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Selected Writings by Nadesan Satyendra
- நடேசன் சத்தியேந்திரா

Nato, Kosovo & Tamil Eelam

24 April 1999

"...The coming months will show the fate in store for the Kosovars. The truth is that in so far as Kosovo is concerned, Milosovich's Yugoslavia and NATO are not that far apart. They  are both opposed to the creation of an independent Kosovo. Neither of them want a Muslim Greater Albania in the heart of Europe. They both proclaim their support for a multi ethnic Kosovo within a multi ethnic Yugoslavia. They both wish to retain the existing territorial  boundaries of Yugoslavia. The degree of autonomy is a matter of emphasis. Milosovich fears that greater autonomy will lead to secession. NATO fears that repression will lead to an increase in extra regional Muslim influence and in that way to secession. Milosovich believes that he can put down Kosovar resistance if  NATO stays out. But NATO fears that even if Milosovich succeeds, this will strengthen the Yugoslav-Russia-Belraus link with far reaching implications for the future of the European Union.

..Many years ago, in the early 1980's, a US diplomat in Washington reflecting on India's support for the Tamil militants, remarked that India was not a super power and should not try to behave like one. Today, NATO is seeking to demonstrate to both Yugoslavia and Russia (and to the world)  that Russia is not a super power and that the time has come for both Russia and Yugoslavia to recognise the lead role of  NATO in Europe. Unsurprisingly, it has been announced that the US and the European Union stand  ready to introduce a mini 'Marshall Plan' to rehabilitate war torn Yugoslavia after the cessation of hostilities..."

All war is based on deception...
NATO intervention in Kosovo a case in point....
Why did NATO launch its air attacks on Yugoslavia...
Countries go to war to protect their national interests...
NATO's two strategic objectives...
Coming months will show the fate in store for the Kosovars...

[see also Understanding Kosovo - Nadesan Satyendra, 31 October 1998]


up All war is based on deception...

A thousand years ago, Sun Tzu  remarked that all war is based on deception.  Today, liberal democracies who go to war, extend that deception to their own people as well. Faced with the need to secure the consent of their people, they set about manufacturing it. Partial truths, and on occasion, outright falsehoods are put out for public consumption so that public opinion will be supportive of the action taken by the ruler.

Usually, many years after a war is over, classified documents are released into the public domain - and journalists and historians dig up the facts. The cynicism of real politick is then admitted, and even condemned  - until, ofcourse, the next time. 

It was some years after the fiasco of the Suez invasion in 1956, that the conspiracy between  Great Britain, France and Israel was revealed. The three countries had agreed that Israel should invade Egypt and that France and  Great Britain would then land troops in the Suez 'to keep the peace' between Israel and Egypt! The true objective of the invasion was to reverse Nasser's nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

The first bombing of North Viet Nam by the US in 1964, was justified as a response to an alleged  'torpedo attack' by Viet Nam on two US destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf. It later transpired that the torpedo attack was fabricated to secure public support for the escalation of the conflict. Such examples can be multiplied ad nauseam.


up NATO intervention in Kosovo a case in point....

The continuing NATO intervention in Kosovo is a current case in point. The stated reason for the intervention is the need to save the Kosovo Albanians  from the oppression of  Slobadan Milosovich's Yugoslavia. Television, the media and commentators are full of their concern for the humanitarian tragedy faced by the Kosovo Albanians. Well meaning non governmental organisations are mobilised to organise relief - and millions of people contribute, and in this way NATO secures broad based support for its 'just, humane and self less'  intervention.

But if the intervention was dictated simply by humanitarian considerations, why was there no intervention, for instance, in South Africa during decades of oppression by white supremacists? Again in more recent times, the suffering in Rwanda and Somalia was arguably even greater - but there was no intervention.

It is then contended that Kosovo is in the heart of Europe and therefore cannot be ignored. But  hundreds of thousands of Serbs were forced to flee Croatia a few years ago, but that did not result in armed intervention by NATO. 

It is urged that Albanians fleeing repression in Kosovo would cause a refugee crisis and that that would destabilise the region. But if this be the reason, did not NATO foresee the real likelihood (if not, the certainty)  that  NATO air attacks, would leave the Kosovo Albanians at the receiving end of  retaliatory attacks by the Yugoslav armed forces and para military - and result in even more hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians seeking refuge in adjoining countries?

