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More Pragmatic Foreign Policy: U.S. Wrong to Recognize Kosovo

The history of Yugoslavia, with its violent tribes and sub-tribes, its struggles against Ottoman invasion, Axis invasion, monarchies, Communist dictatorships, mujahidin guerrilla warfare, and modern-day Christian thugs reads like a playbook of what’s in store for Western civilization if we fail to understand that “ethnicity” is not a fundamental basis for establishing a state. Rule of law and individual rights is the basis of a free political system, and the U.S. should always be on this side.

Unfortunately, by recognizing Kosovo’s independence, the United States is taking a backwards step toward tribalism. Recognizing Kosovo’s independence in the name of ethnic separatism sets a dangerous precedent in support of unending warfare in Europe, whereby any ethnic group in any part of the world can demand independence in the name of ethnic or cultural traditions. This is a step toward the Dark Ages, whether the ethnic group demanding independence is Muslim or Christian.

I never thought I’d agree with Russia on any foreign policy issue, and I’m sure their refusal to recognize Kosovo as an independent state is for more specious reasons than a freer Serbia. But these statements in a recent NYT’s article by Serbia’s foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, strike me as a voice of reason amongst all the bloody, tribal warfare in Europe of the past and, unfortunately, its future:

The case against recognition is based not only on the Security Council’s 1999 resolution reaffirming Serbia’s sovereignty over Kosovo, but also founded on the view that the international system has, as a result of this hostile act by the Kosovo Albanians, become more unstable, more insecure and more unpredictable.

Here’s why. Recognizing the unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia legitimizes the doctrine of imposing solutions to ethnic conflicts. It legitimizes the act of unilateral secession by a provincial or other non-state actor. It transforms the right to self-determination into an avowed right to independence. It legitimizes the forced partition of internationally recognized, sovereign states.

It violates the commitment to the peaceful and consensual resolution of disputes in Europe. It supplies any ethnic or religious group that has a grievance against its capital with a playbook on how to achieve its ends. It even resurrects the discredited cold-war doctrine of limited sovereignty.

A historical injustice is being imposed on a European country that has overcome more obstacles since we democratically overthrew Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000 than most other nations have in a much longer time. Recognizing Kosovo means saying, in effect, that Serbian democracy must be punished because a tyrant — one who committed heinous deeds against the Kosovo Albanians in the 1990s — was left unpunished. Such misplaced revenge may make some feel better, but it will make the international system feel much worse.

Why are U.S. leaders so vested in the creation of a new Muslim state in the Balkans? Where will this trend end? I can’t help but see the U.S. backing of Kosovo as a means of appeasing the Muslims of the Middle East (or within Europe). The idea that a “Muslim democracy” is somehow fundamentally different from a European democracy is flawed. A democratic nation based on rule of law would allow both Muslims and Christians to live peacefully together, with equal opportunity and protection.

No apologies for the past racist behavior of the Serbs–both sides of the conflict are inherently racist–but two wrongs do not make a right. Allowing a new state of Kosovo will only lead to more and more separatist movements based upon race and religion–like Europe needs that.

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