Phillips remarks on “Liberating Kosovo”/
Remarks by DAVID L. PHILLIPS/
at TETOVO STATE UNIVERSITY/
November 21, 2015/
President Bill Clinton made his first trip to Kosova since her independence in November 2009. He addressed parliament and then attended a ceremony on a boulevard bearing his name. A red cover was removed revealing a statue three meters tall. Clinton bit his lip and was visibly moved: “I never expected that anywhere someone would make such a big statue of me.”
I feel a bit like Bill Clinton did that day. I never thought there would be such a magnificent gathering attended by so many Albanian friends. I am moved and deeply grateful. Thanks to Rector Ahmeti and other faculty involved with translating and publishing the Albanian language version of Liberating Kosovo:
Coercive Diplomacy and U.S. Intervention. Liberating Kosovo is dedicated to Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. Kosova would never have realized her freedom without him. Richard’s death was a loss to the world. Solutions to intractable problems, like Syria, would not be so difficult if Holbrooke were alive. He was never one to “lead from behind.” He knew how to project American power in service of US interests. He was devoted to protecting victims of violent conflict.
Liberating Kosovo is a diplomatic history. It recounts Milosevic’s brutal reign,events leading up to NATO’s action in 1999, and Kosova’s coordinated declaration of independence. Its pages are informed by interviews with dozens of US and international officials who played a pivotal role: Martti Ahtisaari, Soren Jessen- Petersen, Marc Grossman, Dan Fried, James Pardew, Nick Burns and others too I was leading a seminar on state-building in East Timor when the phone rang on March 23, 1999. I saw Holbrooke’s name on the caller ID and thought: “Curious, Holbrooke is in Belgrade meeting with Milosevic.”
Holbrooke wanted me to know that negotiations with Milosevic had broken down and NATO would start bombing the next day. My heart started pounding. After more than a decade advocating Kosova’s independence, intervention was at-hand.
Holbrooke wanted me to call our Albanian American friends – “the AAs” – so they could warn their relatives. I called Jim Xhema, Harry Bajraktari, and Ekrem Bardha. The word spread like wildfire. Holbrooke was a shrewd negotiator. He knew that Serbia’s intelligence agency would be monitoring telephone traffic. Instead of returning to the United States, Holbrooke took his air force plane to Budapest. He called Milosevic in the morning to ask: Now do you believe that military action is imminent? Milosevic never believed the US would go to war on behalf of Shiptars. He rejected Holbrooke’s last appeal.
I am very proud that the US went to war to protect Kosovars. The US stood on principle to prevent from happening in Kosovo what had happened in Bosnia. It backed diplomacy with force to stop the slaughter of Albanians. The US-led NATO action was a great moment for both America and Kosova.
More than a diplomatic history, Liberating Kosovo is a study of statecraft. When, why, and how should the US intervene to prevent genocide? What is the correct balance between principal and practical considerations? Who decides? As a humanitarian activist, I believe that the US is a force for good in the world. At Holbrooke’s memorial service, President Obama declared. “We can make a difference. America’s moral leadership is at-stake when civilians are victims of senseless violence. America has a unique responsibility in the cause of human rights.” Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and Holocaust survivor, reminds us: “Indifference is itself a crime against humanity.”
From the Kosova intervention, we can derive lessons for intervention.The US should stand on principle. Intervention must have a moral basis to prevent genocide or crimes against humanity. The US must never use humanitarian intervention to justify military action whose real purpose is to advance national interests. We saw in Iraq that misrepresenting humanitarian intervention to advance security, economic or ideological interests actually undermines US goals and America’s standing in the world.
War is a last resort, after all diplomatic options have been exhausted. The Bush administration rushed to war in Iraq without considering its consequences.
Responsibility comes with intervention. If the US leads an intervention, it must also take the lead mobilizing international action to rebuild war-torn societies and break the cycle of violence. The US should always work to uphold international law and foster international cooperation. But multilateralism must never be an excuse for inaction.
Multilateralism can be flawed by opaque decision-making and strategic vagueness. The North Atlantic Council authorized NATO’s action in Kosovo because the United National Security Council would not. Just as Russia was obstructionist then, Russia is guilty today of both providing diplomatic cover and military support to Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime in Syria. If the UN is paralyzed and unable to act, then NATO or a coalition of willing countries should impose safe havens protecting the people of Syria. Aiding and abetting Assad makes Russia complicit in his crimes.
Kosovo taught us the importance of winning the peace. Intervention does not work unless power is handed over to local leaders with credibility and a commitment to public service. Kosovo is still struggling to gain greater global recognition. The shortcomings of Kosovo’s current politicians must not be used to de-legitimize.Kosovo’s independence or prevent its rightful place among the family of nations.
Today, Kosova faces many challenges.Kosova is a young democracy. However, that is no excuse for using tear gas to prevent the Kosova Assembly from convening. In democracy, politicians resolve their differences through negotiations, not through violence.
Kosova needs new leadership. It is important that a younger generation of leaders emerge who are not tainted by any activities during the war. Young leaders are needed who are clean and not corrupt, who are devoted to national and public The EU’s work in Kosova has been ineffective. EULEX was a fiasco. It harbored criminals, rather than prosecute them. EU members are incapable of agreeing among themselves, as evidenced by the recent migrant and refugee crisis. Kosova needs more active participation by the United States.
Dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia is essential. But the April Agreement was a bad deal for Kosova. Serbia was put on the track to EU membership, while Kosova did not even get visa liberalization. Kosova remains a divided country without recognition from Belgrade. Without recognition, Kosova will never gain greater recognition by the international community.
The Milosevic Project was always to partition Kosova. Ethno-territorial division is still Serbia’s goal. Partition represents the fulfillment of Milosevic’s racist policies.
Kosova whole and free needs to be integrated into Euro-Atlantic institutions and become a Member State of the United Nations.
It is very unfortunate that so many young people are leaving Kosova. If there was a good economy and prospects for the future, they would stay at home and work to The rise of radical Islam among Albanians is deeply troubling. It is estimated that 1,200 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia, and Albania have joined the Islamic State in Syria. Albanian youth feel disenfranchised and despair. The US must do more to strengthen its partnership with Kosova, and send a message to the people of Kosova that US stands with them. Bringing Albanians closer to the West is the best way to counter violent extremism.
Education is the most effective tool for de-radicalization. I remember visiting Tetovo State University during a cold February in 1994, meeting students in the basement of buildings. Now look at what you have built. This gleaming auditorium is a testament to the value of education. You should be very proud.
The next great challenge will be building an Albanian neighborhood across the Western Balkans. I am not talking about a greater Albania. Cross-border commercial, educational, and environmental activities represent interests solidarity. It is entirely normal for Albanians to establish a virtual community in the Western Balkans. This virtual community is actually a bulwark against We convened an international conference of the Albanian Neighborhood Project two years ago in Tirana. Tetovo State University should take the lead to convene the next conference. We pledge our support in service of this vision and great Holbrooke was an historian as well as a diplomat. Kosovo is not the last time the US will go to war to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. I hope that future peacemaking efforts by American diplomats are also informed by Kosova’s experience, which is recounted on the pages of Liberating Kosovo.
Thank you for honoring me this evening. “Faleminderit Shume.”