[Kosova / Kosovo] David Hartsough: Demilitarize Kosovo [Peaceweb Home Page]

Save Kosovo by demilitarizing it

by David Hartsough

The following article was published in the San Jose Mercury News,
San Jose, California, Sunday, June 6, 1999. It is reprinted here with
the permission of the author, a Friend from San Francisco who has worked in Kosovo with the nonviolent movement of Ibrahim Rugova.

THE AGREEMENT between NATO and Yugoslavia to end the killing is welcome news. Civilians on both sides have suffered more than enough, and it is about time that political leaders catch up with the people’s profound desire for peace. But the deal is seriously flawed. A truly peace-oriented plan would not send thousands more troops and military equipment into the war-torn region. Rather, it would make Kosovo a demilitarized state with no armed presence—not NATO or U.N. soldiers, not the Kosovo Liberation Army, and not Yugoslav troops, police or paramilitaries. After three years’ experience in peace missions in Kosovo and Serbia, I deeply believe demilitarization is the only ``win-win’’ solution. It is the best way to build the foundation for a lasting peace.

The alternative is an ongoing armed truce and miliary occupation, as we see in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Korea. But already, in the first days after the agreement, NATO and the United States have shown a lack of desire to foster peace. Serbian troops face continued bombing even as they withdraw. And some are proclaiming victory for NATO and defeat for Serbia—thus sowing seeds of resentment and humiliation that are likely to grow into future wars. War destroys our humanity and hardens our hearts.

But underneath, the overwhelming majority of people in Yugoslavia do not want killing, dictatorship, bombs or economic sanctions. They want the opportunity to join Europe in democratic and economic prosperity; to live with dignity; to raise their children without fear of violence. To accomplish this, Kosovo must have total autonomy as a republic of Yugoslavia. But the international community should guarantee safeguards for Serbs’ sacred sites in Kosovo, including monasteries and the revered battlefield of Kosovo Polje. It may be necessary to make Kosovo a U.N. protectorate for a period of time to ensure an end to hostilities. But military peacekeeping must give way to civilian peacemaking as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo and Montenegro) should be invited into the European community. The West should begin a ``Marshall Plan’’ to help rebuild infrastructure throughout Yugoslavia. Sanctions should be lifted and full diplomatic relations renewed, including new diplomatic offices in Kosovo and Montenegro. Freer travel and trade will bring economic prosperity, which will give the people of Yugoslavia good reason to feel that they, too, have won.

The most important component of peace is disarmament. In response to the withdrawal of all Yugoslav forces, Kosovo should agree to be a demilitarized state. This has been the policy of President Ibrahim Rugova of the underground Kosovar Albanian government for many years. It accomplishes self-rule while ensuring that Kosovo is no threat to its neighbors.

Instead of troops, the international community should send thousands of civilian peace monitors to Kosovo. Trained in peacemaking, relationship-building and community development, this ``peace army’’ would monitor the agreement and help refugees rebuild their lives. The monitors also would help rebuild the institutions of civil society that an autonomous, democratic Kosovo will need, including independent media and a civilian justice system. Let’s get on with recruiting, training and supporting thousands of unarmed peacemakers. Let them accompany the Kosovar refugees back to their villages and help rebuild their homes, relationships and a democratic state. And let’s offer the Serbian people, driven by war into the arms and ideology of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a positive policy: a living alternative to war, a reason to build a common future in which everyone wins.

David Hartsough (peaceworkers @igc.org) is executive director of the San Francisco-based Peaceworkers. He wrote this article for Perspective.

©1999 Mercury Center. The information you receive online from Mercury Center is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. The copyright laws prohibit any copying, redistributing, retransmitting, or repurposing of any copyright-protected material. (Permission granted for republishing this op ed elsewhere. DH)

You are visitor number to Peaceweb since November 20, 1997.
Edited and Posted June 7, 1999, by C.S.
Revised June 8, 1999, by C.S.