It cannot be that what was obvious to journalists and commentators around the world, somehow escaped the attention of NATO. For NATO Foreign Ministers to assert glibly that they had not anticipated  the refugee exodus is to put their credibility seriously in doubt.

Again, it will be naive to suggest, as some have, that NATO had not thought all this through.  The presumption must be that NATO had in fact, thought it through, and that it did recognise that the attack would in all likelihood result in a massive refugee crisis.  NATO was not unaware that air attacks on Yugoslavia would not provide a 'quick fix' to the conflict.  The examples of London and Bremen during the Second World War and the more recent carpet bombing of North Viet Nam were not unknown to NATO.


up Why did NATO launch its air attacks on Yugoslavia...

Why then did NATO launch its air attacks on Yugoslavia? When confronted with this question, NATO spokesmen assert that in the face of Slobadan Milosovich's refusal to sign the Ramboulliet Accord (which was intended to protect the Kosovars) they had no other option. But is that right?

If NATO was concerned to protect the Kosovars from attack by the Milosovich regime, why did  not NATO  pay heed to the views of Albanians such as Professor Qosja who, in recent years has become a father figure of the Albanian nation:

"...The international community, the European Union and the United States, still think they can solve the question of Kosovo by ensuring human rights and autonomy within Serbia. This shows that they do not understand the issue involved and approach the problem of Kosovo in a superficial manner. If they understand the essence of the issue, they would realise that public order, peace and justice can never be established in Kosovo until it is united with Albania..." (Interview with Rexhep Qosja quoted in Kosovo : In the Heart of the Powder Keg  - East European Monographs, No 478 - compiled and Edited by Robert Elsie, distributed by the Columbia University Press, 1997)

Why was NATO unwilling to recognise that  public order, peace and justice can never be established in Kosovo until it is united with Albania? Why was NATO willing to launch air attacks against the sovereign state of Yugoslavia to 'save the Kosovars', but was unwilling to create a union of Kosovo and Albania where the Kosovars may live with the security afforded by their own armed forces? If the answer is that NATO was unwilling to countenance the dismemberment of a sovereign state, why were NATO countries only too willing to recognise the separation of Croatia from Yugoslavia a few years ago? What did NATO have in mind?


up Countries go to war to protect their national interests...

Countries go to war to protect their national interests. NATO is no exception. NATO's intervention was directed to secure its perceived strategic interests. What, then, were those interests that made the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Kosovars, as well as the destruction of Yugoslavia, a price worth paying? A price worth paying - because, NATO cannot pretend that the real risk of that suffering and that destruction was not foreseen.

To understand why NATO launched its air attacks, it will be instructive to ask: what is it that would have happened if NATO had not intervened?

President Milosovich, faced with demands by Kosovo Albanians for independence and union with Albania, would have continued with his effort to crush Kosovar resistance - in the same way as President J.R.Jayawardene unleashed Genocide'83 on the Tamil people in the island of Sri Lanka.

President Milosovich  who had labelled the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) a terrorist organisation, would have set about annihilating it - in the same way as President J.R.Jayawardene who had declared the LTTE  a terrorist organisation, sent his Army commander to ruthlessly annihilate Tamil resistance in 1979. 

Again, the KLA had established links with radical Muslim organisations in the Middle East and Afghanistan - in the same way that Tamil militant organisations had established links with the PLO and Libya in the 1980s. To do nothing and  permit Slobadan Milosovich to clamp down on Kosovo resistance, may have led to the KLA receiving increased support from its natural allies in the Muslim world.

NATO was concerned that if President Milosovich continued his onslaught on the Kosovars, that over time, extra regional Muslim  influence may grow and a  Greater Albanian Muslim state may emerge in the heart of Europe - a Greater Albania which may have found support from Albanians in Macedonia as well.

NATO's concerns were not dissimilar to those of  India (in the late 1970s and early 1980s) that an independent Tamil Eelam, with extra regional support, may lead to the establishment of a Greater Tamil state.

