Over the past week, the crisis in the Balkans continued to escalate. It is hard to watch television or pick up a newspaper without seeing something about Kosovo, the state of the ethnic Albanian refugees in surrounding areas, or the bombing of Belgrade. This international news has not escaped attention on campus; on the Monday following Spring Break, a record 200 students gathered for the Gaudino forum to address issues relating to U.S. and NATO policy in the Balkans.
Understanding the current state of international affairs, however, is easily relegated to watching CNN or reading the front page of the New York Times. Milosevic and the KLA are perhaps household terms and political science classes likely discussed the situation. Nevertheless, there are significant other resources, both on and off campus that should be explored.
Radical Serbian filmmaker Dusan Makavejev lectured here last week. Visiting Professor of Philosophy Leon Kojen is currently in Belgrade. There are many reasons the Kosovo conflict should be on students’ minds, and many facets of thesituation that should be examined.
How should we go about gathering information about the conflict? For the first time in history, we have access, via the Internet, to enormous quantities of information from countless different perspectives. The Internet provides a link to those immediately affected by the crisis. Kojen, for example, continues to communicate through e-mail. But we are not limited to the people we know and those immediately connected to this campus. The Web can link us directly to Serbian government websites, KLA websites and personal websites.
As students we are always asked to consider primary and secondary material. We now have the opportunity to examine both as the situation develops. We have the chance to gain a greater understanding of the political situation as well as the human situation. To look at both sides of the political situation, there are NATO and Serbian government websites, among others. Though stories of refugees are primarily limited to those reported by Western sources, it is possible to get a glimpse of life in Belgrade. For example, B92, the independent Serbian radio station shut down by the government, continues to broadcast through the Internet; their website also includes letters and essays from Belgrade residents describing the present situation and how they feel about it. Simply by following the links from one site to another, one can piece together a more complex view of the situation and see the situation from a variety of perspectives .
One might argue that the information on the web is unregulated and thus may be biased or inaccurate. Nevertheless as college students we should be able to discern propaganda from point of view, and should, given the opportunity, do our own sorting out. In addition, it is informative just to look at the variety of sources, the material they present, and how they present it. Learning Awareness of this use of information, both positively and negatively, may lead to a better grasp of the development and escalation of the current crisis.
In the future academics will study the causes and effects of Kosovo. But in our present state, we do not need to wait until the situation is resolved to consider the multiple issues involved. Geographic distance is no longer a detriment to understanding the immediacy of such a crisis. The effort to do so simply necessitates exploiting the many resources to which we have easy access.