being marched away the last time this happened is heartbreaking. You gotta be pretty cold to promote the ‘just let them kill each other off’ strategy.

tlynch001 on March 17, 2008 at 12:55 PM

Kaptain Amerika on March 17, 2008 at 12:35 PM

Exactly. This is not imperialist thinking. There has to be a power pushing back against oppressors. Americans need to get used to being disliked around the world because the number of countries willing to take a stand is shrinking.

kongzilla on March 17, 2008 at 12:58 PM

Hmmm…. interesting…

Will Hillary claim this as part of her “experience” as an Executive?

NATO and Clinton created an unstable situation, where they created a power vacuum… this mess has been simmering for years, and has now reached the boiling point…

Gonna be interesting to see if the MSM give Hill a pass on this…

Romeo13 on March 17, 2008 at 1:01 PM

America chose to champion Islam and kill the Christians back then. Certainly a delicate situation now.

BL@KBIRD on March 17, 2008 at 1:01 PM

When the going gets tough, the UN gets going.

snaggletoothie on March 17, 2008 at 1:08 PM

NATO and Clinton created an unstable situation, where they created a power vacuum… this mess has been simmering for years, and has now reached the boiling point…

The situation was created by the Serbs. NATO and Clinton reacted to a situation where Serb radicals decided to ethnic cleanse Kosovo since they deemed it overrun by Albanians. It was their brutalization of the Kosovars that provoked an intervention. If you prefer the stability of tyranny, and the quiet of mass graves, then by all means, we should have left the Serbs to retake their sacred homeland by any means possible.

NNtrancer on March 17, 2008 at 1:13 PM

Russia can stop NATO dead in its tracks literally and figuratively by turning a tap in Siberia. We’re kind of busy right now in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it’s a good time for Serbia to act, and I hope they do. Nothing but mischief can come from letting any Tom, Dick, Harry, Mohammed… Juan.. separate and declare a new country. Sometimes I think the damn Russians are the only ones around with any brains.

dhimwit on March 17, 2008 at 1:16 PM

NNtrancer on March 17, 2008 at 1:13 PM

Neither sides hands were clean in this, and your very admition that it was a “sacred homeland” shows this.

That issue was never addressed in any meaningful way, and so the basis of the conflict was never attended to.

The base reasons for the conflict are still there… the invasion by one society, by another.

With dis similar societys and rules that do not match, there will be cultural conflict… and it WILL get ugly.

Problem is that Clinton, and NATO, were not willing to put any type of governmental and societal framework in place that would allow coexistance… they just blew away one sides ability to wage war… they didn’t end the war…

Romeo13 on March 17, 2008 at 1:32 PM

Kaptain Amerika, I wholeheartedly agree with you there, however thanks to Iraq, I truly understand that some cultures do not want and are not ready for freedoms. When the horrible Saddam was removed the Iraqis praised us and then instantly went back to killing each other for their “clerics”. The clerics then blamed us for the killing all to get us to leave so they could claim the dictatorship. Its all about who has all the power there, and the people willingly and blindly follow as the tools and ultimately victims of their power struggles.

Kosova is a different story altogether. Even today when their unemployment stands at 50% and independence for them moved so slow their allegiance to the United States and the UK never wavered. On their independence day in Times Square NY and in Pristina, Kosova their flags waved high and standing right along side every one of their flags was one of ours, 50 stars and 13 stripes waving proudly. They shouted Kosova and USA with an equal vigor.

The reason for this love they have for us comes not from a brutal dictator we saved them from but from a massacre we lifted from their land. Kosova is a province and as such did not have weapons of war. Thanks to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Serbia was left with many of these weapons. There was no fight in Serbia’s war against the Albanians in Kosova only a genocide. The Kosovar people will not forget, which is why integration back into Serbia would never be a possibility and would only re-spark the flame of war. Kosovars are a very family orientated people and everyone who lived there during the war lost relatives and neighbors in horrible ways something that will remain in their memories for a long time.

These Serbian riots are few and far between and as long as NATO follows through with an iron fist as it has promised, these will die down. The only way war would begin again is if Serbia would dedicate its military which it has already said would never happen again as it knows the bombs would fall from allied planes again.

As for negotiations, the part the Serbs occupy inside of Kosova is a mineral rich area containing a very large gold mine and other resources.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2008/01/mining_kosovos_future.html

The mine is a substantial part of Kosova’s future economy and bargaining it away is not something that will materialize.

js82 on March 17, 2008 at 1:37 PM

Right now Hillary is on the bat phone to Weasley Clark to figure out how to handle this most important foreign affairs matter. Uh was she at Bill’s side playing a key role in the negoiations the first time around?

Just A Grunt on March 17, 2008 at 1:54 PM

And for the record, I am American born with Swede roots. And calling anything your sacred homeland as a claim to land that is not yours, is not valid argument no matter where you are. And from what I know, both Serbs and Kosovars call it their sacred homeland. In my opinion once the Serbs massacred the civilians living in Kosova they lost their rights to govern it. Also NN is correct, Kosovo is the name given by the Serbs, Kosova is its correct name now that it is independent.

js82 on March 17, 2008 at 1:57 PM

U.N. Battle Cry. “RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!”

- The Cat

MirCat on March 17, 2008 at 12:14 PM

The French trained the UN Police. Non?