Additionally (and equally importantly) if  NATO had not intervened, Milosovich may have been encouraged to  strengthen Yugoslavia's  eastward stance and the links with Russia. The recent decision of the Yugoslav Parliament to seek a political union of Russia, Belarus and Yugoslavia  reflects Yugoslav's attempt to set a course different to that of a European Union underpinned by NATO.

NATO's concerns were not dissimilar to the concerns that Indira Gandhi had about  President J.R.Jayawardene's west leaning government. Indira Gandhi  sought to use the Tamil militant movement to destabilise Sri Lanka, and in this way apply pressure to move Sri Lanka away from the west, and thereby exclude extra regional forces from the Indian region.

If President J.R.Jayawardene was not persuaded, Indira Gandhi was willing to commit ground troops to 'save the Tamils' and bring about a change in government with her friend from non-alignment days, Mrs.Bandaranaike, in power in the South - in the same way as NATO may now be willing to commit ground troops to overthrow Milosovich, and put in place an 'acceptable' Yugoslav leadership.

Again, in the same way as there were clear limits to the extent to which India was willing to arm the Tamil militant movement in the early 1980s, there were clear limits to the extent to which NATO would arm the KLA.

Indira Gandhi had no intention of setting up an independent Tamil Eelam, though Indian agencies encouraged groups such as TELO to believe that Tamil Eelam was round the corner.  NATO, too, was not in the business of creating  a strong and independent Kosova Liberation Army  which would  not compromise on its demand for an independent Kosovo and union with Albania.

In addition, NATO would not have been unmindful of the fate suffered by Bangladesh, which was brought into existence with the assistance of Indira Gandhi's India. The Indian armed forces helped to install Mujib Rahman as President of Bangladesh. The Indian army not only rid  Bangladesh of the Pakistani armed forces but also annihilated the indigenous Bangladeshi Mukti Bhani resistance movement. India believed that in this way, it would secure a more pliable and friendly neighbour. However, the honeymoon was short-lived and ended with the overthrow of Mujib Rahman, a few years later. NATO may have been concerned that an independent Muslim Kosovo united with Albania may not, for long, remain a 'client' state indebted to those who may have helped to establish it.


up NATO's two strategic objectives...

Sufficient, perhaps has been said, to render NATO's strategic interests clear. The conclusion is inescapable that the Ramboulliet Accord and NATO intervention to enforce that Accord, were  intended to achieve  two  major objectives.   On the one hand, NATO  was concerned with the longer term implications of a Muslim state in the heart of Europe, particularly in the context of US policy towards Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Israel. On the other hand, NATO was concerned to secure its dominance in Europe and prevent a consolidation of a relatively independent Russia-Belraus-Yugoslav union of the Slav people.

NATO's preferred option was to give limited support to the KLA, push Slobadan Milosovich to adopt a more conciliatory approach, grant 'autonomy' and then strike a deal with the Kosovo 'moderates' and this way marginalise the KLA.  Hence, the Ramboulliet Accord and the attempt to compel Slobadan Milosovich to sign up not only to 'autonomy' but also to a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The peace keeping force was not simply to protect the Kosovar's from the Serbs. It was also to prevent  the KLA from seeking assistance from outside Muslim agencies and eventually leading a campaign for a Greater Albania.

In 1987, the Indian Peace Keeping Force  was welcomed by the Tamil people as their 'protectors'. But the IPKF  had come not to protect the Tamil people from the Sinhala army but to enforce the 'autonomy' provided by the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lanka Constitution. And India sought to rely on so called 'moderate' Tamil parties, such as the TULF and the EPRLF to push forward its agenda.

NATO too has been at pains to cultivate Kosovar 'moderates' who can play Amirthalingam's role in any future accord. In 1992, though the Kosovo Albanian Parliament declared a so called Republic of Kosovo, no government, not even the Albanian government   recognised it. Significantly, the 'seat' of the 'Government of the Republic of Kosovo' was stated to be in Bonn in Germany. Professor Qosja has remarked:

"How can I recognise a national 'government' which calls itself a government while under Serbian occupation?... How can I recognise a (Kosovan)   President, a Member of parliament or a Minister who travels through the country carrying a Serbian I.D., who crosses the border of Kosovo using a Serbian Passport and who fulfils all his duties as a citizen of Serbia?... It is a tragi-comedy staged in order to smother resistance...." (Interview with Rexhep Qosja quoted in Kosovo : In the Heart of the Powder Keg  - East European Monographs, No 478 - compiled and Edited by Robert Elsie, distributed by the Columbia University Press, 1997)

Eelam Tamils may see some parallels with the tragi-comedy played out by the TULF leader, Appapillai Amirthalingam, whilst being a guest of the Government of India in 1980s.


up Coming months will show the fate in store for the Kosovars...

