Kosovo has finally declared independence from Serbia. This didn’t seem like much of surprise or controversy to me, but frankly, I am simply not that informed about the pros and cons of an independent Kosovo.
As a matter of fact, it all seemed pretty logical. After the fall of communisim, death of Tito, and civil war in Yugoslavia, a series of new states were born: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYROM (or Macedonia), and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1999, NATO forces attacked Yugoslavian targets, without a U.N. Security Council resolution to do so, to protect the Albanian-Kosovars. In 2003, Montenegro gained its independence, thus ending the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and giving birth to two separate nations: Serbia and Montenegro. So why is accepting Kosovo’s independence so controversial?
The U.S. and most of the E.U. member states will recognize the new Kosovo state, against the wishes of Russia and Serbia. The Washington Post makes what seems like a solid argument for doing so. But then again, I am not that informed about the entire matter. In Spain, in contrast, both the Socialists and the Partido Popular, and the mainstream newspapers have all flatly rejected recognizing the new independent state.
The problem is that the Spanish are looking at Kosovo through domestic Spanish eyes. They fear that an internationally recognized Kosovo would fuel regional separatist groups like the Basque terrorist group ETA. They argue that an independent Kosovo rewards terrorism, telling a tale of Kosovar terrorists being just as brutal and criminal as their Serbian tormentors. The most right wing factions are even bringing up the fact that Kosovars are worse because they are Muslims.
But it seems almost absurd that ten years after Spanish socialist Javier Solana (then at the helm of NATO) ordered the NATO attacks against the Kosovar-oppressing Yugoslavia, Spaniards could now find recognizing Kosovo’s independence abusrd. Yes, absurd even in light of the absurd possibility that Russia could retaliate by recognizing the Basque Country’s sovereignty. Then again, there are Spanish presidential election in March.
Without getting into the facts as to who has been worse, Kosovars or Serbians, I think the debate is kind of interesting. First of all, I have heard all of the reasons why the Kosovars should not be rewarded with a sovereign nation, but no one is saying why they should continue to be part of Serbia. Why should the Kosovars continue to be subject to Serbian rule?
The really interesting question is not whether Kosovo should or should not be independent, but rather (i) why (under what circumstances) should a population of people within a geographical area be given sovereignty, and (ii) how should they go about achieving that sovereignty?
It would be pretty hard and naive for an American, with the history of guerilla Minute Men, to argue for strictly Ghandi-like peaceful transitions as the sole model for claims and means to sovereignty. And I won’t even bring up regime changes.