Simonsez on March 17, 2008 at 1:58 PM

Romeo13 on March 17, 2008 at 1:32 PM

There was tremendous pressure on the Serbs to come to a political accomodation. The Europeans were as feckless then as they are now, and nobody wanted to fight over Kosovo. Kosovo reminds me a bit of Israel. Jews may have regarded Israel as their sacred land, but the facts on the ground indicated thatit was largely occupied by Muslims. Sixty years after the establishment of Israel, their war with Islam over Palestine continues. If the Serbs had been given free reign to cleanse Kosovo of its Albanian majority, there would be untold years of bloody conflict ahead. History is replete with movements and migrations of people across the globe. That’s why it’s vital that nations who wish to retain their territory resist the influx of foreigners. Someday we might have a similar situation in the American southwest. And if Mexicans have 90% of the population, would American’s be excused for trying to kill them or at the least, drive them south across the border through threats and intimidation. The Serbs missed their time. It’s no longer the 13th century and Kosovo is gone.

NNtrancer on March 17, 2008 at 1:59 PM

Kosovo has always been a difficult subject for me…What Hillybilly did to Serbia is heinous, much worse than the ‘weapons of mass distraction’, wag The Dog war that Hitchens wrote about. Under Wesley Clarkbar they painted NATO insignias over US bombers and decimated bridges, power stations, roads, polluting the air land and water; there was a media blackout on this. The number of innocents we killed and maimed was much worse than the ‘ethnic cleansing’ that Milosevic (not as evil as Saddam) carried out against the Muslims (who were killing Christians).
Now, the Muslims are at it again fighting, not only for independence from Serbia, but ultimately for an oil pipeline. Check it out…a war for oil!

Christine on March 17, 2008 at 2:07 PM

By the way, Kosovo had autonomy within Serbia, with the ability to govern themselves with representatives in the Serbian parliament, until Milosevic came on the scene. He started his presidential bid by making a speech at the Field of Blackbirds in Kosovo(where the Turks defeated the Serbs several centuries ago). As soon as he took office, he revoked Kosovo’s autonomy and stipped them of representation. Soon after, the Serbs of the radical socialist party came up with a plan to drive Albanians out of Kosovo. The rest is history.

NNtrancer on March 17, 2008 at 2:09 PM

the UN’s police have lost a great deal of credibility:

They had credibility to begin with?

reine.de.tout on March 17, 2008 at 2:20 PM

So we should have allowed the ethnic cleansing in the 90`s to continue? I agree it`s a mess now but I have trouble agreeing that we should have done nothing. But look at what intervention created, but we should have gone in—-Damn, this foreign policy stuff is hard! lol

ThePrez on March 17, 2008 at 2:29 PM

Exactly what NATO member country was attacked, or threatened with an imminent attack, by the Serbs? Exactly when did the NATO collective agreement, wherein an attack on one member would be considered an attack on all members, come into play? Under what legal authority was American force used in Kosvo? At what point in time did Muslims in Kosovo become more important than black, Tutsis in Rwanda?

So many questions – so much hypocrisy – and so few legitimate answers.

OhEssYouCowboys on March 17, 2008 at 2:33 PM

Oh hell, let`s just get out of the Balkans and send `em to Iraq where they`ll be useful.

ThePrez on March 17, 2008 at 2:36 PM

It’s no longer the 13th century and Kosovo is gone.

NNtrancer on March 17, 2008 at 1:59 PM

Indeed – I don’t have much sympathy for the Serbs. They have only themselves to blame. Tito recognised in Yugoslavia that to hold these disparate people together one needs majority groups to make concessions to minority groups via various forms of autonomy. Kosova was an autonomous province in a federal state until 1990 when the Serbs unilaterally ended its status, and later used martial law to begin a program of ethnic cleansing. The physical force approach may have worked in the 1900s, but in the present climate there were far better ways of achieving their aim of keeping Kosova under their control.

we have managed to repeat the same mistake that the Russians made in imposing its will on Yugoslavia for 40+ years. Unless a power decides to sit on the Balkans for 400 years and put enough of its resources to keep all of the ethnic communities disarmed and quiescent, the best policy may be to have them work it out for themselves — even if that means fighting each other for the next few centuries.

I don’t concur – if anything, the soviets helped to prevent the balkans from disintigrating into chaos: it was after they fell that things collapsed. A similar argument could be applied to multi-ethnic troublespots like Iraq. Agreed, there is the added issue of the security of natural resources in the Middle East, but the problem one encounters is that it is impossible to isolate these troublespots unilaterally. History shows that it is just about impossible to prevent other powers filling the vacuum with aid or alliances with one side or another, so that the fighting escalates from an internal crisis into a dangerous regional war. Better that we impose our will on the situation than let other, more imperialistic nations begin a destablising regional war. These conficts always arise in nations where boundaries have not been drawn along ethnic lines – once this has been achieved peace becomes possible.

Pax americana on March 17, 2008 at 2:46 PM

Those who do not study history and learn from it are doomed to repeat it.

Johan Klaus on March 17, 2008 at 4:39 PM

Billyjeffistan. Albrightovo.

JonRoss on March 17, 2008 at 6:50 PM

If you have been paying attention you would know that there is an absolute time limit on conflicts to no more than the length of WWII. If it goes longer than that we have to leave immediately regardless of the consequences.

I think this limit applies to NATO as well.

Since the Kosovo conflict dates from the 1990′s it is long beyond its expiration date and we can take no further action. We also need to clear out of Afghanistan since that too has gone on even longer than Iraq, and well past the WWII time limit.

schmuck281 on March 17, 2008 at 8:25 PM

Let the Serbs kick the muslims out of kosovo!

Why on earth would we even consider siding with the kosovo muslims?

SaintOlaf on March 17, 2008 at 11:23 PM

Let the Serbs kick the muslims out of kosovo!

Why on earth would we even consider siding with the kosovo muslims?

SaintOlaf on March 17, 2008 at 11:23 PM

I tend to agree with you.

sanantonian on March 18, 2008 at 12:07 AM

When the going gets tough, the UN gets going.

snaggletoothie on March 17, 2008 at 1:08 PM

When the going gets tough, the UN gets gone.

njcommuter on March 18, 2008 at 12:08 AM