The coming months will show the fate in store for the Kosovars. The truth is that in so far as Kosovo is concerned, Milosovich's Yugoslavia and NATO are not that far apart. They  are both opposed to the creation of an independent Kosovo. Neither of them want a Muslim Greater Albania in the heart of Europe. They both proclaim their support for a multi ethnic Kosovo within a multi ethnic Yugoslavia. They both wish to retain the existing territorial  boundaries of Yugoslavia.

The degree of autonomy is a matter of emphasis.

Milosovich fears that greater autonomy will lead to secession. NATO fears that repression will lead to an increase in extra regional Muslim influence and in that way to secession. Milosovich believes that he can put down Kosovar resistance if  NATO stays out. But NATO fears that even if Milosovich succeeds, this will strengthen the Yugoslav-Russia-Belraus link with far reaching implications for the future of the European Union. NATO seeks to use the Kosovo resistance to destabilise Milosovich and to move Yugolslavia away from Russia and towards West.

As for the Kosovars,  hundreds of thousands may be  rendered homeless, thousands may also die and  the KLA may be effectively annihilated. In the end, a deal may be struck with Yugoslavia, not dissimilar to the 1987 Indo Sri Lanka Accord, and  'moderate' Kosovar leaders will welcome the grant of 'autonomy' within Yugoslavia with an 'international' peace keeping force that will secure NATOs dominance in Europe. Here, the question is not whether Russian troops will be a part of that peace keeping force or not, but under whose command the force will function. After all, in the broader picture, Russia too has a role to play - so long as it recognises the dominant role of the world's sole super power.

Many years ago, in the early 1980's, a US diplomat in Washington reflecting on India's support for the Tamil militants, remarked that India was not a super power and should not try to behave like one. Today, NATO is seeking to demonstrate to both Yugoslavia and Russia (and to the world)  that Russia is not a super power and that the time has come for both Russia and Yugoslavia to recognise the lead role of  NATO in Europe. Unsurprisingly, it has been announced that the US and the European Union stand  ready to introduce a mini 'Marshall Plan' to rehabilitate war torn Yugoslavia after the cessation of hostilities.

Here, there may be a need for the US to recognise that the old style 'command - control' method of leadership will yield diminishing returns  in an increasingly 'politically awakened' world. Hierarchical authority may secure a measure of compliance in the short term but it will fail to foster genuine commitment and stability. If the US aspires to world leadership, it will need to recognise that leadership will not come simply by the display of military might and economic power.

To lead you need to serve. If the United States seeks to lead the world, it will need to look beyond its own narrow national interests. To lead the world, it will  need to serve the interests of the peoples of the world - and the Fourth World is a part of today's enduring political reality.

Kosovo represents, in part, the unfinished business of the dismantling of the Ottoman empire. The significance of Prishtina to the Serb people should not be (and cannot be) ignored. Ottomon rule left behind artificial territorial boundaries which had little to do with securing the national identities of the peoples on whom rule had been imposed. The task of restructuring existing state boundaries may be complex and fraught with difficulty but there may be no other way of securing stability and peace. There may be a need for the United States to pay more attention to that which Bernard Q. Nietschmann said as long ago as 1985:

"Most of the world's conflicts are between states and nations, yet almost all international efforts to prevent and contain war and to promote peace are directed to state against state conflicts. With 168 states asserting the right and power to impose sovereignty and allegiance upon more than 3000 nations, conflicts occur that cannot be contained or hidden, nor resolved on a state-to-state basis...

....Increasingly, the Fourth World is emerging as a new force in international politics because in the common defense of their nations, many indigenous peoples do not accept being mere subjects of international law and state sovereignty and trusteeship bureaucracies. Instead, they are organizing and exerting their own participation and policies as sovereign peoples and nations..."

 
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