War In The Balkans: So can we now solve the Balkan question?

FOR SERBIA this war has been an unmitigated disaster. The people have experienced a miserable few months. They feel as if they are the victims of great injustice and yet this war will be remembered, above all, for the hundreds of thousands of victims created in their name, and the extraordinary notion that this bloody century could be allowed to end with the forced expulsion of a whole people from their homeland. To say that it would have been far worse for the Serbs if Nato had actually been trying to cause civilian casualties is scant consolation. Many people have been killed and injured, the country's infrastructure has been taken apart and the economy set back years - and there is nothing to show for Milosevic in return.

The claim that Nato has compromised can only be made by taking seriously the exaggerated allegations made about its intentions - for example, the occupation of all of Yugoslavia. Kosovo remains an "autonomous province" but in practice it is lost, an international protectorate guarded by foreign troops. Slobodan Milosevic accepted war in March to prevent the entry of these foreign troops into Kosovo, precisely because they could thwart his plans for the province.

The only possible mitigation for Yugoslavia would be if Milosevic resigned and left for some internal exile. As the extreme radical party, led by Vojslav Seselj, will leave the government because of the capitulation, Milosevic may try to find a more acceptable face by bringing in more moderate political figures. But as an indicted war criminal he is now an impossible leader for a self-respecting country. Yugoslavia desperately needs a government capable of repairing relations with the West, not least because of the resources required if it is to repair its bridges, oil refineries and factories.

For Nato the first emotion is one of enormous relief. This has been a curious war. The alliance has suffered no casualties (other than the crew of an Apache helicopter that crashed while training), and lost hardly any equipment. The price was paid by the Serbs and Kosovo Albanians whose ordeal was extended because of the reluctance to accept any unnecessary risks, especially the introduction of land forces. This point needs to be recalled when we are told that this has been a triumph for air power acting alone. A reason for the breakthrough now was the conspicuous preparations for a land campaign.

In addition, one of Milosevic's many miscalculations was his belief that ethnic cleansing could actually serve to eliminate the Kosovo Liberation Army. It may well be that the war appeared lost to Belgrade because of the increasing evidence of the KLA's growing strength. As Serb units battled against the KLA they provided targets for Nato aircraft that would have otherwise found it difficult to flush them out. The role to be played by the KLA in the new Kosovo threatens to be one of the difficult issues for the new administration, once appointed by the Security Council. It is as vital that it draws the KLA's leadership into political responsibility as it is that it discourages any attempt to use the army to assert its political demands or as an instrument of revenge.

The pain of this war for Nato leaders lay in having to stay firm every time one of their aircraft hit the wrong target or caused some human tragedy. There is no doubt that Milosevic's only serious strategy was to hope that this would aggravate the natural divisions in the alliance. This was another miscalculation, because of the way that alliances work in war.

Nobody could accuse the alliance of being nimble in its strategy. The tortuous, often coded, debates about planning for ground forces illustrated the problems of getting 19 members to agree on any revisions to the original concept. Yet the same factors that made it hard for the alliance to move forward also made it hard to go back. Having embarked on the air campaign in a collective outrage at ethnic cleansing, they had little choice but to see it through. Some might waver after each blunder, but a government would have been extraordinarily naive to authorise an air campaign and then profess surprise when innocents were killed.

Having discovered that they can fight a war to a moderately successful conclusion the allies will be wondering what sort of precedent they have set. Will they now be expected to take action in the face of every injustice and humanitarian catastrophe, or can intervention be limited to cases in the neighbourhood where the cause is just and interests are clear? In practice, it is hard to think of that many scenarios where the alliance can even contemplate a repeat performance.

The price of victory is now the reconstruction of Kosovo, which will require a long-term commitment of troops and resources, and an overall responsibility for the Balkans as a whole. A large number of regional stresses and strains have been aggravated because of the war and they will require some tough political bargaining, as well as even more resources, to sort them out. Instability in the Balkans has dogged Europe through this century. There could be no better result from this painful war for the next century to start with a determined effort to address this instability once and for all.

The author is Professor of War Studies at King's College London

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing