to understand what was occurring under theirvery noses. The KLA’s systematic campaign ofterror and ethnic cleansing was typically dis-missed as uncoordinated acts of revengeagainst Serbs by Albanian Kosovars who hadsuffered grievously at the hands of theBelgrade regime. (Among other problems withsuch excuses was that they did not explain whythe Roma and other non-Albanians were alsotargets.) Although interventionists offeredperfunctory condemnations of such acts ofviolence, exculpatory comments about theAlbanians’ justifiable feelings of rage invari-ably followed. State Department spokesmanJames Rubin’s comments were typical: “TheAlbanians are angry—It’s irrational emotional-ism.”
The reasoning of Brookings Institutionscholars Ivo H. Daalder and Michael E.O’Hanlon was more nuanced but still excul-patory: “There has been a regrettable degree ofreverse ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Serbs by ethnicAlbanians since June 10, 1999, but it is neithersurprising in the aftermath of this type of con-flict nor realistically preventable. Nor is itcomparable to what happened to the ethnicAlbanians in the spring of 1999—or for thatmatter in 1998.”
In reality, there are substan-tially more refugees from Kosovo living out-side the province now than there were the daybefore NATO’s bombing campaign started.Only the ethnicity of the victims has changed.Indeed, the harshest comments of U.S.and other Western officials continued to bereserved for Slobodan Milosevic—as thoughhe were still the main problem in Kosovo.Commenting on the strife in the ethnicallydivided city of Mitrovica in February 2000,U.S. ambassador to the United NationsRichard Holbrooke stated: “I think there isno question who is responsible for it. It’sBelgrade.”
Supporters of NATO’s peacekeeping mis-sion grasped at straws to show that the oper-ation was going well. For example, NATOsecretary general George Robertson and oth-ers cited the declining murder rate in Kosovoin 2000 as evidence that things were gettingbetter. Albright boasted that “the murderrate in Kosovo is now lower than in manyAmerican cities.”
Similarly, Clinton’snational security adviser, Sandy Berger,crowed, “The murder rate has declined by 90percent in the past year.”
New York Times
opined in November 2000 that “Kosovo isgenerally a less violent place than it was lastyear.”
But, as Cato Institute foreign policyanalyst Gary Dempsey points out, suchclaims failed to take into account “that themurder rate had fallen in Kosovo preciselybecause the province had been virtuallycleansed of non-Albanian murder targets.”
Interventionists engaged in other wishfulthinking. They hailed the KLA’s pledge todisband and disarm, even as NATO troopskept uncovering large caches of weapons andammunition.
As incidents proliferated inthe Presevo Valley, supporters of the Kosovomission spent most of their energy warningabout Belgrade’s desire to reestablish controlover the area and denied that the disorderswere part of a strategy to create a “GreaterAlbania.”
editorial perfect-ly captured the naive conventional wisdom:“Albanians struck inside Serbia because theybelieve, with some justification, thatSlobodan Milosevic’s forces had begun theethnic cleansing of a small Albanian-popu-lated area abutting Kosovo.”
Even afterMilosevic was ousted from office and a newdemocratic government had taken power,interventionists repeatedly warned about thedanger of shrinking the buffer zone or allow-ing Serbian security forces back into any por-tion of that zone.
Meanwhile, Albaniannationalist insurgents operated there withincreasing impunity. In December 2000Michael Radu, senior fellow with the ForeignPolicy Institute, correctly concluded, “We aresimply witnessing Albanian expansionismunder the very nose of NATO troops.”
Onlywith great reluctance did NATO finally allowSerbian security forces limited access to thebuffer zone in late February 2001.
New York Times
correspondent StevenErlanger concisely describes the implicit bar-gain that has characterized U.S. and NATOpolicy in Kosovo since June 1999: “After thewar, NATO decided it had to placate and co-opt
Supporters ofNATO’s peace-keeping missiongrasped at strawsto show that theoperation wasgoing well.