Thursday, September 01, 2016

R2P does not age well

For those of us who have the Kosovo campaign in their CV, besides that little blue bit of NATO ribbon, there isn't all that much we got out of it besides an ongoing contempt for Wesley Clark.

Aidan Hehir over at The National Interest reminds us, the track record in the Balkans is not all that great.

There is something to be said for letting wars burn themselves out - in a way what we are in mid-process of doing in Syria - or otherwise you are just creating another "frozen conflict" that will only blow up in someone else's face at an undetermined point in the future. You also find yourself expending blood and treasure for something that simply is not in your national interest - only in someone's personal pseudo-psychological interests.

There is no small measure of the internationalist narcissism in play here and other places. Kosovo is just a datapoint;
despite the hyperbole and the extraordinary scale of the state-building project, Kosovo currently suffers from a crippling array of problems, and bears the hallmarks of a failed state. This could be verified by consulting the Failed State Index but for the fact that—illustrative of its contemporary predicament—Kosovo is not considered a “recognized sovereign state.”

As a consequence of the massive investment of economic and political capital, perpetuating an image of Kosovo as “multiethnic,” “democratic” and “peaceful” has become vital to liberal internationalism’s image. Preserving this image, however, has led to the imposition of a national identity which simply does not equate with the reality on the ground in Kosovo. More damagingly, the determination to artificially contrive a facade of peace and stability within Kosovo has led external actors to tolerate, and at times support, corruption and intimidation perpetrated by Kosovo’s powerful criminal network. Paradoxically, therefore, Kosovo’s people have been forced to endure profoundly illiberal practices orchestrated by the various “internationals” who micromanage the country so as to maintain its image as their success.
Unemployment amongst fifteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds in Kosovo is a staggering 60.2 percent, a global low according to the World Bank. Average unemployment in the EU is 10.1 percent, yet in Kosovo overall unemployment stands at 35.1 percent, worse than in Yemen and Palestine. Prospects of economic growth are not helped by the fact that foreign direct investment in Kosovo is declining
Visitors to Kosovo will soon notice that while the Albanian flag is ubiquitous, Kosovo’s official flag is something of a rarity. The official flag has failed to resonate with much of the population—hardly a surprise, given that it was imposed by external actors keen to manage Kosovo’s image. Comprising a blue background with a gold map of Kosovo surmounted by six white stars, the flag is designed to convey two messages: Kosovo is European, and Kosovo is multiethnic. Describing the flag as something that “could easily have passed for a towel in a hotel in Turkey,” veteran Kosovar journalist Veton Surroi notes it is “lacking any aesthetic criteria” and “was selected because of its bureaucratic vocabulary.” The color scheme and stars are clearly an attempt to echo the EU’s flag. Likewise, Kosovo’s national anthem is titled “Europa” and has no lyrics, owing to a determination to avoid nationalistic language disputes.
...Albanians as making up 92 percent of the population. ... Kosovo’s constitution—also imposed by external actors, particularly the United States—refers to it “multi-ethnic” character no less than seven times.
Kosovo’s constitution promised that the newly independent state “will contribute to stability in the region and entire Europe.” Given the huge number of Kosovars seeking asylum across the EU, and the fact that the current president has been accused by the Council of Europe of leading a continent-wide criminal network involved in human trafficking, the sex trade and heroin distribution, this goal has clearly not been met.

Ultimately, Kosovo highlights the perils of unaccountable power and liberal zealotry. Beneath Kosovo’s veneer of “liberty” and “multiethnicity” there lies a disturbing confluence of corruption among and between the internationals and local criminal networks.
The Balkans have always created more history than can be consumed locally - but mostly when external actors decide they "need" to get involved.
Kosovo thus evidences a potentially explosive mixture of widespread and deep social disquiet combined with a lack of faith in the democratic system; popular anger is building and more violent civil unrest is a distinct possibility. Kosovo may soon return to the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
The Balkans will at some point devolve in to bloodshed as the people there are want to do in that ethnic and religious zone of conflict. Perhaps this time we should just let them work it out amongst themselves - unless that is - you think the Balkans are worth the bones of anyone.

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