Accessibility links

Press Review: Western Commentators Assess Kosovo Victory

  • Anthony Georgieff
  • Don Hill



Prague, 11 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- As was to be expected, the end of NATO bombing in Kosovo was greeted with the "Yes" of victory by some; as no victory at all by others; and by a third group as "Yes, but...." And then, of course, there are the "don't know's" and "remains to be seen's."

NORWAYS AFTENPOSTEN: NATO HAS WON THE WAR

Norway's Aftenposten leaps into the yes column with a commentary by Foreign Editor Nils Morten Udgaard. He writes: "NATO has won a war for its ideals in Europe by using high technology from above against medieval thinking on the ground. The dream of a war without casualties has been realized, at least on NATO's side. The war was in fact a kind of a police action, punishment for a wayward dictator who oppresses large chunks of his population with violence and ethnic cleansing. Now a new order will descend upon the Balkans with NATO and the EU being the main players."

THE WASHINGTON POST: SUCCESS IN KOSOVO

So does The Washington Post with an editorial headlined "Success in Kosovo." The newspaper says: "The United States and its NATO allies have accomplished something of lasting importance in Kosovo. Yes, shaping the peace will be difficult, and many problems lie ahead. Yes, Slobodan Milosevic will try to make trouble again, if not in Kosovo then elsewhere. What was achieved was not a perfect victory. But it was a remarkable success, a fruit of allied unity that, if not squandered now, will further the cause of democracy and peace in Europe and beyond. It's puzzling that so many people in Washington seem unable to accept this accomplishment."

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne writes under the headline "Face It, We Won": "The short but brutal war for Kosovo came to a messy close. Slobodan Milosevic remains in power, and he dragged out negotiations in a quest for loopholes he can exploit later. But in the end, he capitulated on the fundamentals. Serbian troops are withdrawing so Kosovars can return home, and they will be protected by a predominantly Western force."

THE GUARDIAN: BOMBING OVER FOR GOOD

From London, The Guardian also -- though muted -- reports a victory. It says: "The bombing has stopped, and is almost certainly over for good. The start of the Serb retreat from Kosovo opened the way for the necessary U.N. resolution; allied forces were really last night to move in and begin the next phase." The Guardian concludes: "This peace, such as it is, is far better than continuing war. But no one should understate the difficulties and dangers of the process which starts today."

THE LONDON TIMES: IMPROVISATIONS BY NATO

Two other London newspapers say firmly, "Yes, but..." The Times says in an editorial: "The deliberation of the 80-day bombing campaign has been replaced by improvisation (as) fixed positions have been bent, at the politicians' behest, in order to extract Yugoslav signatures to NATO's non-negotiable demands. (There are) troubling caveats as NATO troops mass for a meticulously planned entry into Kosovo's many and various minefields."

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH: A VICTORY OF SORTS

The Daily Telegraph calls "A Victory of Sorts." The newspaper says in an editorial: "After 11 weeks of bombing, both sides are claiming victory. (And) the fact that simultaneously Belgrade can rejoice and (NATO) leaders express satisfaction suggests a thoroughly messy outcome."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: ITS TOO EARLY TO CALL IT TRIUMPH

From Denmark, Berlingske Tidende also take a cautious view. The newspaper editorializes, 'Yugoslavia's capitulation is almost total but it is too early to (call it) triumph. To enforce long-lasting peace in Kosovo will be a dangerous affair. (And) the West's greatest challenge will be to make barren Kosovo habitable again. Only when the refugees start returning safely home, can we (properly) declare that the war that started on March 24 has been won."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: WAR IS NOT OVER UNTIL GUNS STOP SMOKING

Tread carefully, writes commentator Heribert Prantl in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. He writes: "The war is not over when the guns stop smoking. It is only then that it is seen in its full misery. Homes are reduced to rubble and ashes, the infrastructure is ruined and the country laid waste. When the last shot is fired it is time for something that is much harder work than waging war -- reconstruction and pacification. Whether (that) succeeds will depend in part on how carefully the repatriation of refugees is handled."

THE WASHINGTON POST: MANY VIEWPOINTS ON KOSOVO

The Washington Post's commentary pages provided a sample of nearly every viewpoint. Columnist Charles Krauthammer contends fiercely that the NATO side enjoyed no victory at all. Krauthammer writes: "Victory? On the eve of the Kosovo war, the president of the United States declares the objective: "To protect thousands of innocent people in Kosovo from a mounting military offensive." This would be done in one of two ways. We would deter Serbia from "ethnically cleansing" Kosovo or, failing that, we would physically -- militarily -- destroy Serbia's ability to do so. By Clinton's own standard, the war was lost -- irretrievably, catastrophically lost -- in the first week. NATO launched a campaign at once anemic and tentative, a campaign of bombing empty buildings. Slobodan Milosevic responded with the most massive ethnic cleansing in Europe since World War Two."

THE NEW YORK TIMES: SUCCESS DEPENDS ON KLA COOPERATION

In an editorial, The New York Times says that any success of the NATO attack on Yugoslavia has yet to be measured, and will depend on a force outside NATO's structure. The Times declares editorially: "The quality of the peace that NATO can bring to Kosovo in the coming months will depend in large measure on the cooperation it receives from the commanders and fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: MILOSEVIC MUST GO

Bruce Herschensohn, a professor at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy, writes in a commentary in the Los Angeles Times that a defining factor in assessing Kosovo success will be the survival or downfall of Slobodan Milosevic, Under the headline, "Milosevic Must Go," he comments: "Not once within the lifetime of any American now living has there been a successful negotiated settlement between the United States and a tyranny. The only true successes in our military conflicts have been those that ended in unconditional surrender with the departure of the one who caused our intervention. Negotiated settlements, leaving the guilty in place, have brought about a number of victory celebrations, but our nation has been left with an inheritance of the unfinished."

XS
SM
MD
LG