Cato Books: “High Cost of Kosovo Victory”

NATO’s “victory” in the Balkans came at an enormous price, argue the contributors to a new Cato Institute book.

In NATO’s Empty Victory: A Postmortem on the Balkan War, 10 foreign policy experts analyze how NATO blundered into the war. They examine the circumstances underlying the conflict and dissect the fatal miscalculations made by the Clinton administration at the Rambouillet negotiations. They argue that NATO used faulty justifications for the military intervention and conclude that the alliance failed to achieve a foreign policy victory. The war lasted far longer than anticipated, triggered a horrible refugee crisis, caused massive economic and social disruptions throughout the region, and resulted in the deaths of many innocent Serbian civilians.

Christopher Layne, MacArthur Foundation Fellow in Global Security, writes that “in framing its Kosovo policy, the Clinton team had only the most superficial understanding of the origins of the Kosovo crisis, the complexity of the dispute, and the nature of Serbian nationalism.” Instead of mediating an agreement between two rival parties, the United States aligned itself with the Kosovo Liberation Army, which was known for terrorist activities and its destabilizing “Greater Albania” agenda.

The authors suggest that NATO’s offensive produced far-reaching, unintended consequences including negative political and economic fallout in the region, a trampling of the congressional war power, and serious damage to U.S. relations with Russia and China. “Russian and Chinese leaders saw NATO’s unauthorized intervention in the Balkans as politically marginalizing their countries,” writes Ted Galen Carpenter, the book’s editor and Cato’s vice president for defense and foreign policy studies.

The authors offer alternative solutions for the Balkans. Calling NATO’s goal of political autonomy for the Albanian Kosovars “unattainable,” John Mearsheimer, codirector of the University of Chicago’s Program on International Security, argues for partitioning Kosovo. Other contributors advocate European-run security institutions to deal with future Kosovo-style problems. Carpenter concludes that NATO “has outlived its usefulness and entirely new security arrangements are needed in post-Cold War Europe.”

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2000 edition of Cato Policy Report.