The legitimacy of the presence of the NATO military force in the Balkans has led to a great deal of conversation. Personally, I agree with the fact that the international community has stepped in, but I do not agree with the way in which they have gone about the intervention. That is not, however, what this article will focus on. I feel it is more important to address those people who, in my eyes, are overly critical of any Western involvement in the Balkans. Prior to harshly judging NATO, I would like to point out a number of notions for one to consider.
Historical evidence suggests – contrary to popular belief – that NATO is not the creator of the present humanitarian catastrophe in Kosovo. Rather, the president of the former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic, is. The start of his leadership, which began over a decade ago, is marked by the mobilization of nationalism along ethnic lines. Milosevic ignited civil wars between Serbians and Croatians, then Serbians and Muslims. This chapter of history provides invaluable evidence that, regardless of the involvement of the international community, it was only a question of when Milosevic would wage war on the ethnic Albanians.
For those who have taken the viewpoint that the West should have refrained from bombing, and by extension remained neutral, an important issue is being overlooked. In no way does inaction make a country neutral; inaction, in fact, has just as many repercussions as actions. When innocent ethnic Albanians are crying out for help and the world turns a blind eye, we are acting, and we are acting irresponsibly. Accepting the fact that NATO has acted raises two popular questions: the first is that there are many other civil wars going on right now, so why are we choosing to help one and not the other? Secondly, in the past NATO has not come to the aid of countries that are experiencing humanitarian disaster, for example Rwanda, so why is NATO deciding to help Kosovo?
With the first argument, an article in last week’s Record used the example of Tibet, a country whose people have been oppressed in a civil war for decades. There are two ways to break this argument down, the first is to consider the oppressor, China. The military capabilities of China far outride those of Kosovo, and therefore the threat of China retaliating and successfully launching world war are much too high. Secondly, I will borrow a short anecdote told by Andy Rooney, from 60 Minutes. The story goes as follows: If a patient goes to see a doctor, the doctor does not say, “Sorry, I can’t cure everyone, so there isn’t much point in my doing anything for you.” What the doctor does do is help as many people as possible. Similarly, should the international community – like a doctor – not attempt to heal what they can in the world? Also, people argue that we have turned a blind eye many times before, a notable example being Rwanda. The truth of this statement is uncontestable, but I do not believe it is a legitimate excuse for NATO not to intervene now. Moreover, I believe the people who are using this argument are the same people who were protesting loudly five years ago, when that blind eye was turned on Rwanda.