This letter was printed right after NATO announced victory in Kosovo; it was written about a week earlier.

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Subject: Letter to the Editor

I am happy that it looks like peace may come to Yugoslavia. But the idea that we won is wrong. Celebrate the peace by all means, but understand we lost.

The point of our intervention was to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Albanians living in Kosovo. The Serbs carried out the ethnic cleansing without apparent notice of our bombing. We utterly failed. Yes, we didn't take any casualties while we weren't preventing the cleansing, but the Kosovars sure did.

We wanted Yugoslavia to sign the Rambouillet Accord, which allowed NATO to occupy Kosovo for three years, allowed NATO free movement within all of Yugoslavia, and at the end of three years allowed NATO to determine whether Kosovo remained part of Yugoslavia or not. We asked them to voluntarily give up sovereignty over Kosovo. We didn't negotiate, we tried to impose.

We maintained that the bombing would stop when they agreed to Rambouillet. The peace agreement agreed to isn't the Rambouillet Accord, and differs in some important respects. First and most importantly, the agreement is brokered by the UN and not NATO, so the troops in Kosovo will be under UN mandate and UN control, which means that Russia, Serbia's ally, will not only have a say in what happens, but will have veto power. Under Rambouillet, if NATO had decided that Kosovo were to be independent, so be it. Now, the chances of Kosovo gaining independence are small indeed because the UN will have to agree to it.

The Serbs gained what they wanted: They altered the balance of power within Kosovo, by both doing serious damage to the KLA, altering the demographics, and by making clear to the Albanians the price of rebellion, and they have the concessions on Kosovo sovereignty they wanted. They went to war to keep Kosovo, and they will. They have decided to accept a peace agreement, not surrender, and because it achieves their goals, not ours.

What did we gain? Nothing. Instead, we perverted NATO from a defensive alliance into a bully that wantonly terrorized civilians, our army sat on its hands while civilians we claimed under our protection were slaughtered with impunity and driven from their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and we will now pay an enormous bill to rebuild what we and the Serbs destroyed. We have returned Russia to a player on the world stage while at the same time antagonizing them. Our relations with China have suffered, and we have demonstrated to the world that the United States won't hesitate to be arbitrary (why did we intervene in Kosovo and not in Sudan, where more people have been killed, the killing continues, and the women and children are enslaved, or not in Rwanda where more were killed), use force as a first resort, and generally behave like a schoolyard bully trying to impose our theories on faraway places we don't understand.

If you still think we won, ask yourself how many more such victories the Kosovars can stand.

Kevin Murphy

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This page last updated 23 June 1999

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