David Gibbs takes apart the myths of the “successful” Kosovo intervention:
Another myth regarding Kosovo is that bombing improved the human rights situation. In reality, it made things worse, and augmented the suffering. Prior to the Nato campaign, the total number of people killed on all sides in the Kosovo conflict was 2,000, approximately half of whom were killed by Serbian forces. After the bombing began, however, there was a huge spike in Serb-perpetrated atrocities, which caused almost 10,000 deaths, combined with widespread ethnic cleansing. The Serbian forces were furious that they could not stop the Nato air attacks, so they took out their frustration on the relatively defenceless Albanians, causing a huge increase in the number of killings. The Nato bombing itself directly killed at least 500 civilians. When viewed from a humanitarian standpoint, Nato intervention was a disaster.
Gibbs does a good job demolishing the distortions and falsehoods that liberal interventionists and neoconservatives have woven around the Kosovo war. There are obvious similarities between interventions in Kosovo and Libya, and it’s important to remember the consequences the last time that the U.S. and NATO allies inserted themselves into another country’s internal conflict. The Kosovo intervention is also what first made me as critical and skeptical of U.S. foreign policy as I am. It is the war that pushed me in the direction of non-interventionist foreign policy arguments, because the only people making any sense when the Kosovo war was going on were non-interventionists. Unfortunately, it was the people circulating the myths who defined the legacy of the Kosovo war, and it is partly because those myths prevailed that humanitarian interventionism has survived in the U.S. and Britain as a viable foreign policy position.