Albright's Unnecessary War
Peter Signorelli
November 16, 2000


Memo To: UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke
From: Peter Signorelli
Re: Madeleine Albright’s Disastrous War

As the U.S. diplomat who came closest to securing a non-military option for dealing with Serbia and the Kosovar Albanians, you may feel vindicated by the results of the recent municipal elections in Kosovo. In a sense, the province has come full circle, expressing overwhelming support for the party of Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, the Albania leader who supported a peaceful negotiation with Serbia and who opposed NATO’s military option. It also turns out that former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell was absolutely correct in his advice that the U.S. refrain from military action against Yugoslavia. And George Bush is correct in his perspective of disengaging the U.S. military from the Balkans. Both have been vindicated by the results of Kosovo-wide municipal elections held at the end of last month. That election result, in which out of 25 Albanian political parties fielding candidates the Democratic League of Kosova of Rugova took approximately 60% of the Albanian Kosovars’ vote, is poignant testimony that U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s disastrous war against Serbia was unnecessary.

Dr. Rugova, as you know, for ten years led Kosovo's non-violent resistance to Serbia’s abrogation of its autonomy and still is considered by many Kosovo Albanians as their symbolic President. In years since his unofficial election as “president” (not recognized by Serbia), Rugova created a parallel, illegal state for the Albanians with its own education and health care system and taxation. He always has supported independence as a goal, but always preferring the option of negotiated, non-military approaches with Serbia. We here at Polyconomics strongly urged the Clinton administration to lend its support to Rugova, as he not only was the single-most trusted Kosovar Albanian leader, but also was the only Albanian leader seeking non-military options for the resolution of the dire situation of Albanians under Serbia. Rugova’s perspective, however, collided with the U.S. Secretary of State’s agenda to bomb Serbia into compliance with her agenda. When Rugova opposed arming the paramilitary Kosova Liberation Army, disputed NATO’s war option and faulted the conditions being imposed by the U.S. at the Rambouilett negotiations, Albright eased him out, and KLA leader Hashim Thaci was elevated as the Kosovar Albanian authority. Sec. Albright simply would not be deterred from her war and a widespread media campaign in the West was conducted to diminish Rugova’s authority and appeal, portraying him as a traitor to the Albanians for insisting that a negotiated, non-violent solution to the Kosovo crisis still was possible and preferable.

Thaci and the KLA were “unknown figures, raising money illegally through smuggling, or worse,” as the State Department’s James Rubin revealed, yet Albright ordered him to work with Thaci, even though the KLA was breaking the October cease-fire. As Rubin put it recently, “The entire US strategy to pressure [Slobodan] Milosevic [was] now dependent on this mysterious rebel.” Although the Serbs had been saying for weeks that they would accept lightly-armed UN personnel rather than NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo, Albright shot down any attempt to pursue that route. Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini recently reported that Albright was adamant, cutting off his attempts to pursue that option with a curt “Lamberto....The whole point is for the Serbs to accept a NATO [military occupation] force.”

So what did Albright’s war accomplish? Destruction of Serbia’s infrastructure, disruption of trade relations among Danube River-bordered Balkan countries, mass population dispersals, perhaps more deaths of Albanian Kosovars by NATO’s bombings than by Serb paramilitary forces, the legitimization and arming of an Albanian insurgent force throughout the province, and not much else. The province is back where it was prior to Albright’s war, with Rugova’s perspective for peaceful negotiations with Serbia still the dominant sentiment among the population.